Flora has recently secured herself an internship on one of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines, where each day begins with the infamous lift ride to the top floor. This sartorial stand-off is designed to mortify the frumps and glorify the fashion-forward, and what was acceptable attire at 7pm when Flora left the building may be fashion hara-kiri as she ascends with her boss’s triple espresso the following morning.
After six weeks on the job, Flora has got the hang of most things: she has learnt not to smile before lunchtime and where to source organic turmeric for the fashion director’s afternoon protein shake; she can apply a deft feline flick to her eyes while simultaneously glueing pompoms back onto a trashed pair of Charlotte Olympia sandals before they have to be returned to the PR; above all, she can rotate Zara and her old school uniform with such creative genius that nobody would ever guess her weekly income amounts to less than she’d get from a Saturday shift at McDonald’s.
But the thing that stands between Flora and a permanent job in fashion is the right footwear. Because while most of her colleagues drift ethereally from lunch to launch by taxi, Flora’s feet are subject to a more gruelling schedule. She spends most of her day running somewhere: up and down five flights of stairs ferrying outfits to and from couriers; from shoot to newsagent for Vogue Menthols and San Pellegrino for the models; and on neverending errands for the editor.
When she first began her internship, Flora had worn five-inch heels with all the fortitude of the fashionably insane. Within days, she wised up and changed into a pair of old Converse every time she ventured beyond the fashion cupboard. That was until the art director gave her shoes a particularly withering look as he passed her in the corridor. For the next week, Flora solved her dilemma with some equally ancient but now super-on-trend pool slides, until she discovered that, unless they were Prada, these eyesores were fit only for protecting feet from unsightly verrucas at the local gym’s showers.
In desperation, Flora is forced to take radical action and fashion her own footwear, “upcycling” a pair of trainers with some spray paint, Super Glue and a deconstructed dreamcatcher she bought on her gap year in New Mexico.
The next day she braves the revolving doors with sweating palms. Her new shoes are arresting, but if the editor takes against them, it might mean a future subediting Auto Trader. As she enters the lift, Flora notices with horror that the man opposite her – unsmiling in unrelieved black – is one of the world’s top designers. She is debuting her Frankenstein footwear in the presence of a man who famously believes that those who wear jeans have lost control of their lives, and who considers the purchase of an LBD a major life event, along with birth, death and marriage.
Flora looks at the floor, hoping he’s too busy contemplating whether the models in his next show should have eyebrows or not to notice her. Unbeknownst to her, he has been suffering a serious case of designer’s block and sees only the void.
Until his eyes alight on Flora’s feet.
“Whose shoes are those?” he asks, raising his sunglasses a fraction.
“Er… mine?” Flora braces herself.
“No, I mean whose shoes are they? Who designed them?”
“I did,” Flora says nervously, as he kneels to inspect them at closer quarters.
Flora had always known that a minute was a long time in fashion, but until now she’d never appreciated how much could change in 60 seconds. By the time the lift opens to reveal Flora’s editor, open-armed and ready to air-kiss a fellow fashion legend, Flora is barefoot and the designer is triumphantly holding her creations aloft.
“Behold: my statement piece for autumn/winter, 2015,” he says with great pageantry and considerable relief.
“Darling, you’re a genius. Comme toujours,” says the editor, clapping her hands together in delight.
The designer nods with complicity at Flora, who slides shoeless back to the fashion cupboard to collect her things. For once she isn’t worried what the art director will think of her Smurf socks. Next week Flora’s glittering future begins – as muse to the world’s greatest designer. The only trouble is, she hasn’t a clue what shoes to wear.