“Dad, I’m sorry if it upsets you but I’ve made up my mind. I know you want me to follow you into the City but it’s my life and I’m going to do what I want with it,” said Florian. He let the pause hang. His jaw was set firm and his eyes held a level gaze. “I’m applying for that internship at Balenciaga and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
Oh, who was he trying to kid? It was easy enough to be defiant to your own reflection in the wardrobe door, but standing up to Father was like standing up to a Panzer division; except that Panzer commanders, he reflected ruefully, didn’t wear chalkstripes and an MCC tie.
Father had already arranged for a placement at his friend Mike Castle’s brokerage – not that he’d consulted Florian about it – to begin the autumn after graduation. He’d won the fight over Florian’s college (Trinity Hall rather than West London) and over his degree (classics rather than fashion design); he had no expectation of not winning this one. And lose face in front of his friend by having his sissy son back out to take unpaid work carting frocks and handbags about for a bunch of champagne-swilling Cockney degenerates? Never.
Florian sighed. He knew he would go through the motions of resisting (his stammer getting worse as he went on), that his father would dismiss him brusquely and he’d be left with tears welling and the usual feeling of powerlessness. He was right. By October, Florian, dressed in the least old-fashioned suit he could get away with, was commuting to work every day at Hackleford Castle. He carried his dreams, like a sad little posy of dried flowers, in the discreet Gucci manbag about which his boorish colleagues liked to tease him.
It was not many months before, thirsting for some contact with the world of glamour, beauty and style – that world of magical reinvention that called to him from the catwalks – that he started his blog. It was anonymous, or rather, pseudonymous, but “Gloria Monday” was everything Florian Cholmondeley could not be: waspish, chic, fiercely discriminating and giving no F-bombs what the world thought.
Over the months that followed, “Gloria” reviewed catwalk collections and picked the stitches out of ready-to-wear. She had a discriminating eye for a silhouette and her hot takes on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards were savage. Something mean she said about Donatella Versace was quoted in Vogue and a bitchy line about a punkish McQueen piece on a size zero model – “like a bin-bag blown into a tree” – got a lot of play on Twitter. Florian took to checking her ever-increasing hits in between trades on his work computer.
The turning point came when Gloria got an anonymous leak: not only photos of the whole of a major house’s big spring catwalk collection but a dump of emails revealing that the lead designer had fallen out with the CEO and the collection had been put together by assistants. Gloria published the lot and the story made the tabloids. Other leaks followed. One accolade – “the rag trade’s Matt Drudge” – went on the front page of the blog. Advertising money started to come in. Venture capitalists began to sniff.
Three years after practising his never-delivered speech of Oedipal defiance in front of his wardrobe, Florian resigned from Hackleford Castle and delivered the real thing. In his yolk-yellow nubuck document wallet were a clutch of deals for lucrative collaborations with a high-street Swedish fashion behemoth and a luxury French label, plus a six-figure book deal, while his iPhone pinged with messages from a new investor. He was taking on two full-time staff. And he’d be sitting next to Anna Wintour at Gucci during Milan Fashion Week. Father was, of course, both baffled and appalled. Not least by Florian’s mankle-baring trousers and Westwood Buffalo hat. But there wasn’t much arguing with his newly buoyed bank balance.
Six months later, Florian was in New York when his assistant passed him the mobile: “It’s someone who says he’s your father.”
“Ah, Florian old chap,” came the voice, slightly strangulated. “I’ve just had a call from Mike Castle. He’s wondering – is there any chance you could arrange to give his daughter some work experience…?”