Its my 25th NYC anniversary.
Twenty-five years ago, July 4th weekend 1986, I moved to NYC.
It was Liberty Weekend, the weekend of the 200 year celebration of the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty. I arrived here, in the energy axis, in the exact same place, same loft, same bedroom, as I am now.
Cause for reminiscence I’d say.
I came here alone, a cast-off from the London fashion recession which hit as suddenly as a tsunami and swept me and several other designers out to fashion purgatory, doors to my studio bolted shut by my backers, denying me access to stuff like my life-long button collection which they would sell to some rag trade vulture for a few bob.
All because within six months, the magic fashion calendar in which fortunes changes for reasons ranging from a bad review, a wayward fabric shipment, a biggest customer going bust, a factory forgetting to produce an entire order to a performance anxiety related nervous breakdown ( you are only as good as your last collection and your last collection is never good enough), the exchange rate changed and the pound got stronger, the dollar weaker and all of a sudden those golden American buyers who brought me 50% of my business, decided to “skip” London.
Suzy Menkes (London Times and Herald Tribune) announced that London designers were out of control, unruly children who needed to be punished until they started treating fashion as a business.
For several years they had loved our (Malcolm Mc Laren led) anarchic style. It made for great window dressing, and those US windows were enough to keep all of us creative maniacs going.
But Suzy decreed we were so passe´, fashion changed into a grown-up place and the new crop of celebrity designers followed.
Never one to sit around in the here and now, I was already in my future (It was not until later that I shed a tear over that lost button collection). I followed the money. I went to NYC where they loved me, and I’d heard that designers could be paid as much as $75.000 a year. I was sick of making do on £12,000 several thousands less than my superstar PR was taking from my business while putting Menkes’ poison in my backers ear.
NYC welcomed me with a party.
Three-days of festivities, right here at the loft home of my friends Murray and Gail Bruce.
I felt like I’d landed in a castle in the sky, their 13th floor penthouse with its massive deck and windows all around with views of the celebrated Statue of Liberty, the Hudson river filled with flag-flying boats,the Twin Towers and to the north-east the Empire state building and the rest of Manhattan.
Their friends (who soon became mine) came from all over the world arrived and stayed. A dorm with dozens of cots was set up in one of the spaces but not much sleeping took place. It was a hippie-like love fest, a free-for-all celebration so typical of the Bruces’ all-embracing style.
I made friends that first weekend who now, 25 years later, are still among my dearest, like Vicky and Ed, and their daughters, one of whom, Mika, became my twin’s god mother.
I met a crop of potential boyfriends who kept me busy dating (a concept so different from getting to know guys in Europe) till I met my husband four years later. Some dear friends have since passed on. Lenny, Bill, Michelle, Norma and recently Midge Steadman. Midge helped me believe in magic and introduced my practical and industrious Dutch soul to an aspect of itself as yet undiscovered: My spirituality.
Midge gave me crystals, passed me to Ashtiana, her Shaman, who in turn helped me enlighten my life, Midge took me to sweat lodges, witches circles, lend me her New Age books, and taught me the medicine wheel, rebirthing, and how to use a smudge stick to erase bad energy from the past.
It takes what it takes and these were the tools it took for me to become a woman who could finally trust and commit to love, marry, have children and experience the passage of time without fear of its failures.
This Independence Day weekend the loft is quiet.
Now that I’m writing this memoir I think that maybe I should’ve thrown a party celebrating 25 years of Barbi in the US of A.
But I don’t look back much. Not in a speeches and cream kind of way.
I am in awe of these past 25 years however.
How I lie here, same room, same place, and in the next room sleeps my daughter.
A young woman who will turn 15 on Monday, July 4th 2011.
In the last week she has followed in my foot steps like an adolescent aboriginal sent walk-about on her mother’s turf (she was part of a Summer Solstice witches circle on her first night at the loft, posting on her FB status that she is now officially a witch).
Iona is an intern here, with Gail, my American mentor and her two assistants, Carly and Camryn, in the space that was the inspiration for all the houses she grew up in.
It is so natural for her to be here, so predestined, that words like imprinting, heritage, family, evolution and even love do not capture what seems as inevitable as breast feeding, her first steps in the sand of our Amagansett beach, letting go of her little hand as she entered her first class room (she hesitant then, me hesitant now), her first sleep-over, money earned and spent, boy friend, her gradual path to independence.
Last night on our way to dinner, we went down and walked out of the building.
For 25 years I have turned right to walk to Hudson Street but Iona turned left.
I followed her….