Victor Paris marks 40 years in Edinburgh

Victor Paris founder Vincent Derighetti with Page 3 girl Sam Fox in 1985. Picture: Julie Bull
Victor Paris founder Vincent Derighetti with Page 3 girl Sam Fox in 1985. Picture: Julie Bull
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IT was the mid-1970s, a time of denim flares, funky wallpaper, the Bay City Rollers and wispy feather-cut hair.

In a bathroom showroom in Blackpool, businessman Vincent Derighetti cast his eye over the stock – apple green bath tubs, primrose yellow sinks, cisterns in bright blue, rich brown and burgundy – and he saw the future.

The shades were vivid and different. In an age when no home was complete without swirly wallpaper and clashing patterned carpet, coloured bathroom suites were definitely the next big thing.

His Victor Paris showrooms would go on to become the first bathroom specialist to offer funky new coloured suites to Edinburgh homeowners. And they simply could not get enough of them.

Today, of course, the dozens of sleek shiny suites on show at the family bathroom business he founded in 1975 are purest white. Not a glimpse of avocado or cameo pink, wild sage or midnight blue.

In fact, the designs of today are a different generation entirely to the “bog” standard baths, loos and sinks of days gone by. Those once so trendy coloured suites have given way to showers that can be operated using an iPad, steam rooms and wet rooms that turn the smallest room into a luxury spa, baths that are edgy, rectangle shaped, deep curved, sunken into the floor and roll top free standing.

If you still want your colour fix, explains Mr Derighetti’s son, Gavin, 48, there’s always colour therapy lighting at the flick of a switch – massive floor and wall tiles and showers with speakers built in to listen to your 
favourite playlist.

The designs of the future, he adds, even take the effort out of the most basic of bathroom functions.

“There are Japanese toilets that open up and wash you down and blow dry you after,” he says, adding that while it might sound slightly strange, they have a serious purpose. “They are actually very useful if someone has problems and needs assistance.”

Right now the family business – with Gavin and his two brothers, Paul and Mark, at the helm and assorted cousins, nieces, nephews, sons and daughters all involved at showrooms in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee – is in reflective mood. It’s 40 years precisely since Vincent turned his hand from plumbing and installing central heating to launching what would become one of Edinburgh’s most successful family businesses.

If it’s a long way from that first corner shop in Fountainbridge stocked with the very latest in coloured bathroom suites, it’s even further from a small spot on the Swiss-Italian border where the Derighetti family roots lie.

By the time Vincent Derighetti was born in 1935, the family name was already established in Edinburgh, with branches of the family settled across the Capital.

Vincent grew up in Morrison Street and went to school at Tollcross before taking a job as a plumber and heating engineer. But he had other skills. He was a charismatic character with an eye for business and making the most of an 
opportunity – which on one occasion involving a Page 3 girl, he would later put to good use at one of his showrooms.

He set up his own business in the early 1960s, supplying central heating systems to council homes across the city.

But that trip to Blackpool and those coloured bathroom suites had inspired him further. “He had already moved into supplying bathrooms,” says Gavin, one of five brothers. “He went to meet a friend in Blackpool. He had a bathroom centre and my father was enthralled with all the colours. It was the early 1970s and the coloured suites were all the rage.

“My father had been running his bathroom business from Leith Walk. He left there and moved to Fountainbridge.”

It was 1975 and he named his new business Victor Paris, not because of any ties with the French capital, but simply because Vincent, with his shrewd eye for brand identity years before it would become popular, knew it would create a memorable image.

“The bathrooms were primrose and sepia browns, avocado,” Gavin recalls. “People had become house proud at the time. Before then a bathroom was just a bathroom, a kitchen was just a kitchen, as long as it worked.

“But then people wanted individual design. My dad was first to start selling coloured bathroom suites. Then people wanted showers so he started to sell those.”

When council houses became available to buy, a bathroom boom was created. Later, a change in fashions meant all those coloured bathroom suites were torn up for something more contemporary.

By the time Vincent’s sons were taking over, the trend was for softer creamy shades like champagne and whisper ivory. More regular international travel had opened homeowners’ eyes to European tastes for stunning tiles and marble, while demand grew too for ugly pipes to be hidden behind storage units and fitted suites.

As the business grew, it moved four times, yet always managed to stay within 100 yards of the original corner shop in Dundee Terrace.

One move in the mid-1980s even attracted one of the nation’s major celebrities to make an impromptu appearance – thanks, again, to Vincent’s clever eye for a great marketing opportunity.

“My dad was a bit of a charmer,” says Gavin, who is now one of the directors. “In the mid 1980s, Sam Fox was a really big name. She was coming to town to open a disco. He heard about it and got in touch to ask if she’d come to open the showroom, which she did.”

By the time he was struck by cancer in 2007, Vincent had seen the business grow, with a massive showroom in Glasgow spanning seven floors and with several Derighetti family members working behind the scenes.

A Dundee showroom opened five years ago, with Gavin’s cousin, Scott, at the helm.

“We are all passionate about the business and feel the same way about it,” adds Gavin.

“We all have different roles. I do design and retail side, my brother, Mark, does another part of retail, warehouses, stores and deliveries. And our other brother, Paul, does the buying. There are nieces and nephews doing sales and design.”

With 13 grandchildren and five great grandchildren, the family business’ future is guaranteed. And with bathroom style constantly evolving, there’s no sign of demand drying up.

“People who bought their council homes when they had children now have a spare bedroom because the children have moved out.

“They are turning that into a big bathroom or a home spa. They want showers that work digitally – rather than turn a knob, you push a button on your iPad.”

But while trends come and go, the one that helped make Victor Paris one of Edinburgh’s best known family businesses remains firmly in the past. And for the moment at least, avocado is definitely off the menu.