The road to the holy grail of becoming a furniture superstar is quite simply a minefield of do’s and don’ts. It’s a good job I like a challenge, and after all a headwind can only make you stronger!
Hot on the heels of the advice from much respected British furniture guru Tom Dixon, I headed to Paris. My first appointment had not quite gone exactly according to plan, I could see that the design world was just playing hard to get and that all it needed was for me to turn up the charm factor a little.
The French always give us a hard time about our food and weather but secretly they love us. They will never admit it to a fellow Frenchie but they melt at our accents, way of dressing and phlegm. Being a British designer, I thought I would have a head start, I mean how often do those bored Parisian gallery owners get the opportunity to have a touch of British class brighten up their days.
Out came my swanky greyie, purplish trousers ironed à la ‘Rowan’ so not ironed at all, next shoe choice, “Hmmmm, no, no it’s got to be the worn but yet classy smart leather shoes.” You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear and I was hoping that these would say cool but without trying, in a traditional but yet contemporary and educated way. Now for the top half, this would take a little longer (partly due to the fact that I only have one pair of smartish shoes and trousers) finally I opted for a rather natty understated black polo shirt, collar up of course. I had hesitated for a while with something a bit more ‘down with the kids’ or wacky but didn’t want to stray too far from the stereotype that they might be expecting, I was batting for England not Willy Wonker. Thumbs up from wifey/part-time fashion critic and I was ready to rock the furniture world or at least a small part of Paris.
Having taken the cheapest train option of 6 am arriving in Paris at 9 am I had time to kill, the big meeting wasn’t until 3 pm. After moping around a few galleries in tourist mode and consuming a rather basic sandwich ‘jambon beurre’, I headed over to the drop zone. The words ‘to be on time is to be late’ ringing in my head. I found the street quite easily, did a flyby of the target then came around again for the kill. 2.55 pm, just as I was putting my hand on the door my phone rang and I had to pull up in mid-dive. “Bonjour.” “Bonjour.” “Mr Rovanne?” “Oui.” “I am sorry but we must delay your meeting with Madame (let’s call her Fawlty).” Ok so the word delay can mean many things, delay like 5 minutes or delay like don’t call us we’ll call you. I waited for my sentencing. “Can we delay it one hour please, Madame Fawlty is busy.” I thought to myself “what’s one more hour of moping?” and with great dignity I accepted.
As I came back I couldn’t help but think of the tea and croissants that I’d be consuming whilst signing my first gallery contract, it was after all getting on for tea time. This time no phone calls so I went straight in bomb doors open. Madame Fawlty’s assistant ushered me to the back of the gallery to a little space he called ‘le office’. “Please take a seat she’ll be right with you.” Too right she will be, probably just fainted at seeing so much style silk into her gallery. Out she popped and down we sat, no air kissing or handshakes right down to business – that’s what I like. Now if I thought that old Dixon of Dock Green had been a little rapid then this lady could have won an Olympic medal for her portfolio page flicking skills. Wow!! Portfolio raped she spoke: “Mais oui, mais oui, looks a lot like Zaha Hadid’s work.” Oh shit, please don’t ask who Zaha Hadid is, please! Urm Urm what to say? Got to say something, can’t say I don’t know who she or he is. Awkward silent moment getting too long. Was it a compliment? Shit. Here goes, I adopted the old hand under the chin stance and said: “Merci, but I am sure ‘they’ (wasn’t sure of gender at this point) have not used the same inspiration sources”. To which she replied: “I am sorry I can do nothing for you” and with that she got up and left, again like old Dico with my portfolio tucked firmly in the hairy underarm district .
No herbal tea, or flaky moist croissant, no contract, not even a “Thanks for coming, nice try old fruit”. Bollocks! I knew I should have worn the blue ‘down with the kids’ shirt.
N.B. I did my homework on Zaha Hadid once I got back home. She’s a hotshot, high flying architect who designs some pretty sexy stuff. Along with her buildings she does some moonlighting in the furniture department. Her furniture is slick, slick, slick, with a touch of pointiness and in your face curves. I am quite confident that she has never even heard of, yet alone been inspired by Olympic champion and thigh busting god Fabian Cancellera in full flight on his aero bike or by an E-type Jag sliding sideways through a corner whilst making roaring growls. So my design integrity is still intact thanks Madame Fawlty.