Founder Annoushka Ducas opens up about Mother’s Day
Founder and Creative Director Anoushka’s story is almost always defined by her successful career, here we ask her to unpick a very different side of her character, her role as a mother of four and her own special relationship with her late mother, who she lost aged 23.
Being a mummy is unlike any other relationship I have ever had—my life was totally changed in an instant—it quite simply took my breath away. When Marina my eldest arrived, I remember thinking it was miraculous—this tiny being which I’d been nurturing for 9 months was now in the world and our responsibility forever. I remember a fierce sense of protection and devotion and love, it’s a jumble of emotions in those first moments.
During my first pregnancy and for 5 or 6 years after that, I was juggling the launch of my first business alongside an inherited fish business, which I’d taken on almost overnight after my mother died. She had run Rockport, a supplier to London’s top restaurants for around ten years, so it meant a lot to keep that legacy going particularly after losing her so suddenly.
At the time John and I were newly married and living between his flat in London and my family home in Kent. I’d start my days at around 4:00am in Rye, East Sussex purchasing goods direct from the fisherman, before heading up to London to deliver. I’d then switch to jewellery for the latter half of the day, then head home and spend time with Marina. At around 10:00pm, I’d be on the phone to the chefs taking orders for the following day. Everything was a learning curve then—fish, jewellery and babies—it was quite frenetic, but fun too—so full of possibility.
Patricia Ducas—Annoushka’s mother.
As an only child, my relationship with my mother was incredibly close, she was my mother and sister, hero, best friend and mentor—the most important person in my life. My greatest sadness is that she died when I was 23 and never met her grandchildren. When I fell pregnant for the first time, I was determined to find out early what the sex was because I was desperate for a girl—on some level I wanted that connection I had with my mother again. With hindsight whether my first born was a boy or a girl wouldn’t have made any difference, it’s all about connection. I’m now lucky enough to have two daughters and two sons and my relationship with each is totally unique.
Deep down I always worried that I would never be a mother like she was to me; she was so generous, kind and wise. I’ve realised over time that even though my experience of motherhood has been without her she’s still been a tremendous influence on my life. One of her most valuable mantras which I carry with me and passed on to my own children, is to never impulsively say “no”—I remember it being a bit of a dirty word in my childhood home. I can almost hear her whispering “just try it” in my ear, that voice of encouragement and belief is such an important inner voice for me—just do your best. It sounds obvious, but that simple little phrase would just give you the nudge to be brave and give something a try; it’s without expectation, so you wouldn’t be worried about failure.
I know my Mother would have adored all of the children and taught them so much, I talk about her a lot, she’s still very present in memory and through my ancestral connection to Russia, her tenacious spirit is definitely within me and our precious shared experiences there are a very strong memories for me. Now I’m the mummy, I have even more admiration for her, while there was only me, my father moved to New York when I was very young, so it was very much her and I. She was an industrious hard-working woman—she worked with horses, imported grain and fur and eventually when we came to
the UK, she started the fish import business.
Running my own business has been enormously liberating on so many fronts, I was able to spend precious time with the kids when they were little and now support them as adults, but having said that, balancing both is an unperfected art. When they were young and I’d not long started Links Of London, I can remember feeling horribly guilty, with a constant feeling that I should be at home—but then when I was at home, I had this constant underlying feeling that I should be getting on with work! This work life balance thing is something I think the media have spun, it doesn’t really exist—the scales are constantly moving, and you just must move and shift with them. It’s terrible cliché, but while it was hard, it is absolutely worth it.
After we sold Links Of London, I thought it might be my moment to be a full time mum, to be at home with them and not to work. However it soon became clear that that probably wasn’t best for anyone; I needed to work and I think they needed me to as well! It was quite a powerful moment because given the choice to exclusively be a mum, I chose not to. It wasn’t an either or, rather that I needed to have family and work in my life. 18 months later we founded Annoushka, which was a wonderful decision and one I hope has been an example to my children.
For me mothering is definitely the more challenging of the two roles, at work I know who I am, but as a mother, you seesaw from being manager and provider to teacher, friend, adviser, critic, there’s really no boundaries to your role. As a result, I definitely felt as though I took the brunt of most disagreements or upsets, I made the tough decisions and inevitably felt guilty about them afterwards—it’d hard, but we’re all just trying to be our best selves as Mothers.
Today, I see my mothers spirit and humour in them, which makes me feel very lucky to have experienced motherhood, in the way that she did with me. The relationships I have with my kids now is something truly special and ever evolving. I love nothing more than having the house filled with their chatter and energy. They come with great gangs of friends for weekends and fill the house and I find myself learning so much from them. That said, no matter how old my children are, they will always be my babies—it’s a tremendous blessing to be a Mummy.
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