Lema Publishing (the home of Nursery Today) Chairman Malcolm Naish pays tribute to Rosemarie Askaroff.
It isn’t very often that I write an obituary of more than a couple of paragraphs, but such was the impact and history of Rosemarie Askaroff, who founded SIMPLANTEX in the early sixties and whom I contacted regularly when I was running the advertising of a former nursery product trade magazine ‘Pram & Nursery Trader’ through the sixties, seventies and early eighties.
Mrs. Askaroff passed away recently at her home in Eastbourne following a short illness at the age of 89. Rosemarie was a remarkable lady, speaking six languages fluently and made an immediate impression on everyone she met. I would regularly drive down to Eastbourne to have lunch with her and on occasions one of her six sons Simon.
Her mother Sheila was British and the daughter of the founder of the Savoy Hotel, marrying Johannes Faistauer and becoming trapped in Vienna when the Nazis walked in and as a young child Rosemarie could clearly remember the shiny boots of the Gestapo, who regularly detained her parents.
Along with her husband Igor, they were able to move to move to England, first living in London and later to Eastbourne. Rosemarie was a gifted seamstress and on one rainy day created a waterproof cover for her pram. Her husband very quickly realized the commercial potential and promptly patented the first ‘Prambymac’.
It wasn’t long before many local people were asking for this new product, resulting in Rosemarie and Igor cutting and sewing several hundred a week on the dining room floor.
The rest can be described as ‘history’ with Rosemary creating Simplantex and employing many local people. More products followed such as the Buggy Cape, Footmuff and the first Top ‘n’ Tail changing mat.
This was hand sewn and stuffed with Kapok. It was the forerunner of the plastic changing mat that Eric White of East Coast Plastics perfected with his high frequency welding, resulting in Eric becoming a long and loyal supplier of Simplantex.
As fashions changed Simplantex created many other bedding accessories that included leading character licensing images such as Paddington Bear and Beatrix Potter all marketed under their ‘Premier Baby’ brand.
Rosemary loved those sixties and seventies shows that were run in London at the Russell and Bloomsbury hotels and a week later in Harrogate. Simplantex exhibited in the Bloomsbury Hotel and in Harrogate at the Old Swan.
She was a contemporary of Geoffrey Wilson of Silvercross, Howard Baveystock, Clifford Salter and the Atkins brothers of Atcraft.
She retired from the business in 1988 and became involved in a number of local charities and was also very green-fingered, knowing all the plants and species by their Latin names. She was delighted when her grandchildren became involved in the baby business.
Premier Baby lives on in Eastbourne selling the MOBA Moses Basket – the first British-made synthetic Moses Basket with integral handles and winner of the ‘Gold’ award.