Chapter 14: Rebecca – August 1974

Fortunately for Rebecca she had no time to dwell on her meeting with the rather delectable Dylan.  She returned to London to be hurled headlong into preparations for the shop opening and for her move to Wimbledon.  Her to-do list never seemed to get any shorter.  As soon as she ticked something off another task appeared.

Rebecca had given in her notice at Liberty before Penny’s wedding.  Her visit to the personnel department had been quite emotional as her employers were not keen on letting such a promising young retailer leave them.  She agreed to work an additional week more than she had planned to, as she didn’t want to let them down.  This would leave her with only one clear week to finish the preparations at Palmerstone ready to open on the last Saturday of July.

Rebecca was so fired up with enthusiasm for her new venture that she hardly regretted moving on from Liberty.  Her colleagues though were keen to give her a good send off.  Rebecca was treated to a farewell presentation of a very striking heavy turquoise and silver pendant of Indian origin from the jewellery department.  It was a really special piece that Rebecca would treasure forever.

In the last week of July Rebecca managed to move her things from her flat in Shepherds Bush to the flat above the business. The move made things simpler for her as she was on the premises to start receiving deliveries of stock.  Decoration of the flat would have to wait as her energies were entirely taken up with preparing the shop for her opening night.  Rebecca’s time was spent painting, cleaning, varnishing floors, overseeing the shop fitters, receiving stock, unpacking and hanging it in the stock room ready for display, and finally delivering fliers around the neighbourhood.  She rolled into bed and slept the sleep of the exhausted every night.

On the Saturday afternoon just before she was due to open the doors for her launch Rebecca stood on the opposite side of the high street making a final appraisal of her shop.  Palmerstone had been sign written in bold black simple print on a background of duck egg blue, which was to be the signature colour of her brand.  Three mannequins stood in the window.  Palmerstone’s style was to be projected by the window display and the merchandising of the shop and was the culmination of many hours of planning.  Although Rebecca had bought from the Autumn/Winter collections she had created her window display with lighter weight pieces that would be suitable for the warmer weather.

The three mannequins projected the Palmerstone style along with strategically placed pieces: a pair of striking platform shoes by Terry de Havilland, a belt, an embroidered bag, a bikini and some beads to show the range of stock that the shop carried.  By each of the mannequins Rebecca had placed a crisp white card with the designer, item and price clearly marked in italic print.

Inside the shop everything was carefully organised so that it was easy for customers to view.  Clothes were displayed in ‘stories’ so that it was easy to see which pieces would go together to make an outfit.  Items from different labels were mixed so that expensive and much more affordable items hung together.  Shoes were placed on the floor, beads and scarves draped across hangers to compliment a look.

The old linen press looked great with colour-coded piles of tees, fine-knit jumpers and cardis displayed within its shelves and opened drawers.  The refurbished old table that she’d found looked resplendent with a tray of glasses and champagne at one end and an antique till, tissue paper and a stack of her beautiful new carrier bags at the other.

Rebecca had bought from Missoni in Italy, Calvin Klein and Betsey Johnson from the States, Ossie Clarke and a new more affordable label, French Connection from the UK.  She had also sourced a good supplier for vintage clothes and an importer of Indian silks and jewellery.  There were many other labels she would have liked to stock but time and mostly financial restrictions had limited her ambition.  This would have to do for now.

Two of her colleagues from Liberty had volunteered to help her for the evening; Nicky and Juliet arrived as promised at 3.30.  They hugged Rebecca and exclaimed happily over the shop as Rebecca showed them the ropes.

‘There are other sizes and a lot more stock downstairs as I didn’t want to crowd the shop floor’ she explained, ‘come down and have a look so you know where everything is if we get busy.’

‘I’m sure we will’ remarked Juliet, ‘we saw quite a few girls eying up the shop as we arrived.’

‘I wondered if you would wear some of the clothes for tonight,’ Rebecca asked, ‘it really helps to sell things if people can see how to wear them.’

‘Brilliant idea, yes please’ Nicky agreed.

Rebecca showed the two what she was planning to wear and waved her hand at hangers she’d set up for the others.  For Nicky she had chosen a ditsy flower print shirt and blue jeans dressed up with a bold beaded necklace and platform shoes.

‘Cool!’  Nicky knew that the outfit was well chosen, what she would have picked for herself.  Rebecca has a great eye she thought.  Juliet was very petite and pretty not unlike Caitlin.  Rebecca had chosen a very simple shift dress in pistachio green from the Calvin Klein label with a classic high-heeled pump.  Again it was a good choice that suited the wearer.

Rebecca got herself ready in a narrow long sleeved tee in a sludgy purple colour, a short skirt over a slightly longer Victorian pin-tucked petticoat, she strapped on a pair of platform shoes in purple and lilac and accessorised the outfit with the pendant that her colleagues had given to her.  The effect was stunning.

It was nearly time to open.  The girls trooped up to the sales floor to be met by the sight of a large group, a dozen or so shoppers waiting on the doorstep.  Rebecca took a deep breath to steady her nerves,

‘Let’s open up then, no point keeping them waiting!’

The launch was a great success.  Rebecca and her helpers were kept busy constantly, pouring drinks, talking customers through the looks, finding the right sizes and combinations, helping in the fitting rooms, wrapping purchases and, best of all, ringing up the sales.

Towards the end of the evening Rebecca looked up as the doorbell rang to see Suzanne entering the shop clutching a bouquet of flowers and a card.  She had come she said to take Rebecca out for supper when she’d finished for the evening.

‘Have a glass of champagne while you’re waiting, we won’t be long now’ smiled Rebecca, thinking how lucky she was to have such a loyal and lovely friend.

Nicky and Juliet turned down the offer of joining them saying that they needed to get back to their respective families.  Rebecca gave them each a present to thank them for their help, as neither would accept payment.  All that remained was to tidy the shop floor, cash up, lock the door and set the alarm.  Rebecca counted her takings with a sense of achievement.  They had made enough that evening to pay her rent and bills for the week with some left over.  She felt ebullient.

‘Come up and see the flat Annie, it’s in a mess still I’m afraid.  I’m so pleased you came, I think I need some R&R after this last week, and a celebration!’

‘That’s what I thought’ responded Suzanne as they climbed the stairs up to the flat, ‘apart from wanting to see the shop, after all I’ve heard about it.’

‘What did you think?’ asked Rebecca, her friend’s opinion important to her even though Suzanne wasn’t that into fashion.

‘I think it looks great’ Suzanne responded honestly, ‘It looks classy and bohemian at the same time.  The window makes you want to come in and look and I love the signage.  You should be really proud Becca.’

‘Thank you Annie’ responded Rebecca, giving her a hug, ‘and thank you for the lovely flowers they’ll brighten this place up until I get the chance to decorate.’

‘I like it’ Suzanne approved, taking a good look around, ‘much bigger than your last place, and enormous compared to mine’ she laughed, ‘It has lots of potential, as an estate agent would put it, and you are just the person to realise that potential.’

‘There’s a really nice looking pub that does food just along the road, shall we head there?’ asked Rebecca, suddenly absolutely starving.

‘Yeah, let’s.’

The two wandered out into the mild evening air and ambled a few yards down to the Rose and Crown for a well-earned bottle of wine, pie and chips.


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