It was the early 1960's, in London when Robin and fellow Central School of Arts and Crafts students, Robin Michael Wolchover and Roger Brockbank, crafted a small design and manufacturing company called Design Associates.
Once Upon a Time (Part 1, Design Associates Ltd, Design Progression Ltd)
In 1968 Robin Cruikshank’s small design company began working for Apple. At that time its management included Neil Aspinal, Peter Browne, Derek Taylor and Ron Kass and of course the four members of the Beatles.
In 1969 Ringo moved house to Hampstead and Robin was called in to help him realise some of the designs that Ringo and Maureen required for their new home. First on the list was the stainless steel fireplace. Robin had just started prototyping a new steel and glass furniture collection, and Ringo was able to add his own design ideas and improvements to Robin’s initial concepts. Their mutual interest in HiFi also helped further inspire the process with some interesting off the wall results.
The Chairman of Cunard approached Ringo and Robin to ask if they could design a disco for one of their London Hotels. Ringo’s experience was invaluable on this project. Although the project was later abandoned by Cunard it had helped to cement a good working relationship and friendship between the pair.
The short way from Ringo’s Hampstead house to the West End was by Chalk Farm and by the Round house, one day the two R’s were returning this way from a Lunch appointment and Ringo pointed out a small motor accessory shop which had a bright shiny Rolls Royce radiator at the centre of it’s display, he said look ‘what if we were to put one each end of a Stainless steel panel we would have a really great coffee table’, so that’s what happened!
A host of new designs were created and with all this activity it was agreed that they should see if they could reform Robin’s company, then called ROBIN Ltd, and rename it ROR Ltd. The logo would retain the big RED O but place a five pointed star over it and a R each side. Terms were agreed and a new company was born with a memorable and appropriate new logo! Ringo’s received a 51% stake and Robin a 49% stake, with any disagreements to be resolved by the toss of a coin!
ROR’s new offices were on the top floor of Apple in Saville Row, next door to Ringo’s own office. The ideas continued to flourish and a young architect was bought in to help with all the detail design, a pretty but very competent young secretary was employed to run the very necessary administration.
Liberty's was the first exhibition. Robin had contacts in Liberty’s of Regent Street, where he had sold his earlier designs. Liberty’s asked if ROR would like to stage an exhibition. The then British Steel Corporation wanted to use ROR designs in its advertising campaign due to their interesting use of stainless steel and in particular Ringo’s Rolls Royce table.
As a result of these two almost simultaneous approaches, British Steel’s advertising campaign and a wave of favorable media coverage got The Liberty Exhibition off to a wonderful start. Liberty’s attendance figures rose dramatically for the exhibition period and ROR virtually sold out.
Robin recalls that he, Ringo and the Liberty staff were assembling and putting the final touches to the items on display right up until the last hour before the exhibition opened. This left Ringo barely enough time to get dressed and get ready and collect Maureen for the opening launch party. During this period Apple moved from Saville Row to St James Street, where ROR were given a spectacular display window which they were able to use to good effect.
Exhibitions followed at Harvey Nicholls and again at Liberty’s. International exhibitions were held overseas in Paris, New York and even in Lagos!
Products and media items in chronological order of ROR's 17 year existence.
Special commissions were also undertaken, such as a collection of specially designed Disney mirrors and The Sunday Times Special Glass Table Offer.
Other ROR clients included the British Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath, Harry Nielsen, Anouska Hempel, Christopher Plummer, Rod Stewart, Baron and Baroness Thyssen, David Bowie, Elton John, The Ruler of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, Paul Raymond and many others.
ROR were able to commission the top graphic designers, notably John Kosh and Mervyn Kurlansky of Pentagram. John Lennon sent some special T. Shirts from New York, George gave kind and good advice on aspects of Art Deco Design, while Paul caught up later when he and Linda visited the showrooms in Rathbone Place.
When the lease on Apple’s St James Street office ran out in 1972 ROR acquired a showroom over looking the Thames near the Tate Gallery, allowing them to display their full collection. Afterwards they moved back into the West End to another large showroom in Rathbone Place. By this time they had developed a good overseas business in addition to their UK one. Ringo was no longer a UK resident so was less involved. The early excitement had settled down to a more conventional pace where the company continued to sell its existing collection and also exhibited the work of new young designers and artists which kept its creative juices flowing.
ROR has sold products in the following countries:
ROR was undertaking a number of important furniture supply contracts in the Middle East and to other overseas areas but in particular one in Abu Dhabi was to feature prominently in the forthcoming years.
Neil Margerison, the Managing Director of a leading London head hunting company, introduced ROR to an Engineering Executive of a leading UK construction company, Peter Wilson. In 1979. Peter was working in the Middle East and his clients in Abu Dhabi required an English design company to compete for an interior design and furnishing competition for the newly built ‘Head of State Guest Palace’ for Sheikh Zayed.
It was an expensive and huge undertaking which nearly bankrupted the company in the early stages but thanks to Neil Margerison (who subsequently became Chairman of the Company) and Peter Wilson, a good team was assembled. Robin’s architect friend Douglas Norwood who had considerable experience in Middle Eastern design was asked if he would like to join the group as the design consultant.
After much hard work the scheme was flown out with Robin to Abu Dhabi in 1980 where he met the company’s future sponsors, The Al Darmaki Trading Company. The CEO of the Al Darmaki Trading Company, Ayman Kassab Bashi has remained a good friend ever since.
In 1982 ROR heard that it had won the competition for this $10+ million dollar contract and it was to go to Abu Dhabi to agree the contract conditions. Robin returned to London to find that the Merchant Bank that had originally agreed to undertake these requirements had now changed their minds and were not prepared to meet the performance bonds and guarantees required. ROR were informed that they had a week to come back to Abu Dhabi to sign the contract and meet the required terms and conditions or it would go out to competition once more.
ROR had been fortunate over the years in having Sir Edward Heath, the British Prime Minster, as one of its clients Ted had kindly given a letter of recommendation to the Abu Dhabi authorities in connection with this project, so Robin decided to seek his good advice once again. Robin explained the dilemma and he very quickly said you need a UK Arab bank, he then picked up the phone made a call and said you have an appointment with Sabih Shukri, CEO of the Allied Arab Bank in Cannon Street at 11.00 am tomorrow morning. Robin duly attended the meeting with Sabih Shukri and within 48 hours and with the help of one of his good financial colleagues, Walid Al Omar, the requirements were met so Robin was able to fly out to Abu Dhabi to sign the contract with only just a few hours to spare!
ROR went onto complete the project on time and meet all it conditions. As a result of its much admired work ROR was given a further large project which kept the company working in Abu Dhabi until 1986. During that time, some other worthwhile contracts were also undertaken in the UK, including property development.
ROR Products were manufactured in the following countries:
It was in 1986 that Ringo and Robin decided to cease activities as both owners wished to go their separate ways and this was considered to be a good time to finish on the best possible high note!
Ringo very kindly allowed Robin to use a similar name of ROR International Ltd, so he could continue with projects in the UK, the Middle East and also in Belize.
It should also be mentioned that Barbara Bach, Ringo’s very beautiful, charming and very astute wife was very supportive of ROR and helped to keep the good relationship together up to the present day with a little help from the Internet and many e-mails.
The ROR Minimalist/Art Deco inspired collection has now come back into fashion and approaches have been made by a UK/American Art Auction house to the former owners to see if they would be prepared to allow such an exhibition to take place with a possible auction to follow. We have to wait and see!
Meanwhile their good friendship endures continues to this day!
Hilary Gerard, Clip Clop, Bobbie Wilkinson, Neil Aspinall, Jo Johns, Wolfgang, Craig Kensington, Christopher Plummer, Klaus Voorman, Barbara Bach, Sir Edward Heath KGB, Maureen Starkey, John Mcintyre, Joan Woodgate, Harry Nielson, Pattie Boyd, Annie Thomas, Pearl Wylie Harris, Douglas Norwood, Neil Margerison, Caroline Sanders, Peter Wilson, Gina, Barbara Bennett, Chiyako, Ayman Kasab Bashi, Said Al Darmaki, Sabih Shukri, Richard Stuart Liberty, Paul Raymond, Alan Zoeftig, Eddy Veal, Keith Bales, Mervyn Kurlansky,The Zarachs, David Bishop, James Cousins. Roy Shelton, Jessica Strang, Alberto and Frabrizio Smania, Gordon Smith, Chris Kennedy, Gerry Stock, Apicella, Penny Radford, Zeev Aram, John Kosh, Mervyn Kurlansky and all the wonderful boys and girls that worked in the Apple offices.
Once Upon a Time (Part 2, ROR International Ltd.)
Since the partnership with Ringo came to an end in 1986, Robin has continued designing under the new name of ROR International Ltd. Projects and commissions include Rendezvous, a commission to develop a 10 acre Coral Island just inside Belize's barrier reef. Plantation Acres (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Caribbean Island Paradise (inside Belize's barrier reef) and Heaven's Point Peninsular are all development projects involving planning, landscaping, building design and implementation. Robin's portfolio includes a range of furniture and print designs based on the Golden Age of Hollywood.