As Rococo Chocolates turns 40, founder Chantal Coady talks sweet treats and returning to the brand as creative director
Words: Alice Cairns
“ROCOCO BEGAN AS A CRAZY OBSESSION,” says Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo Chocolates. “I was young, I was punk, and I was passionate about chocolate.”
Known for its enticing flavours, sustainable sourcing and artistic packaging, Rococo has recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. It first opened on the King’s Road in 1983, when Chantal was fresh from art school.
“I was a bit of a rebel – part punk, part new romantic. I’d been working in the Harrods chocolate department and I had an idea for a new way to sell chocolate. I needed funds to get it started and my mother put the family home on the line to help me.”
Chelsea was the perfect location for Rococo because, according to Chantal, “the King’s Road has always been known for fun, quirky things”. Located near Vivienne Westwood’s boutique, Rococo became a hangout for an alternative set of artists, punks and bohemians.
Chantal’s first move was to create a visual language for her brand. “I’m a very visual person. The first thing you see when you look at chocolates is the box, and I felt that needed more attention. I studied textile design, so the design side came very naturally to me. I’d do things like get an old catalogue of French chocolate moulds, photocopy the pages, stick them together in a random repeating pattern and turn that into tissue paper. That Rococo look is still in place 40 years later.”
Chantal also wanted the interior of her King’s Road shop to reflect her vision. The store underwent a series of transformations, from candy-floss pink (to match Chantal’s hair) to black and white. “At first we had gold, cherubs, clouds, even a sugar chandelier,” she says. “Then we entered what I call our creative salvage era, where my friend Tom Dixon and a few other designers would make us furniture from stuff they found in skips. Finally, we settled on our iconic blue and white.”
Chantal is a passionate advocate for sustainability in the chocolate industry, receiving an OBE in 2014 for “services to chocolate making” – the only chocolatier to have done so. “I’ve been told the Queen liked our chocolate,” she says. “Apparently when she was given some as a gift, she’d put it in a special locked cupboard she had for things she didn’t want to share!” The OBE celebrated Chantal’s forward-thinking approach to chocolate. “So much can be achieved if you’re willing to tear up the rule book and put the cocoa farmers at the centre of what you’re doing,” she says.
“When everyone’s so pinched in terms of bills I can understand why a cheaper product is tempting, even if its origin is dubious. Perhaps the answer is to eat less chocolate, but to make sure that when you do eat it it’s of a high quality, delicious and ethically sourced. That’s better for your health and better for the farmers, too.”
Rococo’s 40 years have not been challenge-free. In 2019, Chantal was forced to leave the company, which entered administration after he took on a business partner who didn’t share her vision, causing her to lose the business she’d founded and her design work, branding and other intellectual property. She was plunged into a devastating period of legal battles and debt.
This year, however, Chantal has rejoined her brand as creative director, under new owners keen to have her at the centre of the company she created. “It’s been incredible to be back,” she says. “Chocolate is my passion – there are so many layers to it, from how it’s sourced and presented to how it makes you feel. I’m looking forward to this next chapter for Rococo.”
321 King’s Road