Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Heroes, local and from outer space, and the odd doorstep villain

One hesitates to make proclamations regarding turning corners but it seems less of a come-on to Fate's contrary caprice than would be announcing an "unstoppable upward trajectory". When a local family came in back over the summer, the husband admired the poacher's jacket and said that come Autumn he might be in the mood / market for that. So not long after our Fashion Week presentation at Mansion House, I went through our visitors book, extracted the telephone number his daughter had written there and cold called. Trying to sound like a seasoned boutique owner ringing her best client to announce something quite perfect and only for them has arrived in store, I found myself reminding Tristan just who I was, from what shop, where, and mumble-fumbling about new pieces we had made that he might like, extremely sorry to disturb, thank you, bye.

In the meantime, we continued to have support from other local quarters, in the form of day to day encouragement and commissions such as this delicious chocolate birds eye tweed suit below that we made in record time for Mr Ian Taylor to wear to the Frankfurt Book Fair. He was representing his own publishing company - Ian Taylor Associates - and reading between the lines, it seemed he wanted to be empowered in a subtle and distinguished way. He confessed it was some years since he had invested in new duds and was nervous lest we try and push him down some trendy route that he was tensed not to tread. We reassured him that it was our duty to serve his requirements, not foist our own fancies upon him and little by little he relaxed into the process until we reached the rewarding moment when he proclaimed he had throroughly enjoyed the evolution of his new toggery. He returned from Frankfurt with a folder full of deals which we shan't presume to assign to our suit but will say that feeling your tip top best is the ideal way to enter into negotiations. Here he is (below) having worn it to Chelsea Football Club, where he was seated in Mr Abramovich's box no less, an invitation that has Mr Wesley's arms crossed in defence, he being a lifelong Gunner. The following week Mrs Taylor came in to order something to wear to her sport of choice - the ballet.

Along from the Borough, a neighbouring quartier of currently hip credentials, next came Vincent, DJ at Resonance 104.4 FM
A radio station of unimpeachable musical integrity, Vincent is their expert broadcaster and journalist on Congolese music. Have a read of this to get a handle on just what a cool cat he is:
He came primarily to introduce us to the sterling talents of Jenifer Corker, his long time friend who is relaunching her silversmithing. Without hesitation we agreed to stock her jewellry some of which Vincent is displaying below. Straight away I invested in a piece for myself, a silver band engraved with a motto of inspiring forward thinking and optimism: "In Memoria Futuri" - in memory of the future. Her work has serious attitude tempered with finesse.

Vincent of Resonance FM displaying the work of silversmith Jenifer Corker, who looks on

While we were also admiring the pedigree belts Jenifer makes from stamped dog collars, previously stocked in Harrods, (pictures to follow), Vincent slipped into the Ginger Chutney suit that has been waiting patiently for its Raja to come. It fitted like a crystal slipper and he next chose the lining to seal the fit. Two weeks later he returned to collect it:

Jenifer's belts and jewellry are in addition to a range we already carry,, that is made in South America. They offer gaucho detail at terrific value, for not everyone is in the market for a suit. I always fancied the platform outside the store doubling as a corral with a sign saying "Tether ponies and Harleys here".

Then Tristan (see top of this story) walked like Clint Eastwood back through our door. He did indeed place an order for the poacher's jacket, but with his own choice of jacquard lining and opting for plaited leather buttons over horn. He also went for the waistcoat and moleskin trousers in our signature cut of deep-placket-loser-cut-round-thighs-narrowing-to-ankle.

Tristan (centre) in his python skin jacket flanked to the left by his wife Leanne (pka "Flame" of the Gladiators TV show) in her  mother-in-law's leopard skin coat (made in Bournemouth, you get a lotta leopards down there) and Mr Wesley, to his right, in our new screen printed knitwear, here the Jolly Peasants carouse across finest Merino wool

Then Tristan told a friend about what we could do, a Chelsea glamazon who duly crossed the river to bravely seek us out. There was barely suppressed panic (on all sides) when she went too far up the Clapham Road and was driving about Stockwell in the Range Rover but we guided her in and measured her up for a hunting jacket, breeches, mini skirt, cape and flat cap. Here we are at the first fitting stage:

If you were a grouse you'd just jump into her arms non?

Buying the roll of butter soft Ermenegildo Zegna tweed was one of the smartest things we ever did, as it has now yielded the Poacher's jacket with matching waistcoat; the winter overcoat for Godmother Elisabeth; Tristan's jacket and waistcoat; and the hunting ensemble for our International Style Ambassadress. Here's our best pal Taffy wearing the waistcoat as he orders up his decadely birthday wardrobe refreshment with Mr Wesley:

Then one Saturday afternoon a few weeks back, I was at my desk embroidering a babygrow when a space ship of a car glided into the bay outside the store. I had a sense of being watched through the black windows and inclined my head in what I perceived to be a winsome, welcoming manner. It glided on. I shrugged and went back to chain-stitching the name of Johnny Rotten's erstwhile minder's granddaughter, "Treasure" across the brushed cotton of the little pink popper suit. A man and two ladies walked in. Having double-took-checked that it was not in fact Johnny Depp, I soon established that they had been aboard the space ship. The gentleman had significant presence and was, I remarked, of the same build as Mark who invariably makes up our samples in his own size - so on the rare occasions we do mingle in society, he can be a walking calling card for our wares. Hence it transpired that everything the cool customer put on, fitted. Mannequin after mannequin was denuded. I had to ask for his assistance in deconstructing the window display. While he went downstairs to try yet something else I called Mark at home and suggested he walk round promptly while I struggled to find carrier bags big enough to carry all the man had bought: the Green Indian suit, the Mr Fox overcoat, the double-breasted pinstripe, the puddle-proof trousers and more.

Mark in the Mr Fox overcoat with his little cub
Turned out the mystery shopper is the owner of a luxury goods magazine. Only that morning our landlord had apprehended Mark, saying darkly that he wanted to see some money sharpish. So it was with a smirk in my stride that I walked our dazzling customer into the dry cleaners where we process card payments (it is an eccentric but efficient arrangement that stops us blowing the rent). 
"Yippeeee!" said Mr Wesley afterwards, "This means we can make this, and this and this and that and that AND that!" 
"Now love," I said, wishing I wasn't, "this means we have covered our rent arrears and have a little in hand."

Just the sort of craftsman that our lucky touch client's magazine (I remain circumspect for a reason and hopefully but temporarily) would admire is Jason Amesbury, who was extraordinarily generous and trusting when he let us borrow his bespoke riding and ankle boots for the Mansion House installation. Jason was previously the head shoemaker at Lobb & co. A pair of shoes takes six months to make, and it is an accordingly costly process. Lasts are hewn from solid lumps of wood using traditional tools and they even make the string with which the soles are stitched out of fibres and beeswax. If you would like a referral we would be most happy to effect an introduction.

Jason with a shoe that's almost done. I really liked the splotches of yellow darning on his jumper

The bench where the lasts are chopped then whittled
Somebody I'm in no hurry to see again however is the low life loser who half-inched my Blackberry off the desk while pretending to admire the fox stoles. I stood up to usher him back into the open space of the room, getting some weird and not altogether good vibe. Then he threw me by asking, "What have you got that's new?" that immediately made me think perhaps he had been in before... otherwise what would it matter. From the rail I picked out and held up our newest print, "Street Life" with a scene of a portly gentleman on a Victorian thoroughfare. The text is written as calligraphy and I read the beginning of it aloud:
"Beware, pickpockets and prostitutes operate in this area."
To my astonishment the man announced he found that "offensive". Indeed, he thought a lot of people would find it offensive and hesitate to buy it. "Dude, " I challenged, "you have GOT to be kidding me?!"
Now if I had two brain cells I would have found the ensuing volte face when he said he would take it to be somewhat odd, a commercial non sequitur. But so thrilled am I by every sale, however large or small, that I blanked out the inconsistency and began wrapping while he claimed to be getting cash from the machine next door. A few minutes went by, and a few more. I glanced down at my desk where my Blackberry had been. My stomach flipped as I realised I had been stitched up like a kipper. The only karmic consolation I took was that the day after the Blackberry network crashed for the best part of a week. I half expected him to walk back in and throw it at me complaining "Piece of rubbish, doesn't hardly work!"

So turning corners doesn't preclude the odd pot hole but all in all the camber of late has been smooth for Bedlam's rickety wagon.

Our "offensive" t-shirt warning of the prevalence of pickpockets