Monday, 25 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
“Gill, can I ask you a personal question?”
“Of course” I replied a little nervously.
“What about babies?” he said looking worried as if he was frightened for me.
My response? A raised eyebrow and look of utter confusion.
There are two answers to that question if you are single and in your 30’s, one is, “I don’t want kids.” the other is, “I hope I will have kids one day”. Neither ever seems quite satisfactory.
It’s not like I have this perfect man who is waiting for me to be ready to start a family and I’m just ‘choosing’ not to be with him for the sake of my career. Though the amount of times I get asked that question (or similar questions such as “Don’t you want to get married?”) you’d think that that was the case.
Is it really still considered that at my age, if I want a baby I should just take what I can get and marry the first man who’s willing?
I’m not making a conscious choice not to ever have babies and I’m aware of the fact that time is ticking, but short of marrying a man I’m not in love with or running screaming to the sperm bank (before which I would probably have to rob an actual bank) what on earth choice do I have?
Then there is the sympathetic cock of the head accompanied by “awww, you’ll find someone honey” (usually in a baby voice) *puke*. Talk about patronizing!
What about the fact that I am a well rounded confident and self sufficient human being who feels perfectly complete just as she is. What about a “well done for not choosing the wrong guy” or “congratulations on avoiding a divorce.”?
It’s not as if I haven’t tried, I go on dates, I’ve done the internet thing and I’ve had a great time, I’ve had long term relationships and short term relationships and I’ve worked at them. and (with an inevitable couple of exceptions) we are all still friends. It just hasn’t worked out.
What if I don’t find ‘him’, what if I am all there is in my future? Is that so terrible? Is that a reason to feel sorry for me? I don’t feel sorry, I feel fabulous!
And why shouldn’t I?
I have a career that I love, amazing friends who I adore and a tight family unit. I feel secure and loved and lucky every day. What more could anyone ask for?
A while ago I read a wonderful piece of research by an American genealogist which suggested that our genetics could pre-dispose our relationship patterns. She claimed to have found a gene that could be linked to commitment phobia. She went on to explain that in ancient caveman tribes not everyone would have paired up. There would have been monogamous couples who bought up Children in a family unit and there would have been others who may have remained single to play other roles in the community.
Instead of spending time raising infants the singles could be, for example, inventing things and perfecting skills for the good of the tribe.
The research suggests that with out the dictations of our modern society there might be many more bachelors and bachelorettes knocking around happily leading perfectly fulfilled lives without a spouse or children.
Maybe that is my destiny, maybe not, but I’m happy to go with the flow on this one. I won’t have a baby because society suggests that I must to fulfill my role as a woman.
Earlier this year Venue magazine published a piece in their Valentines issue profiling happy successful South West singles...I was one of them...The head line was: “Sartorially Sassy Gill Cockwell - Single Fashion designer from Bristol.”
A local radio station saw the article and asked to interview me live on air. During the interview they suggested that I could not be truly happy on my own and that I must feel a little sad about not having a partner to spend Valentines day with. I argued that whilst I love being part of a couple and I am in no way dismissing the benefits of being in a loving relationship I also genuinely relish my time being single, I don’t feel that I’m missing out and there are many wonderful benefits to being on your own too.
You have to agree that it is perfectly possible to be happy without a significant other in your life, the alternative is utterly destructive.
My lifestyle suits me. I’m more productive, more flexible and more available to my friends and my work, I find it bizarre to have to justify being happy without a boyfriend.
It should come as no surprise to those who know me when I write that there are many crystals in my life... crystal encrusted ball gowns, crystal encrusted jewelry a drag queen named Crystal...and, (before I accidentally smashed them) I did own a couple of crystal champagne flutes once...But. I don’t own (or have access to) a crystal ball. Therefore, I am afraid I am unable to tell you weather or not I will ever marry or have children.
But. I can tell you this: I am, genuinely happy, just as I am.
Friday, 9 July 2010
Once upon a time, (after a break up) I cut off all my hair.
I have always had very long, thick, wavy hair and everyone told me I was mad to do it, but I needed a change and I was determined to have one.
I had visions of a cute, elfin cut like Winona Ryder or Audrey Hepburn. Modern, sophisticated. A new grown up sensible me.
Jason (bosom buddy and hairdresser of 15 years) had to smoke a whole packet of cigarettes (don't do it kids!) and have a stiff drink before he could pluck up the courage to chop off my locks...He desperately tried to talk me out of it, he was convinced I'd hate it and blame him forever, he knew it wouldn’t suit me.
It didn’t suit me at all of course, (Jason was absolutely right about that,) But I never regretted it for a second, it was really very liberating and it did actually change my life.
I found that I didn't get nearly as much attention as I did when I had long hair.
I didn’t look sexy any more. I still felt sexy but I didn’t look sexy.
At the time part of me was relieved to be invisible for a while. I was wounded and I needed a little time to heal but it also gave me space to develop my personality without having to live up to an image.
It felt natural to tone down the glamour too, Jase and our mate Marc, (genius with a hairpin, responsible for the best vintage up dos this side of 1946 and can do all the actions to ‘the court of King Caracticus’ even after 9 tequilas) call it my 'hippy' phase, (usually accompanied by a disapproving curl of the lip.)
I found that socially, I had much more meaningful interaction with men and women. Perhaps I was more approachable when I was not so overtly 'sexy', less threatening maybe…Perhaps I was more timid too, less overpoweringly confident (overpowering confidence; so often a mask for deep insecurity)…perhaps people, (men in particular) were simply less eager to impress and more relaxed, perhaps, in turn, that made me less cautious, more trusting. What ever it was, it was refreshing to be seen differently and I saw others differently too.
I felt, in a way, like I was exposed, vulnerable, all I had to offer was me and my personality, the sequin encrusted minx I occasionally hid behind when I was socially uncomfortable or needed a superficial ego boost had left me all alone, I missed her a bit sometimes but mostly I was glad to be rid of the provocative tart, she generally only attracted wallys anyway!
I remember having this conversation with Jase a few years ago and he told me that when he changed his hair colour he felt people reacted differently towards him, "I swear people actually talk slower when I’m blonde!" he said, flabbergasted.
You can make such a big statement with the way you dress and present yourself. It can be awesomely powerful but sometimes equally as frustrating when people can’t see past it.
People make snap judgments about our personalities based on our outward appearance and that, right or wrong, is a fact.
But, perhaps next time you have a bad hair cut, an acne breakout, put on a few pounds or don't feel as physically attractive as usual for whatever reason... you could use the time to be who you really are beneath the surface and work on detaching your self confidence from the way you look and attaching it to the way you really are.
Having a really bad haircut changed my life for the better,I got to know myself on a deeper level, I left a superficial bit of myself, (which I used to believe I couldn’t function without,) behind me for good. I relaxed a little bit more in to my own skin and I accepted who I was without the glamorous exterior... Which happens to be a nice, shy girl who consistently procrastinates, has an unshakable guilt complex, magpie tendencies, a fondness for musical theatre and a real love for the smell of library books and honeysuckle.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
We took the subway and on our way there a young man of about 19 entered our train carriage with a box of kit kats, he addressed the packed carriage and gave a confidently executed and engaging speech about being a young entrepreneur trying to fund his college education by selling sweets to commuters.
I remember thinking what a good story it would make if he ever made it big and wrote his autobiography. He was a charming boy, if I'd had any change in my pocket I would have bought a kit kat from him.
The exhibition was inspired, it was absolutely full of iconic photographs. My favourite was this image by Andy Earl for the cover of an album by Bow Wow Wow.
Beautifully costumed by Vivienne Westwood it is a recreation of Edouard Manet’s famous painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass).
The picture caused quite a stir at the time because Anabella Lwin, (the naked lead singer,) was underage and did not have her mothers permission to pose nude.
I loved the vibrant colours and the modernity of this version of such a classic image.
By the time we left the museum it was blowing a gale out side, it was snowing heavily and it was freezing cold. We battled against the wind as we walked towards the high street in search of somewhere warm to stop and have a bite to eat.
I had on my red leopard print ballet pumps which I had believed to be the sensible choice being that they were flat and I'd expected to be on my feet all day.
My shoes were soaked through and my feet were numb with cold...(proving to me, as if proof were needed, that flat shoes are never a sensible choice for a fasionista.)
We reached a road which must have had a blocked drain or something because there was a river of freezing water to cross! Davy gallantly scooped me up in his arms and carried me across the road to a welcoming, warm, dry pizzeria. We ate slices of homemade pizza and drank diet coke as we watched the snow fall.
We'd lost track of time waiting for the weather to improve and suddenly I realised how late it was.
There was no question of me going out in Manhattan on a Saturday night wearing a denim mini and flat shoes with wet hair so we made our way back West so that I could change in to some sequins and killer heels and put on some lipstick.
We had arranged to meet my friend Tim in the bar at his hotel and I realised now that we were going to be very late.
Tim is a very talented, very handsome graphic designer who I'd met at the wedding of a client and all round lovely girl, who's bridal gown I had made.
We had become facebook friends and through the boastings of our status updates had realised that we were going to be in the big apple at the same time, so, we arranged to meet up.
Tim was in New York with his mother to celebrate her birthday.
Tim's mother (who I have never had the pleasure of meeting) is by all accounts a bit of a fox and unsurprisingly had secured a date with a pleasant gentleman from Kentucky that evening which left Tim free to enjoy a cocktail or two with us.
I got ready as quickly as I could, but to be fair, you can't hurry heated rollers can you? They take as long as they take.
We got to the hotel an hour late.
"I'm so sorry" I said dramatically as I flounced in to the bar, and I meant it, but I mean, there had been a blizzard to contend with! and we'd been in Brooklyn of all places!
My excuses fell on deaf ears as Tim berated me for leaving him on his own for an hour and greeted Davy warmly, the boys shared a joke about my hopelessness before ordering 'one for the road'.
Our pretty barmaid eyed Tim wistfully while we drank up and my guilt eased slightly as I realised he'd probably been well looked after in our absence.
We finished our drinks quickly and hailed a cab on 5th to take us East.
Now... I am in the very fortunate position of having a very beautiful and very talented freelance seamstress in my employment who happens to have a very handsome and very talented brother who is in the employment of Hendricks Gin, as the national rep for the company his knowledge of the best bars in any city is second to none...
I was marginally apprehensive but very excited none the less about introducing my friends to one such bar.
We exited the taxi at the correct address and waited outside briefly for George and Stefania to arrive.
We were all gathered in the door way of a dodgy looking hot dog shop, all neon signs and $1 dogs.
Everyone was looking to me for an explanation but I knew it would make sense in the end.
I motioned for everyone to follow as I walked into the hot-dog shop, people in coats were queueing to buy fast food, paint was pealing off the walls, there was a strong smell of frankfurters and onions, in short, there wasn't the slightest hint of glamour anywhere to be seen. It has to be said, I felt quite out of place.
I looked around nervously... eventually I spied a battered old phone booth in the corner, relief washed over me and I confidently strolled over fluffing up my hair and entered the booth.
I picked up the phone.
'Welcome to Please don't tell, can I help you?' said the professional female voice on the other end of the line.
"I have a party of 5 please." I answered hesitantly.
Just then a secret door in the back of the phone booth opened to reveal a quilted leather clad haven decked with crystal chandeliers on the other side, the beautiful hostess looked us up and down and ushered us inside. You are very welcome, she said but we may need your table by 1am.
Translation: if we decide you are not fabulous enough for us we reserve the right to kick you out in 30 minuets time.
We were shown to a comfortable booth with red leather seats and subtle lighting. and given elegant cocktail menus to peruse.
George shook my hand enthusiastically and quipped " bloody hell Gill, it's like you have the key to this city or something! I can't believe they let us in here."
"You can get in anywhere as long as you're consistently over dressed and subtly over confident" I answered with a wink.
We enjoyed a wonderfully decadent evening of bespoke cocktails and table service in beautiful surroundings and were grateful to note that we didn't get kicked out at 1am, in fact we stayed until after 3.
Obviously we were, just, fabulous enough.
On the way home we stopped for a late night bite at and a nightcap and Tim got chatted up by the waitress. Again.
We said our goodbyes to George and Stefania then and that's when I first felt a little sad, we'd been having so much fun I'd almost forgotten that I'd be leaving the next day.
Tim, Davy and I shared a cab back up town and I stole a little kiss from Tim as he got out of the car, "see you back in Bristol kid" he said with a parting wink.
Davy slept the rest of the way back West and I watched him fondly as I reflected on the weeks events.
That I was in love with Manhattan there was no doubt, but being with her this past week had rekindled a love that I'd thought had been lost.
I thought about the offers of employment I'd had and I thought about Gilly Woo.
I'd stuck up for her and been angry when Mark* had slagged her off and suggested she was inadequate, I'd felt disappointed and uninspired at the thought of designing under another name...under someone elses name.
I'd felt uneasy about the prospect or compromising her artistic integrity and potentially, her reputation, for commercial success.
I didn't want to loose her... suddenly I felt short of breath at the thought of loosing Gilly Woo.
No matter what I'd gone through, the long hours the financial struggle, the constant pressure, never switching off, never being able to do enough, all the sacrifices I'd made...I'd made for the love of it, for the love of Gilly Woo.
I couldn't feel that way working for a business like Marks where money in the till was more important than happy customers, or Carries where I'd be designing dresses I didn't care about for women I'd never meet.
This is what I was meant for, Gilly Woo and I belonged together. Manhattan was a glamorous and exciting mistress no doubt, but no one does glamour like Gilly Woo!
I slept a little uneasy that night, my head full of thoughts and ideas and apprehensions.
Davy was flying from JFK and I was flying from Newark so after breakfast we said goodbye and I wished him a safe journey and told him not to be late (cos he's always missing flights,) and then I walked back to the hostel feeling a little melancholy if truth be known.
Once there I collected my bags and checked out.
I received a text message from Mark while I was waiting for my cab to the airport.
'Meet me for lunch?' it said,.
I replied that I was leaving today and had a flight to catch so I would be unable to.
'Stay longer...If you need money just say how much.' came the reply.
To say I was tempted, is probably understating it, but I had a business to get home to and a reignited flame of passion to fan.
Maybe one day, with hard work and dedication, we could return to Manhattan together, Woo and I, and the three of us could make a go of it....Stranger things have happened.....Well spoken James Bond baddies in coffee shops, Talking walruses, Hawks living in penthouses....
If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere....It's up to you....Well, actually, it's up to me...
(or maybe...it's just the beginning ;-)
Friday, 26 March 2010
It was Frank Sinatra that woke me up, 'heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can barely speak...' my mobile phone ring tone sang, 'I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we're out together dancing cheek to cheek'....I answered a little dazed...
It was Davy..."oh my God! are you actually here?"
I ran down stairs and there he was, waiting in reception like it was the most normal thing in the world.
"I can't believe we're in New York!" I squealed hugging him tightly.
"You were asleep weren't you?" Davy asked with a knowing Irish grin.
"I had a late night" I shrugged trying to look innocent.
"Why doesn't that supprise me? trust you to find a party on a Wednesday night...lets go for a pint and you can tell me all about it"
We dumped his bag in my room and headed out on to West 94th Street in search of local hospitality.
We found an Irish bar not far from where we were staying and settled there for the duration, we had intended to have a quick pint and go exploring but it was only Thursday. We had big weekend plans and besides, there were some incredibly drunk locals who were entertaining us no end.
A pretty American girl, immaculate in a glamorous cocktail dress was screeching at her boyfriend whilst stumbling around delirious with the heel of her shoe in her hand,"oh myee Gaad! my heel snapped off honey, I've broken my gaad damn shoe!"
Her beau looked bored and continued to watch the football game glassy eyed with his head propped up on one hand while he vaugely waved the other in her direction, motioning for her to sit down.
Meanwhile a fat guy in shorts and a baseball cap (it was December!) tried quietly and tentatively to chat her up whilst keeping one eye on her boyfriend the other, nervously watching the door.
It was like being in an episode of some far fetched sit com! New York so often makes me feel like I'm in the middle of a film set.
Davy and I observed and giggled and chatted and then it was after 1am and we realised we hadn't eaten.
We asked the landlord where we could get food from at this time of night and after the obligatory, I'm Irish, you're Irish, where do you come from chat with Davy, he produced a Mexican menu from under the bar, we ordered, and ten minutes later a courier arrived with nachos and quesidia in little foil parcels :-)
The morning After the Night Before...
I was excited about taking Davy to my local diner for breakfast, I knew he'd love it as much as I did. No one does breakfast like New Yorkers.
On previous visits I'd sat at the counter and chatted to the waiters but this time we chose a booth, we ordered blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon, home fries, coffee and fresh orange juice, and perused the New York Times. What better start to a perfect New York day?
The weather was mild for the time of year and we decided to go for a walk in central park.
there was magic in the air again that bright December morning, and we came across, quite by accident, a bronze statue of Alice in wonderland sat upon a mushroom.
It was really was quite delightful and instantly my favourite line from the book sprang to mind.... "the time has come the walrus said to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings"...I know it's supposed to be surreal but when I first read it, I simply thought, 'what wonderful conversational topics that Walrus suggests,' I had new red patent leather shoes with ankle straps and bows on the front, I'd just discovered that sealing wax was different from candle wax during a project on Victorians at school, and our neighbours were growing cabbages and marrows in their garden, I think I was 7 or 8 at the time.
A little later we stopped to admire an apartment block with a penthouse roof top garden.
"Next time I come here I'll be staying in your penthouse Gill, cos you'll have one one day" Dave quipped with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
Just then we noticed a majestic bird of prey with a huge wing span glide right off the top of that penthouse and into a tree in the Park, we observed it for a while awe stuck before we noticed a couple of twitchers with enormous telescopes right behind us.
"we've been here everyday this week hoping for a glimpse of him and you guys just happen to be walking by when he arrives, must be your lucky day" one of the bird watchers remarked.
It turned out that the bird we had been so fortunate to observe was 'Pale Male' a daring red tailed hawk who has managed against the odds to thrive in New York City and has become somewhat of a local celebrity by all accounts.
Complete with his very own swanky penthouse nest over looking central park and paparazzi photographers camped out in the bushes with telescopic lenses waiting for a glimpse of him, he seemed to me, every bit the handsome wild thing you would expect to solicit such a glamorous lifestyle :-)
We left the park refreshed and wandered aimlessly around Tribecca for a while, window shopping and stopping for coffee and cake in a little gallery cafe where we admired tiny sheep sculptures and photographs of India.
Davy had a friend, George, who he'd met when he was travelling, George lived in Manhattan with his Italian wife Stefania.
They had kindly invited us over for dinner that evening and I was excited about meeting them.
We took the subway the rest of the way to the lower East side.
Dave and I tried in vain to pick up a nice bottle of wine for dinner in a local shop but everything was either German or in a carton so we opted for some bottles of beer instead, it was George's birthday and it had occurred to us a little too late to pick up a gift for him, choice at the 7-11 was limited but we opted for a bouquet of bright blue flowers, "blue for a boy!" I exclaimed excitedly when I noticed the bouquet.
We found their apartment easily as Davy had been there before, it was one of the cleverest, quaintest spaces I have ever been in.
Their entire apartment was smaller than my average sized bedroom at home and there were two people living in it!
There was a cabin bed with a desk underneath it and various musical instruments hung from cleverly constructed hooks and pulley systems on the ceiling.
When we arrived Stefania put the flowers in water and George assembled a low table from different bits of wood which he produced from various nooks and crannies around the room, he then arranged cushions about the table to create a lovely dinning space.
It was quite wonderful and certainly innovative. George is a furniture designer and he had made excellent use of the tiny space with very clever storage and shelving.
Stefania was in the kitchen (which was in the bedroom...) she is a chef and dinner smelled fabulous!
The reason they live in the smallest apartment I have ever seen?
Simple. It's rent controlled and it's in Manhattan.
George has lived there for years and If they moved now they couldn't afford to live on the island so they sacrifice space for the love of Manhattan. I would do the same in a heart beat. (Only I'd have to rent a storage unit in Brooklyn for my shoes;-)
We were treated to a wonderful pasta dinner followed by apple and Cinnamon doughnuts and herb tea. It was delicious and I felt blessed to have spent my evening with three such lovely people.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the blue flowers Davy and I had bought for George were now quite white and the water they were in had turned electric blue! We all laughed and laughed and then we arranged to meet for drinks the following evening.
I had a hot tip on a swanky cocktail bar not far from George and Stefania's apartment and there was a good chance that they might not have been there before.
To Be Continued...
Thursday, 25 March 2010
We stood there in the street in the middle of Manhattan at 2am in the pouring rain.
Mark was pleading with me not to go, and I was trying to hail a cab.
A homeless dude in a wheel chair who I'd given a couple of dollars to earlier that evening in return for a surprisingly moving, (if a little drunk,) acapela rendition of moon river, came over to check if I was ok..."Hey fella, you best not be messin' with ma sista y' hear. I got her back. m'kay?"
He scowled at Mark before turning to me and asking earnestly "you cool Woo, you cool? 'this guy bothering you?"
"I'm cool Joe, thanks for asking" I took my umbrella out of my bag and gave it to him, he took it, opened it and looked up with a grin, he kissed my hand before wheeling himself off down the street shouting as he went 'Like I told you fella, don't you be messin' with ma sista! I got her back y'hear!'
We were wet though, Mark was obviously a little shaken up, I felt sorry for him.
'Look, this is your neighbour hood, where can I get a pint?
We walked to a little Irish bar about a block away and I ordered two pints of beer.
For the first time that evening I paid the bill.
Mark opened up a little then and I won't go in to his personal life here but suffice to say I was right on the money about the British heart breaker.
This man was hurt and once he admitted it he wasn't so bad, he apologised for his behaviour and told me that I'd impressed him, he thanked me for listening to him and he offered help and advise if and when I was ever in a position to move to New York.
We have stayed in touch and he's actually a nice guy deep down, I'll visit him next time I'm in town.
There are important lessons here people...
1.don't be afraid to be honest with people, putting on a front can get you in to all sorts of trouble, people can generally sense when someone is not being genuine, communicating honestly with people if often difficult but usually rewarding...
2.you shouldn't always judge on first impressions, or take to heart peoples first impressions of you, if you have inner confidence and you are honest with yourself you can learn from constructive criticism and dismiss unnecessary nasty comments without a second thought...
3.It's never to late to change someones mind including your own, you just have to be open to it.
It was dawn by the time I finally got in a cab, Mark gave me fifty dollars to pay for it, (which was 3 times what it cost) I imagined myself as Audrey Hepburn in breakfast at Tiffany's for a moment, (before I realised the connotations and tried in vain to give the money back...)
I slept late and read a little the next day, I was reading an autobiography 'Dior by Dior', after reading about his experiences in New York City, filled with admiration and awe, I took a long shower in the small dingy bathroom and afterwards dressed in a bright floral tshirt dress, high heeled biker boots and a black leather jacket....I needed to be ready to go out, I had a friend coming to visit from London and I had a feeling he'd be wanting to go straight to the pub.
To Be Continued...
Thursday, 11 February 2010
I needn’t have worried though, Mark keep me waiting 35 minutes before he even acknowledged me.
Eventually he introduced himself and showed me to his office, I told him I would consider a management position but I’d be far more interested in something away from the shop floor.
He was fairly dismissive of me and never looked me in the eye once; he took several phone calls during the interview and interrupted me virtually every time I spoke, he was intimidating and it was making me uncomfortable.
I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable.
If you want me to help you sort all that out fine but I’m not interested in a commission based retail job. Now, I don’t want to waste any more of your time you’re obviously very busy….
‘Not now Korai, listen, take this girl out for dinner, somewhere nice, I want to talk to her some more but I have an appointment, I’ll meet you later’
It was the night they switched on the Christmas lights on the enormous tree at the Rocafella centre.
We tried to get close and have a look but the crowds were mad so we got off 5th asap and Korai took me to the Manderin hotel.
The resturant is on the 33rd floor and the views of Manhatten are to die for.
We ordered Tempura and white wine and Korai told me he was from a town in Turkey where his dad was Mayer. His family were very wealthy and he didn’t have to work but he felt unfulfilled and came to America to gain an education and to better his English, his Father had said that he would disown him if he left Turkey so now he had to earn his own living and work very hard to support himself.
I loved the way he talked of hard work and of his achievements making him feel like a real man, the fact that he sought out hardship in order to challenge himself and gain a sense of pride, I related to that and I admired him for it.
He didn’t want to be kept, he wanted to make his own way, and he wanted to feel proud and justified.
So many people in our British society feel the world owes them a living, it’s easy to forget that you can’t buy self esteem, pride or a sense of achievement, these are things you have to work for, these are things that have to be earned, they bring you self worth, which is more valuable in terms of happiness than all the money in the world.
The hardest things you ever do will often be the most rewarding.
After a while Mark arrived.
He greeted Korai warmly but barely looked at me, then, he paid the bill and informed us that we were leaving.
This man was so rude that I probably should have walked right then but Korai was nice, a real gentleman, I felt safe with him and I was alone in New York on a Wednesday night in December, spending time with this pair was as good an option as any.
We went to Mark’s apartment so that he could change, we sipped tequila and talked about dancing. Mark put on a waltz and I tried to teach Korai some basic steps. We were all laughing and the atmosphere softened slightly.
Then talk turned to me, we discussed my background and my portfolio briefly and Mark said that I should forget about New York because I wasn’t strong enough to survive there, I didn’t have anything to offer and I was probably just running away from an old boyfriend any way. He pointed out that I didn't have an education, I was too old to start again and my portfolio was average. He added that all English girls were the same, none of us can be trusted, we are all stupid and think that we are better than everyone else.
He was listening now.
It’s great to meet someone as successful as you are and I appreciate you taking the time to give me your opinion but to be fair you don’t know enough about me to make any of those assumptions, this is partly due to the fact that you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said since we met.
You’re an inspiration though! You have absolutely no social skills are clearly very insecure and have some serious inadequacy issues. These are things I know, because I have listened to everything you’ve said.
I am assuming that a British girl broke your heart and left you bitter too, and through all that, look what you’ve achieved! Blimey! Anything is possible in this city!’
He smiled at me then, I smiled back, he picked up my portfolio, flipped though it again and said ‘I have the money to make your business work…lets go dancing.’
We went to a near by Salsa club with a neon dance floor.
Korai couldn’t stay because he had work to do so he wished me good luck, told me anything was possible and backed up this statement with a delightful story about him and his mates discussing extreme sports over desert one evening.
I had decided that Mark was a prize prick but I am always intrigued by socially dysfunctional people so I danced with him, he was a good dancer…a very good lead (no surprises there then!)
I told him of my ideas for off the peg collections and boutique stockists and how difficult and risky the supply chain seemed to me, he told me that I lacked intelligence and couldn’t do anything without someone like him.
I told him I was leaving without him, he chased me out of the club and begged me to stay, he told me I was the most amazing woman he’d ever met. He had tears in his eyes.
Finally this idiot was talking some sense.
To Be Continued...
Sunday, 31 January 2010
I slept like a baby and bounded out of bed at 7am, I showered and dressed in a Julian MacDonald long sleeved black jersey wrap dress, opaque tights and red ‘T’ bar heels.
Before I’d left Bristol my mate Jase (probably the best hairdresser in the world) gave me a valuable piece of advice ‘darling, for Fifth Avenue you need big hair’ who am I to argue? My hair was massive!
I packed my portfolio, a scrapbook full of my press clippings, my CV, some red ballet pumps and a lipstick to match into my black patent tote, I wore my silver Gilly Woo ‘G’ necklace for luck, a quick spritz of Channel Coco Mademoiselle and I was as ready as I’d ever be…
I crossed the street to the Key West diner and sat at the counter, I ordered coffee, muffins, eggs and bacon. The waiter asked me where I was from and I told him I was from Bristol in England. There was a gentleman next to me reading the New York Times, he looked up, ‘do you know the Bristol Old Vic’ he said in a cut glass British accent…’of course!’ I replied, ‘I LOVE the old Vic.’
His name was Robert Ian MacKenzie, (I found out later that he was in a 'A view to a kill' with Roger Moore!)
He’d been living in New York for 18 years after meeting and falling in love with an American music historian whilst appearing in an Opera in Italy, they married and moved to New York and they are still as in love now as they ever were.
We stayed for pie and had more coffee and then he had to go for a casting so he gave me Chesley’s number and his card, directed me down Broadway and wished me the best of luck.
It was around 10am by now and my interview wasn't until 4pm so I decided to walk down Broadway and take in New York City. I changed into my flats, reapplied my lipstick and set off for 5Th Avenue.
Just as I was about to tear myself away I noticed a sign in the window advertising for staff. I have absolutely no desire to work in retail ever again and it would be highly unlikely that I’d get a visa application approved for such a job but I had nothing to lose but time so I changed into my heels again fluffed up my enormous hair and strolled in.
A pretty blond by the name of Bonnie, greeted me enthusiastically as I entered the shop (by name and by nature I thought with a grin.)
I enquired about the advert and handed her my CV.
‘You are kidding me right!’ she squealed, ‘you put on fashion shows?’
‘er…yes’ I replied with a smile.
‘God man, *Mark is gonna love you! I’m gonna get you an interview right now, hold on honey, I’ll give him a call.’
(*Not his real name.)
‘I have someone fabulous here,' Bonnie said, 'British, adorable, tons of experience can you see her today?’…And that was that, I had another interview lined up at 6pm on 42Nd and 5Th. (Though I didn't have a clue what for!)
I continued down Broadway until I found an Internet café, I ordered a latte and I googled the name of the boutique to gather some information.
It turns out there wasn't much information to gather, no official website, no company profile, but I did discover that there were a chain of 5 designer boutiques all located on the island of Manhattan, some further investigation gave me information on all the designers they stocked, most of them I knew well, the ones I didn’t I googled and got profiles on.
Bonnie had told me that three brothers owned the company, and that they were very sales orientated.
That would have to do.
I started to make my way across town. I had found both the boutique and the bridal atelier by 3pm so I bought a copy of time out and a pretzel from a vendor and rested on a bench for a while.
Then I made my way over to my first appointment.
Carrie was still interviewing the previous candidate when I got there so I browsed through the stock and talked to the sales girls.
I was impressed; it was good stuff, Susanne Neville, Cymbeline, good designers, no crap.
When she was ready Carrie called me into her office, she was looking for a bridal stylist, a sales person with experience of dressing women and selling add ons, she looked through my portfolio and we talked about the possibility of me making a bespoke collection for the shop in addition to the styling, as soon as we started to talk figures I lost interest. I've been down this road before I thought, designing in house, selling under someone else’s name, do I really want to go in that direction again? Could I go back to making commercially orientated dresses? Reproducing the same safe boring ivory satin strapless ‘A’ line time after time, year after year?
Carrie said she would sponsor me in terms of helping with paper work and special skills documentation but that I would be responsible for all my own legal fees, she estimated it could cost me in the region of $8000.
Oh. My. God! Four grand! Really! and if they refuse my visa application? that’s it, no refund…just, better luck next time?
‘That’s about the size of it, have a think and let me know what you decide, if you want to move over here having a job to come to is your best chance of having your visa application approved.’
So we shook hands and she wished me luck and I headed off to my next appointment.
I needed to be in New York City in the first week of December, I didn't want to delay it. I couldn't wait to get there!
I also couldn't afford the flight...
I rang my fabulous Mother…I rang her so she’d talk some sense into me and tell me not to be so impulsive and that I’d have to wait and save up, but she didn't, she told me that I should go. She fully encouraged me to be irrational and irresponsible because of a hunch. Mad!
So I rang my amazing sister and I told her my thoughts and she said I had to go, she even offered to put the trip on her credit card and said that I could pay her back later.
So I rang my lovely Dad, and he helped me update my portfolio and he printed copies of my CV… and they all encouraged me and sent me on my way.
A few days before I was due to fly out I had an email from a lady named Carrie (!) she owned a Bridal Atelier on Fifth Avenue had seen my CV online and wanted to interview me on Wednesday.
So…I jumped on a plane to New York…
I arrived at Newark Airport at around 4pm local time.
I had a hard time at customs when I told them I was a fashion designer travelling alone.
They searched my bag to check I wasn't carrying a suitcase full of samples to sell! (Luckily, they didn't find my portfolio which was secreted in my hand luggage…) after a thorough rummage through my case the friendly but firm airport security gentleman simply said ‘nice shoes Mam…a lot, of nice shoes’ and sent me on my way.
On the airport shuttle I met an engineer from Berlin (of all places!) who was backpacking around America and a group of girlfriends from Newcastle on a Christmas shopping trip.
I was staying in a hostel in Manhattan on the upper west side, I wanted to stay somewhere residential, with good transport links, somewhere that I might like to live one day. The hostel was basic but super cheap and it suited me fine, I unpacked put on some high heels, a little lipstick and a leopard print beret, and went for a walk down west 94th Street.
I was as high as a kite that first night. Nothing could have bought me down and I couldn't help smiling as I took it all in, I was back, in New York City and anything could happen!
As I walked a man in a suit smiled at me and said he liked my hat as he passed me by, later a lady with a pushchair said ‘cute outfit honey’ as I crossed the street and then I stopped for a slice of pizza and a couple of beers and I felt content and at home and excited and the pizza was delicious.
Thursday, 28 January 2010
So...I jumped on a tube... to Clapham.
So...I jumped on a train... to Bristol.
The perfect pair of blue jeans...
Now. You know I do my best for you dear reader, but obviously, even I, can not recommend the perfect pair of jeans for every one of you. This is because I don't have experience of every pair of blue jeans on the market nor intimate knowledge of every one of your figures.