"Edgar, I’ve got some incredible news. I was telling Celia about your bags and she said she’d speak to Tommy, and you’ll never believe it...”
Edgar Whiffley de Cress tried to concentrate, but his mind kept coming back to that hideous chat with his mother. Fashion, she’d said, was not the industry for a man like him, an absent-minded dreamer whose successes could be counted on a closed fist. Her logic was understandable. The property portfolio, the internet start-up, his four marriages – with each demise the Coutts account had been further eroded and his once-glorious ancestral name had gathered more mud.
“...we’ll launch smack bang in the middle of the shows.”
But as he’d repeatedly explained, the comeback would begin with a line of clutch bags, each bearing a family crest – a goat rampant (great-grandpa had been a bit of a lech). From these, they’d move on to wallets, from wallets to belts, hats, scarves, maybe even knickers. He imagined for a moment undressing the girl of his dreams and finding “Whiffley de Cress” embroidered across her crotch. What finer way to beget an heir?
“Anyway, the point is, we have a window in Haridges. In Fashion Week!”
Edgar felt a surge of love for his sister. She alone had understood what he was trying to do. She’d even left a key role at Chanel to come on board.
“Getting the chop was the best thing ever,” declared Tabitha. “They’d never have let me near anything as big as this. Now we’ve got to generate some buzz. With a drinks party everyone will remember. Even if they weren’t there.”
“And we should call Hong Kong and get a final delivery date for the samples,” said Edgar. “There’s not much time.”
“Eggie, all designers work right up to the last minute. It’s how you show the world you’re a perfectionist.”
“Retweet.” Tabitha pecked at her iPad. “So you’ll deal with Hong Kong, yeah?”
“Er, can’t you?” pleaded Edgar.
“No, I’m psycho-scrapbooking. Who is our customer? She’s young, pale, edgy. She has great eyebrows. And great sex.”
“And she likes clutches,” added Edgar, who felt the need to contribute. “So she has two hands. Well, at least one, anyway.”
“And she’s totally into heritage,” said Tabitha. “God, this is fun.”
“Isn’t it? In your face, Mother.”
Thirty-five fashion journalists sipped at their Cresstinis, trying to resist the Whiffleburgers. Hands were waved, lips were pursed and foreheads were static.
“I am so in love with our brand,” gushed Tabitha, who was on Cresstini number three. “It’s all about DNA, provenance, backstory and the past. But also the future. Our future. Status update, yay.”
“And the bags,” said Edgar. “Don’t forget the b... Oh, Christ. I forgot the bags.”
He watched as his sister’s face turned the same shade of murky white as the drink about to drop from her hand.
Just then, the crowd parted like the Red Sea, except that everyone was wearing black.
“Edgar. Tabitha. Let us look at this wretched window display.”
“Not yet, Mother. Please wait...”
But nothing would halt Lady Elizabeth, who swept out onto Sloane Street, a shoal of fashionistas darting in her wake.
Edgar closed his eyes. But mere skin was no shield from the shame engulfing him. His name was stamped, etched and emblazoned on the crests that adorned the mannequins, who thrust out their plastic hands to the expectant crowd. Hands that were undeniably empty.
“We are ruined,” moaned Lady Elizabeth, oozing despair like a vast, unhappy slug. “Edgar, you are no better than great-grandpa. You are... You are...”
“A style icon.”
“What?” said Edgar.
“All clutch and no bag,” murmured a journalist, swaying in next season’s Louboutins. “The bravest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Her friend nodded in agreement. “Brand and desire. It’s pure fashion. So clever. So now.”
“Yes,” said Tabitha, nodding hard. “That’s right, mmm, absolutely.”
“Do you have a waiting list?”
Edgar looked at the 35 heads, bent over their BlackBerries. Then, as the questions grew louder and his phone started to ring and ring, his mother’s face broke into something that may very well have been a smile.