Last week I was in Bali sourcing materials and working on some new designs. It was a fleeting trip but as I was travelling without my children I was able to do a rare thing - read a book. Now, for people that know me, they will be aware of how I am more likely to be seen delving into a Donna Hay magazine than scouring the latest Richard & Judy Book List for my next read. I don’t really ‘do’ book reading. There I said it. Unlike my mother and sister who are book worms extraordinaire, I’ve never really been into reading and joke that I’m more likely to start a Box Set Club than join a Book Club.
I think it might be to do with the fact that I read, very, v-e-r-y slowly and so starting and then finding time to finish [insert three other time-impacting reasons here: my two kids and running my own business] can take months. I’m not sure why I’m such a slow reader but think it is to do with needing to absorb everything, drink in each and every word on the page. My sister has been known to get through 5 novels on the 12 hour flight over from London to Singapore. To me, this is unfathomable. While at school, my father was so worried about my snail-pace-reading that he borrowed some kind of curious reading machine that had a metronome-type scroller you could set at different speeds, with the idea of teaching you to read faster and faster. Sorry Dad but it didn’t really work.
A luxurious free evening, couple of flights and solo dining meant that I was finally able to finish my dusty bedside read which had been ordered months ago (via free global shippers the brilliant Book Depository) - the book in question was not a novel or crime thriller but department store MD Ed Burstell's memoir 'At Liberty - from rehab to the front row'.
It is a fascinating read and charts his epic career in fashion and retail from the eighties until now. His journey from Florida party-boy to a humble Macy’s spritzer to Managing Director of Liberty of London is far from conventional and totally inspiring. He was a heroin addict and had two near-fatal overdoses before these 'wake-up calls' drove him to forge a career in retail. From Macy's he goes on to share his experiences as a buyer at Bloomingdales, then to running and turning around Henri Bendel to his catwalk encounters at the prestigious, luxury store Bergdorf Goodman ...gulp for air...before flying over the pond to Liberty of London which he would soon end up running.
The book is intriguing not only for his anecdotes with so many of the great and good of the fashion world but equally for his take on how events in history have shaped, influenced and affected consumer buying. From the amusing (if now baffling) appeal of pot-pourri in the late 80's, to the devastating affects following 9/11 and the 2008 stock market crash, the rise and rise of the super-expensive IT bags to pin pointing the turning point when department store 'sales' went from being a bi-annual affair to being dangerously close to year-round. He is doubtless a skilled raconteur and the book is peppered with stories and experiences which are both funny, earnest and often so self-deprecating they defy his clear, natural ability at retail.
Even though his perspective is coming from the stance of a buyer, so much of what he wrote made sense to me as a small brand that I wished I had carried a fluoro pen with me to make notes in the margins. I would urge anyone who has even the tiniest interest in fashion to read his memoir.
Burstell talks a lot about the theatre of retail and also how important it is to have a great story to tell. One of our latest stories is connected to a new little cross body bag called the Savannah. I've designed this bag as a mini travel companion with a clever in-built wallet and multiple compartments. I envisage taking this on our summer holiday when I need easy access to all of our passports and papers but a much bigger bag on my back carrying all the children’s in-flight necessities.
The naming of this bag is somewhat humbling too. Our good friend Nick, himself an ex-forces chap, wanted to use his 40th birthday celebration as a way of raising money for a charity that was close-to-his heart, Help for Heroes - which supports thousands of brave men and women and their families from the Armed Forces.
So rather than the usual merriment, pomp and ceremony for ‘big birthday’ celebrations, we all had to get dressed up as one of our ‘Heroes’ and party the night away at their house. I went as Farrah Fawcett as I can't resist a big back-combing blow dry (and had a green-goddess jump suit to hand)!
In order to raise funds for the charity there was a silent auction for items ranging from a night in a Bangkok hotel to four lads hosting a BBQ dressed as the 'Butlers in Budgies' (well done to my husband for stepping up for this challenge!!!). The naming of a bag was another prize and a lovely lady called Renee bid the highest amount for this opportunity. This Super Mom has four beautiful daughters and chose to name this bag after her youngest, the adorable Savannah. The night raised over over 7000 SGD for the charity which was brilliant. I invited Savannah and her Mum along to our Isetan pop up recently for a photoshoot - see above!
Hurry though, as the Marine colour combo is almost sold-out!
- Read this Beach Polo Chic post by Travelshopa featuring our Savannah bag HERE
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