It was all very exciting. Miss Wednesday isn’t allowed out very often but she does get to go up to London for important things like trade fairs, where she is strictly chaperoned by her niece, Miss Becca. As she’s been very good of late, Miss Becca allowed her to travel all the way to the Business Design Centre on her own, rather than meeting her at Paddington to ensure she didn’t get lost or sidetracked. That proved to be the first error of the day because Miss Wednesday managed to go to the wrong side of Paddington to get into the Underground, thus wasting a lot of time as she realised she had to walk all the way back to just past where she’d got off the Cornwall train. When you’re as short as Miss Wednesday, that can take a while. And then, what with the Northern line appearing to have been moved (what the…?!) and Miss Wednesday chatting to a very nice coffee seller whilst seeking directions for the Business Design Centre, time was getting on.
For those who don’t know it, the Business Design Centre is a beautiful building in Islington, which was originally the Royal Agricultural Hall, holding agricultural shows until 1938. Nowadays it’s a conference and exhibition venue and very nice it is too. Apart from the catering arrangements, which are rubbish.
Business Design Centre facade
On this occasion, it was hosting the London Textile Fair and both Miss Wednesday and Miss Becca were very excited at the prospect. Alas, it turned out to be a less than inspiring experience. Miss Becca manages a sizeable fabric shop in a big town and is very good at, well, everything, but especially display and marketing. She was horrified at the sight that met their eyes. No stands in the main area, just a sea of small tables with rails of hanging samples next to them. It was difficult to see what was being offered and, unless you knew which firm you were after and what they offered, nigh on impossible to locate anything. To make matters worse, what is it with reps at trade shows? They never, ever want to make eye contact, say “hello” or even acknowledge your presence!
Miss Wednesday was starting to get tired and teasy so Becca, knowing the signs, decided it was time for lunch. Miss Wednesday is very fond of lunch. Being short of time, they went to the restaurant next door to the BDC, which they thought was a safe bet for something decent if not inspiring. It was an ASK Pizza and Pasta place, despite the fact that the entrance looked more like a hairdresser. Service was interminably slow and when she did get her carbonara, Miss Wednesday started to wonder if, indeed, they had made a terrible error and it was actually a hair salon after all. Ever had a carbonara with no bacon? Nope. Weird. It turned out that staff were short on the ground and things weren’t going well for the delightful ones who were there, poor things. Oh dear.
After eventually escaping from ‘restaurant hell’, the ladies returned to the BDC, determined to find something appropriate to Miss Wednesday’s needs. They went upstairs, where there were some actual stands, one of which had a beautiful backdrop of designs. “The Vintage Collection” it spouted proudly. Miss Wednesday was enchanted by the designs, although slightly confused because they were all on paper.
“What fabrics do these come in?” Miss Becca enquired of a mere slip of a girl behind the table. Mere Slip gave our ladies what can only be described as “A Look” and said, “They’re vintage”. With an emphasis on the “vintage”. Okay. Miss Becca tried again, to meet with an even more disdainful look and manner and a repeated, “They’re vintage. They’re on paper.”
Miss Wednesday was extremely unimpressed and said, “Yes, we can see that. We’re after fabric. Good day to you”, and both she and Miss Becca turned on their (well-shod) heels and stalked off.
How do these people make a living?! Surely, if you’re in the business of selling something – anything – you make half an effort to engage with people showing interest in your products? Don’t you? Even Miss Wednesday, who is undoubtedly The Least User-Friendly Person In The Entire World – but now obviously has a rival – will answer well-meant but frequently stupid questions with proper information! So, alas, although Susanna Sampson’s “The Vintage Collection” had the patterns of Miss Wednesday’s dreams, she wasn’t getting any of Miss Wednesday’s sizeable budget. Which is a shame for everybody.
Miss Becca manoeuvred Miss Wednesday downstairs and back into The First Circle Of Hell, whereupon they drifted miserably through the sea of tables and people who wouldn’t even meet their eye.
Then Miss Becca let out a soft squeak. The squeak that says, “Gotcha!” What had she found? Makower Fabrics, the maker of a fabric that Miss Wednesday had been shown last year by a friend and Petticoat Club member but which had been on sale in The Priciest Fabric Shop In The World (Truro Fabrics) and was therefore out of reach for her purposes. But here it was in new colourways, accompanied by some other beautiful, beautiful designs and at trade prices. Miss Wednesday was in heaven. Well, almost. They had to get the people behind the table to speak. And, if those people did speak, there was always the chance that they had high minimum orders and would send Miss Wednesday away with short shrift and more disdainful looks.
Not a bit of it. Danielle, the lady behind the table, was delightful from start to finish. She said, “Hello” and smiled, which is always a good start. When Miss Becca asked what their minimum order was, she smiled again and said, “One metre.” Miss Wednesday said, “Goodness, I need a lot more than that!” And business was done.
Sadly, there wasn’t really enough time for Miss Wednesday to get into her stride but she placed an order for 8 fabrics, 5 of which are turning up this week. A telephone call on Friday afternoon from another delightful person at Makower, confirmed that the in stock fabrics were ready for despatch. All simple, painless and, well, pleasurable. If only all the people at the fair had been like that! But they weren’t so there are undoubtedly a few who lost business.
Still, here are some of the designs that are on their way to the workshop…
Seashells in Peach. This will be stunning with a peach petticoat!
Seashells in blue. Heaven.
Becca chose this one. It’s very eye-catching – and she’s a cat person!
Pears. Good enough to eat and the picture doesn’t do it justice.
Edwardian ladies. This is extremely striking.
Beautiful, huh? And a little different from Miss Wednesday’s previous offerings. She’s very excited.
Sadly, time was getting away from them and Miss Wednesday was escorted helter-skelter across London, back to Paddington, to catch the train home by the skin of her teeth. She has resolved that next time – because there will have to be a next time – she will stay a couple of nights in London to enable things to be taken at a less breakneck pace. And then she can visit the markets, too…