The designer’s entrance is announced by a chorus of overzealous, enthusiastically moaned hellos. “Oh, Benicio! You look marvelous. Who makes those loafers?” Kiss kiss kiss. All day everyone has kept repeating, “Benicio is coming. Benicio is coming,” like some fashion version of Rain Man, their fear masked by feigned enthusiasm and awe. And when he gets here early, having decided to skip a shower at the hotel after an eight- hour flight from his home in Milano and get right to it, the circus really gets going.
Benicio sits down at a round table in the middle of a carpeted room, flanked by Yes Men and Yes Women, otherwise known as salespeople who rely upon him for survival. Their praises rise up to the ceiling like reverent hymnals.
“I think it’s spectacular in the pollen.”
“That is the perfect day-to-dinner dress.”
Boris, one of the more higher ranking creative people with the brand, walks around in his leather mandals* and a turtleneck, his zebra-print belt hoisting tailored pants around his hips. He is too dignified for cooing, too secure in his place within the company to feel the need to fawn. Still, every time we emerge from the closet, he gives us an eagle-eyed once over, tugging at collars, smoothing out waists.
The Flemish model with the bad bunions and the body like a newt walks to Benicio in a $4,400 “summer-weight” coat that makes everyone, despite our being well beneath 75 years old, look like a grandmother’s couch doily. She removes said coat for Benicio, turning around like a rotisserie chicken to show the marigold cardigan underneath, all of which he has seen before, given that he’s, well, the designer. This is a redundant parade, one that exists for the sole purpose of Benicio seeing what he’s purchased… namely, us.
“You don’t like her do you?” the saleswoman says to Benicio, the Flemish girl having left but her coworker, myself, standing no more than two feet away, clearly in eye and earshot. Benicio won’t dignify the question with a response, so the salesgirl is left to scramble for an explanation. “Do you know how many castings we do? All these young designers can use better girls. But those girls are expensive. We do the best we can.”
I stand there silently, one of the cheap girls that they can afford to use but would gladly trade in for something “better,” and wait for someone to dismiss me. They forget that you’re people most of the time, that you have eyes and ears and a mouth. That you could, if you wanted to, go back and relay this story to the troops beyond the curtain, start a mutiny amongst the pretty freelance employees. But Benicio doesn’t care, because Benicio knows that I don’t matter. In this instance especially, but likely it continues more broadly.
“Thank you,” he says, the words falling out of his mouth like an accident.