(From my memoir ‘to Paris for lunch’)
I just could not sleep …there were feathers, chiffons and satins and they kept coming up in my dream. I turned around to the other side, annoyed with myself …it’s too early to wake up. Again little pink feathers kept floating through my sleepy thoughts. I forced myself to think of something else, but trying too hard, I realised I was wide awake by then.
It was four in the morning. I went into the second bedroom, which I had turned into my little studio and pulled out a bag of multicoloured feathers that I had bought months before. I found some pieces of white chiffon, folded it and pinned the pink feathers in between. It looked great.
I tried other colours of feathers, they all looked good, as long as the colour was strong enough to be visible through the chiffon. The one I liked best was a black ostrich feather.
And then I got an idea. How about beading the feather in place and then framing the chiffon panel with silk satin or crepe de chine the same colour as the feather.
The whole week I feverishly worked on finding the best way of attaching feathers to chiffon or organza, the most effective way of framing it and making it into shawls.
How about camisoles? If I place the feathers in the right spot, they would make beautiful tops. Very sexy too!
I experimented attaching polka dot Guinea fowl feathers onto the outside of black and white silk organza, a stiffer weave of sheer silk for more sculptural designs of shawls.
After two very creative and productive weeks, I made a collection of interesting and unusual pieces – not very practical garments, but very beautiful to look at. I showed my collection to some of my best customers and was surprised that Rosemary ordered two of them in different colours straight away.
‘Nicole, they are not for me, they are for my grandchildren, like an investment, instead of pearls. I thought I will leave those in my will to them!’
I was shocked! If somebody buys those as an investment for their grandchildren, those shawls must be good enough to show to the American buyers, who came over to England, purchasing goods for big department stores in the US. I knew of one of those agencies and after some nail biting nervousness, I overcame my fear of making that initial phone call.
Agal Ltd was situated in Knightsbridge, just behind Harvey Nichols. The lady I saw, was a director of the agency. When I opened my suitcase on the table in front of her, all there was to see was tissue paper -nothing else. My heart nearly stopped beating for a moment, as I thought I forgot the shawls and all I packed was paper. To say I felt precious about those shawls is an understatement.
‘You need to loose all those tissue papers when you show the collection to the buyers. They have no time for this!’, she said impatiently watching me pull out sheet after sheet and nothing else.
‘They will spend five minutes with you max and that is only, if they are interested to buy.’
‘Ok.’ I said blushing.
This was like being in school, having an exam. When I finally found the shawls, she called in her assistant, they both nodded at each other.
‘What are you selling these for?’
Nervously I told them quietly what I had in mind.
Both pulled out calculators out of there back pockets of their trousers as if they were guns, tapping those buttons fast with their long manicured nails.
‘Ok, if you follow my assistant here to her desk, she will find a time slot for you to see the buyer for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.’
And that was that! Meeting the actual buyers for Neiman Marcus really was only a five minute event. They bought around twenty five pieces, to be divided into two stores, New York and Dallas. Only much later did I realise that it was strange for my designs to be in places, before I had the chance to go there myself, but still, part of me was already there!