Featured Follower: Absent Without Leave

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on RachelKhoo.com and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Our featured follower series is the chance for us to show you the outstandingly talented members of the #khoollectcommunity. They’re the small businesses, the makers, the digital stars with genuine talent and an interesting story – and we need you to know about them.

This week we’re showcasing Francesca Calabrese and her gorgeous, colourful and carefree lifestyle homeware brand Absent Without Leave. We talk all things design, Epping Forest and living the Italian dream!

Instagram: @absent_without_leave

Website: www.absentwithoutleave.co.uk

A little about yourself & what you do?
“I’m a colour obsessed print designer from London in pretty much a constant state of day dreaming, which led to the creation of my homeware label Absent Without Leave.”

Where in the world do you live?
“I grew up in Waltham Forest in North East London and haven’t ventured very far. I now live with my boyfriend in our lovely little flat in South Woodford, right on the border of London and Essex. It’s a pretty perfect place to live for us right now. 15 minutes in one direction I’m in bustling London and 15 minutes the other way I’m in the middle of Epping Forest, which is extra beautiful this time of year with all of the Autumnal colours!”

One or more places you have to visit there?
“There are endless interesting places to mention in London, but Epping forest is my escape from the business and perfect if you fancy getting outside and enjoying a good old-fashioned ramble at the weekend.”

What do you collect?
“Colour! As I said I’m obsessed. I rarely wear it myself but my home is full of it, especially blue. My boyfriend has to reel me in whenever we go shopping as I’m like a moth to a flame. I think my obsession stems from summers spent on the Amalfi Coast growing up. My dad is from a little village there called Maiori and I am lucky enough to have spent every summer visiting and seeing family there. It is my happy place (and what I am often daydreaming about) made up of small fishing villages and hillsides speckled with multi-coloured houses, stunning lemon groves and the bluest water you will ever see.”

absent without leave cushions
absent without leave cushions

Favourite recipe?
“Food is life in my family. It’s something that we all agree on and fight over (it’s an Italian thing). My favourite recipe has got to be one of my mum’s, and it has to be her Pasta Fagioli! I mean there are so many recipes that are running through my mind right now, but seeing as the temperature outside is dropping by the second, this dish is out in front.”

Favourite book?
“Sorry to continue this Italian theme but I am reading a beautiful book at the moment called My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, a book about two Neapolitan girls growing up after the Second World War.”

Favourite local coffee shop?
“Bare Brew on Wanstead Highstreet. It has the loveliest staff, great coffee and everything you could want from your local coffee shop.”

One item you can’t live without?
“My Birkenstocks.”

absent without leave cushions

Perfect day off?
“You know what, I had one of these perfect days off the other week. I woke up nice and early and had a coffee before trotting off to meet my friend Lucy in Hampstead Heath. We met and grabbed another coffee and a bite to eat before going for a lovely LONG walk round the Heath, chatting away for hours before heading back to my place for a plate of pasta. It was just what I needed. I think a perfect day off is something that isn’t massively planned. It’s the simple days that are filled with friends and family that are always my favourite.”

Who inspires you?
“Henri Matisse is an artist whose work I never tire of.”

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
“A ski instructor! Would love to do this one day. The idea of spending every day zooming round mountains as a job sounds like perfection to me. The dream is: beach in the summer, mountains in the winter.”

Celebrity/icon you’d most like for dinner?
“Jennifer Lawrence is my girl crush. I reckon she’d be a giggle to have round for dinner and a few drinks.”

Best advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing. The best thing you can do is be you and do what makes you happy. Something that I have to constantly remind myself.”


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