The Melbourne store was in an alleyway. There was nothing in the alleyway, only red bricks and the store. We had no signage though people persistently stood in front of the entrance and took photos of themselves. Sometimes they would do this inside. In these situations, my staff were often unsure how to act. I told them to do what we always did, stand and wait for customers.
We played no music. Clothes hung from metal scaffolding. In shifts, time dilated. When customers appeared, they moved or seemed to move faster within the store than they did outside of it. I trained my staff to act indifferently towards them and pour cucumber water, at their discretion, for potential high-end clientele. These were mainly rich men and women from Beijing and Shanghai, or Asian teenagers using Amex platinum cards.
When the store was empty, it was almost always empty, I would use a hand-held steamer to steam items before rehanging them or I would track sales on a tablet. In all things I would aim, by example, to be very still, almost meditative. More than anything, I explained to new employees, the store was meant to be like a static image, a photograph in a magazine, dynamic only through shifts of light, the bold cuts of hemlines, a shirt’s silhouette.
It was like this, the store vacant, me standing over the tablet, when the email came. It was brief and from our Asia-Pacific head of sales, a severe woman named Janelle who was based in Japan and whom I sometimes had video conferences with. She said that R, the founder of our label, would be coming. R would be in the country in two weeks’ time on personal matters, but would, potentially, visit the store. ‘You understand the gravity of this.’
I read the email three times. One after another, after another.