“He was such a genius.” “Such. No one will ever replace him.” “I heard he made arrangements to have his brain studied at Institut Français de la Mode as a ‘fuck you’ to students who think that fashion can be ‘taught.'” “I heard that toward the end, he was having more orgies than Gianni Versace. And it wasn’t for motives of being ‘sexy’ so much as senile.”
As the hearsay swirled around Arnauld’s desk, he had to laugh to himself. Just loud enough for it not to be internal, but not loud enough for anyone without superhuman hearing capabilities to detect it. So it’s all true. In death, all of our terribleness is pushed to the side for the sake of worship. Kristopher LaGrande’s legacy was no longer “controversial” but “indispensable.” All the forgotten comments made about certain women being too fat to wear his designs or certain classes too gauche to understand his work were making way for LaGrande to be canonized not just in the fashion world, but in every other arena to boot. Arnauld wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if he somehow got a retrospective congressional medal of honor in the U.S.–that’s how damned celebrity-worshipping the country could be. He rolled his eyes as he went over to his Nespresso machine to make his third cup of the day. LaGrande detested such “innovations,” insisting upon use of a French press or €30,000 espresso machine until the end. He sighed. How did he manage to find himself in the unfortunate position of being the one to decide who would be allocated “invites” to this funeral? As though it were some sort of nightclub opening. In a sense, he supposed it was–for LaGrande was entering that ultimate nightclub in the sky on behalf of everyone. Everyone who would never get in because of all the shit he talked to God about them. LaGrande was a master in the art of how to wield gossip to his advantage, after all. It was a skill almost as valuable as his design savvy, and Arnauld had no doubt that he would succeed in his congenital aims to manipulate just as well in “heaven,” or whatever lie in the great beyond.
“Arnauld?” interrupted the timid but sensual voice of his secretary. He still called women secretaries, and you would never be able to tell him otherwise. Colette was the Marilyn Monroe of French female desirability. Lithe, gamine and primarily wordless. Moody, in a word. But ever since news of LaGrande’s death had shaken the confines of their fashion haus, she had been vexingly verbose, in Arnauld’s opinion.
“What is it, Colette?”
“Everyone is waiting for your answers. Who will be invited tomorrow?”
He calmly took a sip from his immaculately white cup. “Ah yes, who indeed? As I said, Colette, you’ll be the first to be handed down the missive, okay?”
Suddenly remembering her place, Colette cowered slightly as she backed away from the door. “Yes, of course, sir. I’m sorry to bother you again. It’s just that everyone is quite emotional right now and they all want to be able to adequately mourn LaGrande.”
Arnauld resisted the urge to titter. “Adequately mourn LaGrande”–as though just the other day people weren’t cursing his very name. His unwarranted bravado in criticizing every fucking minutiae, right down to a model having arm hair that was too pronounced in a certain light on the runway. It was truly incredible. Sure, Arnauld had lived through the death of many fashion designers-turned-creative directors, but never had he been forced to take note of just how effortless it was for people to ignore total cuntery in life so as to make way for “appropriate” deification. But there was nothing appropriate about it, as far as Arnauld was concerned. At the same time, if he was to ascend the ranks to fulfill the creative director role, he was going to have to play along with the game of being “so shaken” by this “untimely” death. Untimely, how, exactly? he wondered. The man was well into his seventies and hadn’t come up with an innovative design in decades. But now, all of the sudden, “the fashion world has lost an instrumental bedrock to its foundation.” He chortled. “The fashion world.” What did that even mean? Was it intended to conjure the accurate impression that it was an alternate realm? If so, it was certainly effective, even if it lent far greater weight to it than it deserved. For, at the end of the day, fashion was nothing more than stacks and stacks of unformed–often hideous–fabric, with sweatshop fingers in sole control of whether or not it might become profitable. In the end, of course, Arnauld knew exactly who to invite for the purposes of the “political.” Who would be wildly offended if they weren’t granted access, and who would take it with a grain of salt. At exactly nine p.m., after a day spent primarily toiling over what would make the cut for the Fall line, Arnauld decided it was time to call Colette.
“Are you ready for the list?”
“You know I am, I can come back over there right now.”
“Don’t be silly,” Arnauld said, smiling. “I’ll come to you.”
Arnauld had been angling to get into Colette’s boudoir for over a year now, and this was to be his only viable opportunity–his ultimate source of leverage. It was now or never, and if she wanted to be let into the most exclusive event in recent fashion history, she would do as he wanted. He knew that she would. Girls in her position have so little integrity in the end, wanting always to ascend to the top faster than the usual amount of time it takes. Add the fact that she wasn’t very talented to the mix and it was a recipe for a resplendent “Yes Arnauld! Of course I’ll let you enter me to gain entry into this funeral where I can make lasting connections and highly useful contacts.” It was to be the networking opportunity of the century, and Colette would be a fool to pass it up.
Exiting the claustrophobic elevator to make his way into Colette’s cramped apartment, it was only for a brief second that he doubted himself. Thought that she might refuse him.
They arrived separately at Montparnasse Cemetery the following morning, but stood side by side under the guise of the employer-employee relationship. Rubbing her eye with a silk monogrammed handkerchief, Colette wept softly as she melodramatically declared, “We’re at fashion’s funeral, the industry will never be the same again.” Arnauld resisted the inclination to scream, “Thank God for that, if I had to see another ‘classic’ little black dress sent out into the world, I might have vomited uncontrollably.” Incidentally, he vomited on Colette’s vintage LaGrande little black dress right as she uttered the sentence anyway. Though he couldn’t decide if it was a result of the disgusting faux reverence for LaGrande surrounding him or that he was still trying to convince himself he was straight by penetrating these ingenues.