Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Adding to my list of chic mentors which I profiled here, may I present you with two new ones.
Firstly meet Janey, a customer of our shop whom I’ve met a couple of times in the past years, but have had quite a lot to do with in the last few weeks.
Janey is an interior designer (but a real one with a passion for design, not a rich wife one with a put-on posh accent. You can just tell). She is in her early fifties and part of her look is Converse All-Stars. From that you would think she tries to dress young (as Adrienne covered wonderfully recently). But no, she wears gorgeous, sophisticated clothing, mostly pants, with quietly expensive looking tops and often a chic coat or jacket. She wears long, fine-knit scarves too, looped casually around her neck with the ends down.
A while back she asked me to let her know when we received any Converse in brown, olive or green shades. Here in New Zealand we don’t get the huge range of colours that are always available in the US. Our tiny population is less than the size of one city in a bigger country, so this is why.
We received in some ‘vintage brown’ All Stars which even had subtle cream rubber/laces compared with the bright white of most other colours. I thought these would be just her style, so I emailed Janey to say some had arrived in store. She said she would call in at some stage to take a look at them (a bit non-committal, and that’s fine, it was months since she had left a note in our customer book) and I thought nothing more of it.
I remember thinking how picky and difficult she was when she first came into our shop. Not because she was unpleasant though. I now realise she was being selective, a la Vivienne of ‘The Vivienne Files’ fame at the French Chic yahoo group. None of the approximately 20-30 colours of All Stars were good enough for her, and that’s when she asked me to let her know if we ever got any in earth tones in.
She came in to see the brown ones one night last week. It was ten minutes before we closed and a rainy, dark night. She had battled the traffic to get to us and when I went to get her size to try on, it was the only size we didn’t have. I didn’t want to go back out to the shop to face her! I had totally wasted her time and I felt terrible. Even worse, when I checked the Converse stock list it seemed there were none left in her size in the country.
She couldn’t have been nicer about it and said she would come another time. The next morning I found out that we did in fact have a couple of pairs in her size, in an overflow stock area. I emailed her again and told her about my faux pas. She really was so gracious and kind when it was her being mucked around, that it inspired me to be more that way.
She came in this week, same time, ten minutes before closing. She comes in after work finishes for the day and not on weekends as it seems she leaves the city on Thursday night for her home in the country and returns to the city on Monday. Doesn’t that sound lovely? She may well be, but she doesn’t give off the aura of being mega-rich. With her appearance and her demeanour she more whispers ‘I choose my ideal life and live it the best way I can with the resources I have’. I could be wrong, she may totally be a millionaire though, you just can't tell (which I think is rather nice).
What I am most inspired about by this latest chic mentor, apart from the fact of her calm and gentle understanding is the way she comports herself. She is fun in a soft way, she keeps a slight distance but is very personable. I can’t imagine anyone blabbing away in her yoga class. And if they did she might not even notice.
Her personal style is great too. Working in the interior design industry she clearly has an eye for colour, and she carries this through to the clothing she wears. She doesn’t just buy what’s available at the time, even if she needs something, she will wait until just the right thing comes along.
Her clothing style was quite classic in a casually sophisticated way. And of course she was slender. I definitely don’t see her watching 2½ Men with a bag of potato chips in her hand. She would likely forget to nibble at all before dinner and maybe sip on half a glass of wine or sparkling mineral water.
My second new chic mentor is a man – bet you didn’t expect that. His name is Niko and he’s a sales representative who has been visiting us with various shoe ranges since our shop opened almost six years ago.
I know you’re probably thinking ‘does this girl meet anyone that isn’t a sales rep or a customer?’ Maybe, or maybe not. We do work a lot at the moment, so I tend to see more people who are customers or suppliers. I don’t have a lot of time to join sports clubs or organisations. To tell you the truth I’m not a big team/group person anyway, even if I had all the time in the world.
But onto Niko. As I said he’s a sales rep. He is very Italian-looking and comes from an Italian family but I believe he was born here in New Zealand. He certainly has a New Zealand accent rather than an Italian one.
I met he and his wife a while back out of work at a dinner hosted by friends who also own a shoe shop. His wife brought along the biggest and most lush salad I had ever seen and I heard them both talking to people about enjoying healthy food. As a comparison one of the other wives, who is solidly overweight and quite a negative and manipulative person brought along a killer cheesecake - and declared she couldn't eat it as it was too rich for her. I remember thinking I know which one I want to be like!
Recently Niko was in our store showing us his shoe samples. It was a Friday and he popped next door to buy himself some lunch. He bought a vegetarian sub sandwich and a fruit smoothie and, when finished, patted his stomach and said ‘aah, that will keep me going until dinner-time’ (no snacking then, I thought to myself).
Niko is probably in his early 50s and he is very slim – no sign of a paunch on this man. He is also very well dressed in a Euro way. Always quite casual, he’s not in suits when he visits us. The other day he wore slim/straight fitting jeans but in a washed-out burnt ochre colour, with tan slip-on dress shoes and a black long-sleeve t-shirt (which had a charcoal/mid-grey t-shirt underneath, you could see a tiny bit of it at the neck).
He’s not trying to dress particularly young, but he certainly looks youthful and European, in an age-appropriate way. He’s a lot of fun, tells a great story and would be loyal and trustworthy too. He told us he is working a few days here and there at our friends’ shoe store to both give them a break and earn some extra money.
At one stage he was saying to my husband how he and his wife chose to live the European way, following his family heritage from the old country. Sadly I was in the shop at the time or I would have (subtly) picked his brains.
When I said to my husband Niko must live a nice life, he said straight away ‘he isn’t rich at all’. I already knew he had been let down by some people he worked with and this affected him financially. Regardless he always carries on, finding new shoe brands to show, and now being a part-time retail assistant for some extra spending money. I admire that about him. And through it all he’s always positive, cheery and upbeat.
From listening to him talk he is the ‘work to live’ type, rather than ‘live to work’, but with that, gives his all to whatever job he’s doing at the time. When he was packing up to leave our shop, his wife called to ask him to pick up some fresh oysters on his way home. He said they planned to ‘watch a couple of indie (art house) movies with a bottle of wine and some oysters’. I thought that sounded like a very stylish evening.