Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Romain Changed My Life

There are people who dwell in the rooms of my memory and I try to visit them often. Strangely, some begin to disappear after a year or so, fading slowly into shadow. No doubt, a malady due to lack of attention on my part. But the others who remain, colourful and complete, are all there for the very same reason - they have helped to create, in bits and in bobs, the person that is me.

See the elderly lady in the shirtwaist dress, watering the ferns at the window? She has lived here for decades for she long ago gave me my love of flowers. And the smiling chap sitting at the piano? A fairly new arrival, he taught me that happiness is a choice one makes every day. No doubt some in this crowd are recognizable to you. The two ladies in the library? Yes, that is indeed Virginia Woolf discussing Bloomsbury’s Charleston farmhouse with Sister Parish. I also have it on quite good authority that Walt Disney walks my childhood dogs every afternoon at four. But, look. See the gentleman over there in the tufted leather chair by the fire? The one flipping through an old copy of Country Life? That is John Romain. He was a handbag designer and he has dwelt here for ages. For you see, when I was eight years old, John Romain changed my life.

When I entered third grade, it seemed every girl I knew was longing for a John Romain handbag. Nut brown, tweedy creations, with butter soft leather trim, they were the ultimate acquisition and a sure symbol of fashionable acceptance. Although an admittedly unnecessary accessory, parents soon began to acquiesce to the pleas and the whines of their daughters, and one by one, these objects of
pre-teen desire began to show up on the little arms of my saddle-shoed classmates. As a happily only child, I was always amused by competition. It seemed such a quizzical activity to me. Keeping up with other people was an alien notion to a little girl whose favourite confidant was her dog. But oh, how I wanted one of those bags. It came over me like the flu and I was introduced to my first chilled feeling of envy.

Then, on a cold Christmas morning, I opened an elaborately wrapped present and... there it lay. My very own John Romain bag. And wonder of wonders, my parents had ordered one with a
horsehead clasp! The Ultimate. I was beside myself with joy and could hardly wait for the holidays to be over when I would join the ranks of those sartorially in vogue. But a funny thing happened when I walked into class, proudly carrying my celebrated bag like the trophy it was.
I was now just like everyone else.
And, I hated it.
Oh, I loved the handbag. But I hated being part of the herd.

So yes, John Romain remains anchored in my memory for having taught me a priceless lesson about myself; a lesson I am most grateful to have learned early: I am happiest following my own path. Utterly skeptical of trends, I much prefer to trust my own eye. Preserving my individuality is vital to me and through the years I have found such joy in aiding my clients in the discovery of their own unique voices and enabling them to express those personal voices in the design and decoration of their homes.

So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll just sit here with Mr. Romain for a bit. I am curious for his opinion on a couple of articles I have just read in the latest Elle Decor.
I am sure you can find your way out.
Just don’t let Mr. Disney con you into walking those dogs.
That’s his job.