Tabitha Bardolino’s normally pale and sculpted cheeks are incandescent with fury as she punishes her iPhone with a finger freshly lacquered in Chanel’s new Black Pearl. As one of the world’s top stylists, confidante and colleague of fashion people from Franca Sozzani to Mert & Marcus, instigator of innovative shoots, such as haute-couture skiing down Everest or the Afghan women’s football team modelling the latest fluorescent sports utility wear, so well known that she goes by the single moniker “Bardo”, she expects a front-row seat at every important fashion show as of right.
She has, however, been denied a ticket for the season’s essential Paris show, Madame Chérie. She’d called the house’s nonchalant PR assistant five days before. “Just wondering where my ticket’s got to?” she breezed. “‘Oo’s calling?” said the girl stiffly, and then, when told, asked, “’ow are you spelling zat?” Losing patience, Bardo spat out the letters. “Sorry, madame, you are not on ze list.”
The show is beyond important. Madame Chérie has long since gone to the great catwalk in the sky and her house is now part of the all-enveloping Megaluxe group, which initially tried unsuccessfully to breathe new life into it with a succession of little-known designers. Two years ago they employed Philippe Lebon, who apparently started by picking up pins in Paris for Lacroix, was graduate of the year at Central St Martins and has since injected excitement as assistant designer at Chanel then Dior. He turned fashion on its head with his first collection at Madame Chérie, annihilating the industry obsession with vintage and making the house Paris’s hottest property. Meanwhile, he has turned into a control-freak monster – demanding to be known as “Monsieur Philippe” is the least of his idiosyncrasies.
Bardo frantically calls the PR again. Getting through to the same girl, she demands to speak to her boss, Cindy Gluckmann, recently arrived from New York. “Ees Bardo – she wants a teecket,” says the girl. Cindy’s face is a picture, visualising the reclusive, animal-loving actress at the show and then frowning as she realises who the actual person in question is. She has a score to settle with Bardo, which is why she expunged her name from the list. A few months earlier, Bardo called in clothes to shoot for Nouvelle Vague and disobeyed Monsieur’s edict that all Madame Chérie outfits must be shot complete, and not mixed with lesser brands. A jacket appeared with an inappropriate skirt from a Danish chainstore. On seeing it, Monsieur made everyone’s lives a misery by screaming, sulking and chewing the Laotian silk rug in his office – ironic, as six months earlier he’d accepted an obscene sum to design a capsule collection for the same store.
Cindy picks up the phone with a sympathetic air. “I’m sooo sorry but it’s a teeny venue and we’re totally limited to top editors and buying directors,” she says soothingly. “I only have 15 places for the whole US and I wouldn’t want to give you a seat not fitted to your status…” Bardo mutters that this time she could make an exception and sit at the back, but Cindy is prepared. “There is no back,” she says. “Monsieur Philippe wants everyone to have the best view so it’s one row and no standing. But feel free to make a showroom appointment.”
Bardo vows revenge. She contacts friends on the pretext that her assistant will be shooting clothes from the show the following week and needs to see it too. “Sure,” says a buyer, “my assistant is away but her ticket is only standing – hope yours doesn’t mind.” On the day she arrives late, as the show starts, hoping everyone will assume her tardy arrival prevents her getting a seat. As the lights dim and she rushes in, a security guard steers her to the one remaining seat, reminding her of her mantra as a fashion student when she crashed such events – every show has a no-show. Afterwards, as Cindy works the press row, she and Bardo airkiss as if nothing has happened. The stylist brandishes her “standing” ticket, thumb carefully covering the recipient’s name so retribution cannot be wreaked. “Don’t ever lie to me again,” she hisses, as the smile never leaves her face.