Thursday, March 15, 2012

lèche les vitrines

We rushed - and I mean actually rushed, I don't think I've ever moved so fast in my life, not at little athletics, not in P.E classes - from the second floor of Le Bon Marche where the sour-faced girl at the Celine counter had informed me whilst casually flicking through a magazine "non, je n'en ai plus". No more left. No more left! And so it was, down the escalators, through the perfume section, out the heavy double doors opposite Sevres-Babylone and into a waiting cab. "Avenue Montaigne, s'il vous plait, au coin de la rue Francois premiere". The cab sped off and we sunk back into those leathery seats praying against all prayers, hoping against all hopes that when we arrived at the Champs Elysees the store would still be open, that there would be a navy turtleneck-clad gal willing to keep the lights open for one moment more so I could grab my dream bag, the one that had been haunting my dreams for countless, endless days prior. 

It was closed. It was 7:01 and the doors were locked at 7 and it was closed. It was my last night in Paris - I was leaving for Venice the next day and I wouldn't get the chance to get this exact same dream of linen-and-leather anywhere else. I hung my head. My friend patted me on the shoulder and we just stood there, staring at the darkened windows. "I like that bag," my friend said, after a little pause. We looked at the bag. It was pretty great - glossy leather, square and simple, with an eye-catching gold clasp and a long strap curled tail-like around the back of the bag. "I like this one too," she added. It was pretty great as well. The brightest of bright blues, boxy and structured but with just the right amount of humour, an almost-smile composed of zippers and handles across the body. We discussed where we would wear these bags when we owned them. My friend offered the Hotel Paris in Monaco. I suggested the business class lounge at Heathrow (the understanding being, obviously, that one was on a trip to somewhere quite fabulous). What would we wear with these amazing pieces? Tailored pants and crisp shirts? Slouchy basics to offset all that luxury? Hair blown-out to perfection and a full face of makeup? A diamond as big as the Ritz? What would we put in there? Or, in the case of the first, what would fit? Would we carry everything and the kitchen sink or nothing at all? The handbag as the ultimate decorative accessory with nary a function in sight? 

Before long I had completely forgotten my silly, first-world despair at having found the shop closed. It didn't really matter, after all, we had pizza dinners left to attend at the restaurant below our apartment and glasses of wine to consume. We had our last night in Paris - who cares about bags when there is such fun to be had! "I'm sorry you didn't get your bag," my friend said. "It doesn't matter," I replied. As we went to leave, me bidding a bittersweet farewell to the dream bag that almost was, a girl in a navy turtleneck ran up to us from her outdoor seat at L'Avenue. "Wait, wait." We turned around. "I work at Celine. We're open at 10 tomorrow. Come by then and you can get your bag. I remember you when you came in and tried it on the other day. You have to have it!" She said that last bit in the fantastic way that French people pronounce h's (you 'aff to 'av it!). I had a train to catch and places to visit and people to see but it was as if I hadn't even though of this option before. I could go to the store when it opened, right when it opened, right before I had to hop aboard the TGV and leave this wonderful city for the time being, and I could buy my bag. 

And we did, and I did, and the rest, so they say, is history.



Cecilia said...

This is such a lovely story! And what a kind SA. I hate it when you go into a shop and the personnel is rude to you. Even if I'm having a bad day at work, I never let it go out on the customers. What is really the point of being rude? Ugh. Anyways, love the Céline and the 70's feeling to it with the logos. You chose a good one!

Jess said...

Haha, your mad adventure sounds remarkably similar to mine when I was on my quest for a Céline trapeze bag when I was in London. So many ups and downs and false hopes and realisations of alternatives and disappointments; I found it kind of amusing at the time but even moreso in retrospect. So much frantic dashing to and fro for one little bag! It happened because one evening, after days of kind of having the bag on my mind after seeing photos of it and seeing it in real life a couple of times, I suddenly realised that yes, I did want a trapeze! First thing the next morning I rushed to Selfridges since they'd had a very nice black one with olive-coloured wings there. I'd been into Selfridges several times in the preceding week and the bag had always been there as I passed by to get to the escalators, but OF COURSE - as soon as I'm actually interested in the damn thing, nope! It's gone! Sold yesterday. The staff were very apologetic but said they didn't know if/when they'd be getting any more in stock. Cue a mad dash to Bond Street tube station and some nervousness as I tried to get to Harrods as quickly as possible. When I got there - they had one single trapeze, the all-black vernice one, which was currently in the hands of a potential buyer who was inspecting it very closely and saying how much she loved it but wasn't sure if she should go with a luggage instead. I was mentally willing her to go with the luggage, but then she got the staff to put the trapeze on hold for her while she made the decision and would come back later. Cue my sprint back to the Knightsbridge tube station and back up to Oxford St, then trying to get up Marylebone High Street as quickly as possible to get to Matches. Except, oh, no trapezes in stock. Damn it! And I knew Dover Street Market didn't have any trapezes either. So I kind of gave up at that point and thought "oh well, it's just a bag". The next day I had to go back to Harrods to pick up something for a friend, and I thought I'd take a quick look at the Céline concession and - bingo. The trapeze was back on the shelf in all its glory, and as I tried it on the sales assistant mentioned that it had almost sold the previous day and it was the last one and I was very lucky to get it. Indeed, Mr Salesperson, indeed!

Lise said...

What a fantastic story - love your blog


Sonia said...

Sweet :)
I love the way you write.

Charlotte said...

Just wanted to say this was a wonderful little story of how you got your Celine bag. I really like the way you write and I look forward to your updates every week!

chloe-kiara. said...

You 'aff to 'av it! Hahaha I can imagine the glee you experienced when you heard this.
It's a very beautiful bag, so I agree with Celine girl!

Enya said...

You are such an eloquent writer. I love virtually traipsing around the world with you x

Brin de fantaisie said...

So funny :)

Fashion Tidbits said...

Sigh...wonderful story. Have you ever considered writing a book dear? :)

freed mode said...

This bag is just magnificent I like..

Camille said...

That's a beautiful story, and I think it's a good thing you got to buy your bag at the store where the kind girl worked rather than the sour one. If I may add, "lèche les vitrines" does not mean the same thing as "lèche-vitrines", and sounds a bit funny to me as French is my first language. "Lèche les vitrines" would be more like "lick those storefronts" rather than "idly ogling". Glad you got to have your bag, and that it has a nice story behind it--it's always better like that.

hannah-rose said...

cecilia - thank you! Yes she was very kind, she was a sweetheart.. if only she was there when I was in celine last time in paris - I had another horrible person who was very unhelpful. It does change your experience and perception of the brand al ot I think.

jess - Oh my goodness!!! you had a real mad dash haha - mine was just a little bit of a mad dash! I am so glad that you got it (and envious too of your trapeze!!) I love the trapeze style, and so my next bag is going to be a trapeze, hopefully in suede. It's a long way off, obviously!

Lise - thanks.

Sonia - oh thank you :)

Charlotte - thank you!!! I will try and update more and more for you. :)

Shloe - haha yes indeedy!! Thanks love. and I will get back to your message soon friend!

Enya - thank you very much!!

Brin - :)

Fashion tidbits - hahahahaha oh gosh no!!!

freed mode - thanks!

Camille - thank you!! I think so too - I did that last time I was in paris, I went to the st germain store instead of champs elysees because they were much nicer there.. really?? We were always taught in school that the les inclusion meant window shopping. ha! how funny :)