So, tradeshows! As with everything in the fashion industry, not as glam as they're sold. "Is this it?!" said Betty, looking round what's essentially a gigantic concrete and corrugated iron shed, full of workers rolling out carpet over the unforgiving floor and trying to wire things up and carting stuff about on fork lift trucks.
And that IS it, until 9am the next morning when suddenly its a magical wonderland of pristine white carpet (life time approximately 30 seconds), shiny new lingerie, and very tired sales people managing to be extremely smiley, except on the big stands who also have security guards. No, really.
Anyway, as well as the usual showing-things-to-shops, here's some other stuff that happened this time round on our trade show trip with Betty Blue's Loungerie.
We finally made it onto the catwalk! Yes, it's taken 6 years but there we are, with a purple Elle lit with orange lighting so it looks plum. Huzzah! Maz was very proud as it's her that sent off the eleventy billion samples they requested AND successfully retrieved them all.
We could not get Orange to give us internet for love nor money. I used to think French customer service was terrible for us because we don't speak much French and, perfectly understandably, this is offensive to them. Since Maz is French, on the limited data points available, I think maybe just getting anything sorted in Paris is hard?
In other cultural differences news, Michelle reminded me that yes, those of us from the North of England (and/or Scotland) DO NOT LIKE AIR KISSING. Seriously, yuck. Basically the further up the UK you go the bigger the social proximal distance is!
Michelle is also baffled by models being snooty, but I suspect it isn't so much snootiness as that standing around in your pants being objectified all day is actually a pretty grim job, and when peoples eyeline is your nipple height, engaging the in conversation is asking a bit much.
We didn't take models. Instead I stuck Betty in corsets to show Doppel-D how they work, and we got overexcited and tried on all the robes. It was at this point that I realised I would have to ban the office staff from nesting in the fleece ones when they arrived in stock. Those things are far too comfortable and voluminous to have in an office!
The Man Who Is Making Our Overwires (HURRAH!) turned up and we agreed details. Then we talked suspenders; I couldn't work out why he was so interested in our tiny business and said as much, so he got me to guesstimate how many garter clips we get through in a year. Turns out, over 35,000.
I had to go and have a cup of tea after that.
When I'd started breathing normally again, he also told me about a new way to fix elastics, trims and ribbons together, which involves ultrasonic . . . then he explained some physics, which was never my strong point, but what I do get is this: we make 35000 suspender straps a year and sewing them is tedious, dangerous and a skilled job that uses a specialised machine. In fact, this task is often what holds up suspender belts in the UK factory (because you can have dozens of people sewing garments but only 2 on the bartack machine for the straps). If we could replace that with a thing *I* could make a strap with?
Well. That would be nice.
Sadly it would cost us about a months money!
Betty and I skived off, looked at wildly priced vintage lingerie cases, and bought some vintage lingerie (to go in the cases we can never afford, naturally).
When I got back I realised I should have taken Katie from What Katie Did with us as she had a new basque style based on one of her vintage finds. I'm looking forward to it coming out!
Then I made someone cry.
Basically, don't present yourself as a bra statistician and mention machine learning algorithms to someone like me if you don't know a) what is actually meant by a "representative sample" in statistics" and b) what type of algorithm.
Bad luck for her to run into one of the only people who had to do tons of stats before working in underwear . . . I felt mildly guilty when I realised she was probably only about 19!
However, this paled in comparison to the guilt I felt when I found out what happened after leaving Betty on her own. She was on a later train than me so I left her outside customs, thinking she'd be OK and could pick up some gifts in the station.
What actually happened was that French customs saw three grainy balls inside the base of her exhibition stand, and so pulled her in for an investigation.
Now, Betty and I both have M.E/C.F.S, so at the end of 4 long days, we're pretty terrible at dealing with, well, anything really. I can't do sums much after shows, I get easily upset, I have a tendency to walk into traffic without checking properly, that sort of thing. Betty was in a worse state so the shock of being pulled in and asked confusing questions about something she genuinely knew nothing about, in a country where she doesn't speak any of the language, meant she burst into tears. The customs people found this highly suspicious, to the extent that they delayed the train to continue investigations!
After all this? They finally got the bottom off the exhibition stand and established that what looked, to their highly trained eyes, like 3 bags of heroin, was actually there to weight the stand down. Yes, it was 3 bags of sand.
On the upside, this totally beats my story of the time the police sniffer dog at the Moda trade show stole my packed lunch!