Resortwear designer Marie France Van Damme, Day 1.
It’s a mad dash for the resortwear designer to get her new collection in front of buyers in Paris.
Today is a day full of appointments for Paris Couture Week. Thankfully, I don’t have to manage the two huge Rimowa suitcases and two bags full of samples from the new resort spring/summer 16 collection by myself, as I have my son Sacha to help me. Everyone should have the pleasure of working with their children – I’m a very lucky mother, I get to work with all three of my sons.
We are presenting the new collection at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme (I miss the Ritz, which was my Parisian home for 20 years) and it’s 34°C. Even Hong Kong, where I live for most of the year, doesn’t feel this humid and sticky in the summer. I perform my usual routine – opening boxes full of kaftans, swimwear and other clothes, putting them on hangers and racks and steaming every piece, all within two hours.
Buyers come from Australia, Turkey and Dubai. I am proud to tell them that I’m opening my fourth store this week in Phuket and my fifth in Singapore four months from now. I meet a man from luxury e-tailer Mytheresa.com, who I pray will go back to his buying director to say they cannot miss the opportunity to carry Marie France Van Damme.
I never thought I would become a retailer with my own brand. After 30 years of developing and manufacturing womenswear for department stores, I woke up and decided I wouldn’t do it any more. Four years ago almost to the day Marigay McKee, then fashion and beauty director at Harrods, gave me my first order; Linda Fargo, director of fashion at Bergdorf Goodman gave me my second. Can it get any more glamorous?
Speaking of glamour, I rush to meet Mindy (a fashion merchandising expert) and Jean-Philippe Prugnaud (president of Mint – a buying consultancy for luxury and fashion goods) who have invited us to Hôtel Thoumieux in the seventh arrondissement. I love Mindy – everyone does. She is always full of life, with great stories to tell about the industry. She introduces me to her new friend and saviour Martine de Richeville, who has mastered Rudolf Steiner’s Eurythmy massage, which helps remove fat and cellulite. Mindy is showing off her new body this evening and looks fantastic. “What is your new workout regime?” I ask. “Massage is my new workout,” she replies.
Sacha and I are exhausted but I have just enough time to meet Jonathan Riss, of Parisian womenswear label Jay Ahr at Hôtel Costes. I see so much of Jonathan these days as he now lives in Hong Kong for six months of the year; he is such a gentleman and to discuss fashion, art and culture with him is a treat.
I am also happy to see perfumer Blaise Mautin, who created my label’s first perfume. I am very particular about smells and can’t tolerate heavy, sugary-sweet chocolate perfumes. We meet to talk about our second perfume – I fell in love with an old Austrian fragrance that is no longer available and commissioned Blaise to make its little brother for me; he has succeeded. We have a very nice dinner at Kinugawa, a Japanese restaurant just behind Hôtel Costes.
It’s late and I still have to reorganise all my racks of clothes, clean up the room for the buyers the next day and send a few emails to my office in Hong Kong. “Wouldn’t you prefer to be on your yacht in Phuket enjoying life?” Blaise asks me. Actually no, I’m happy to be in Paris meeting people and new buyers.
Next it’s off to London, to my apartment in Marylebone. I adore this neighbourhood. I discovered it eight years ago when Sacha was studying in London. We rented this charming apartment for him and I became the third roommate. As I used to travel to London every month to work with Marks & Spencer, why stay in a hotel? I have kept the apartment since and always love to be here.
Tomorrow I will be presenting my collection to Harrods. Wish me luck!