Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Journey to 5th Avenue: part 3

On the way back to my temporary home that night I stopped at a 7-11 to buy a bag of pretzels and a travel plug for my heated rollers, and it hit me…that’s why I love New York so much!

New York City is entirely designed for people exactly like me.

Chaotic, disorganised, time dyslexic, impulsive types who don’t even consider packing a travel plug (because they are too preoccupied with the silk/cashmere ratio in their suitcase) and occasionally need to find one without making the slightest effort or detour at 10.45pm.

As I snuggled into bed that night with Christian Dior’s Autobiography for company I felt sure the next day would be full of wonder…and it was.

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.’

He told me he was an actor, originally from Kent, he’d played the Old Vic in 1979 and he thought Bristol was wonderful.
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.

He told me how difficult the visa situation was at the moment and talked of the recession and immigration and his good friend Chesley Mclaren who lived a couple of blocks away. She is a successful fashion designer, illustrator and children’s author, he even rang her to ask her if she’d like to meet us for a coffee, but unfortunately she wasn't in.
Now, you have to agree, this kind of thing just doesn't happen in London does it?

Only in New York City could you meet a guy from a James Bond movie at breakfast who wanted to hook you up with a fashion designer from down the street because it might be helpful to you in some way!

We talked for over an hour about work and museums and the difference between British and American culture, we found that we had both suffered from carple tunnel syndrome and he showed me his scar from a recent operation.
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.

After a while, when I’d walked about 20 blocks I stopped to admire a beautiful clutch bag made entirely of peacock feathers which was nestled under the arm of a mannequin in a shop window.
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?

I liked Carrie a lot, I asked her if she was married, ‘to this shop’ she replied, ‘I know the feeling!’ I said, and we laughed and she winked at me and said, ‘honey, you and I could make a good team, all we have to do is sort you out a visa.’
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.
To Be Continued...

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