I shuffled along the high ledge, barely wide enough for the width of my shoe, the rubber sole, of my own design, scrapped the concrete while the black leather uppers, with a dull shine, contrasted against the white paint of the building which reflected the brilliance of the moon on this clear night. A mistake on my part I admitted, I was expecting the night to be dark enough that the black shoes, black trousers, black V-neck sweater, and black balaclava, would vanish against the building, hiding me from the security guards below. I even had luminous thread sown into the sweater cuffs and trouser hem to help me see my movements in the pitch darkness. Instead, I felt as conspicuous as a straight-man at a Valentino show.
My black gloved palms were pressed against the wall supporting my body as I slowly edged my way to the open window on the fifth storey of the royal palace. I froze in place as the powerful beam of the patrolling guard’s torch swept below me. I heard the steady panting of the guard’s scary-looking canine companion. I really should have done my homework on this job. So unlike me and a severe dereliction of duty on my part. The guard moved on following the outline of the building. I waited until he turned the corner and knew I had six minutes until his twin, making the journey parallel to him, would appear from the other direction. I knew because I had timed it after being surprised the first time.
The muscles in my leg ached and my knee stiffened up as the lactic acidosis level in my bloodstream elevated from the exertion my un-controlled ascent up the property. I really wasn’t in the right shape for this mission; my preparations were rushed due to the accelerated deadline imposed on me. I started moving again, faster than before, I didn’t think my muscles could take another period of stillness. In my haste, my foot slipped off the edge and the following leg swung into space. I overbalanced and dropped to my knee, the impact jolted through my leg to my spine, my hands groped the wall for purchase. I managed to stop the momentum of the fall and recovered my balance. I drew my leg back to the ledge and slowly raised myself off my supporting knee. Slower this time, I continued my quest.
I reached a balcony with a sash window, a foot higher than the ledge and almost thirty foot in length. The bottom sash window was raised to let air into the room beyond. I gripped the bottom sash and carefully lifted it higher, into order to gain entry. It made a few squeaks as it moved up in its frame but nothing to be concerned about. When it had reached the correct height I ensured it was secure in place and wouldn’t come down on me as I entered. I crossed the threshold backwards, legs first, slowly and carefully, trying to feel out obstacles with my feet as I backed into the room. Cue the ‘Mission: Impossible’ music, I thought.
“So do you think you can do it, Davidé?” asked Hannah Winter.
“Have I ever let you down before?” I replied.
“Well… there was that Chanel scarf,” she laughed. “I’m just teasing, of course, you haven’t. You’re the best in the world, a genius.”
“Ha… ha…,” I fake laughed. “Watch out or I may take Dior’s Summer Collection to another company.”
I was only half-kidding such is my demand throughout the whole fashion industry. My designs were so successful that over the years my fee structure had changed from a modest fixed payment to a generous percentage of sales. Hannah left and I mulled over the problem I’d been given.
I suppose I should introduce myself, my name is David Copus and, at school, I was just that: David Co-pus. Since graduating the Bakersfield College of Fashion and Design (with First Class honors) I have become Davidé Co-poiš and am the most famous fashion designer you’ve never heard of. World-renowned, my clothes are worn and loved by millions of women across the globe. Odds are you’re wearing them right now. I do not have a fashion house such as Gucci, Prada or Dior. My name is hidden behind the high–street fashion powerhouses of Forever 21, Superdry, H&M, Miss Selfridges, et al. My clothes are the ones that sell by the hundreds of thousands. To normal women. I re-design designer wear for the more affordable market. I take the $600 Jimmy Choo high heel and turn it into a $40 heel for Macy's; the $450 Armani blouse into a $35 blouse for Next.
The skill is in recreating the look, feel and color of the original using much cheaper materials while changing enough of the item to avoid being sued for copyright infringement. Anyone can copy something; it takes a real designer to do what I do. People disparage my work, calling the clothes knock-offs or what I do theft, but they do not understand the love I put into my creations, the passion I have for my art. It helps that the copyright laws for fashion are for more lenient than they are for other forms of art – music, paintings, publishing and film. In fashion, the items’ overall design is not subject to copyright, just individual parts of an item – the textile print, the clasp on a handbag and, the most important part, the logo or brand name. I can take Paul Smith jeans and as long as I change the small embellishments, such as the back pocket design or the rivet pattern, and do not call my version a ‘Paul Smith jean’, then everything’s fine. The skill is in knowing exactly how close I can go before a company or designer can sue. I’ve been doing this now for thirty-four years and have never been sued, that is an enviable record in this business, and that is why I can charge so much for my services.
The item Hannah brought for my skills to recreate was the most talked about fashion item since the Calvin Klein slip dress of the 90s. It was an item that as far as anyone could tell wasn’t available to buy anywhere. No one knew the designer, but everyone knew the piece. Two months ago a paparazzi photographer took a billion dollar photo. Its subject: the reclusive Princess Davina. It was the first photograph of her for seven years.
She had been the most recognisable women on the planet. Beautiful wasn’t half a description. She was the goddess Aphrodite incarnate, pale skinned, with a voluptuous figure. Long caramel brown colored hair, flawless skin, which was always worn natural without makeup. She always looked elegant and regal, and she didn’t just wear clothes, they wore her. She made even the simplest item look like it cost a fortune. However, it wasn’t just her physical appearance that enthralled the world; she was also an angel to the poor, the sick and the mistreated. She campaigned for Amnesty International and the United Nations. She visited war zones, famine struck countries, AIDS hospitals and disaster zones. Not for photo-opportunities and publicity, but to actually make a difference to people’s lives. Some would call her the true People of the World’s Princess.
All this changed five and a half years ago when she was kidnapped in Nigeria. Her plight was watched around the world as nightly footage of her treatment at the hands of the kidnappers was uploaded to the internet and re-broadcast around the globe. The beatings and abuse she received were sickening. She was eventually freed by US Special Forces after a mistake by the kidnappers revealed their location. Since then she hadn’t been seen again. The ‘World’s Princess’ retreated to her palace in Cap D’Antibes, hidden from all the world. At least until that photo was taken.
In the photo, she was sitting on a balcony at a simple, white, wrought-iron table, with a book and a glass of champagne. Although the quality of the photo was fuzzy and unclear, due to the distance from where it had been taken, you could see she was wearing a white blouse and a dark brown split leg skirt. On top of her head was the most beautiful hat anyone had seen. It was a small, brimless hat with a trim. It was like a cross between a miniature pillbox hat and a Russian Ushanka. In the photo, it looked like it was the color of a milky coffee. It had no name; no one had ever seen one before. The internet went crazy. That little hat broke the internet far more than a photo-shopped Kardashian ass ever had. Facebook and Twitter ground to a halt as women everywhere wanted to know about the hat: Who designed it? Where could they buy it? Young and old, rich and poor, half the world’s population wanted that hat. Rumours and hearsay spread across the web but no one could find any solid information. The female world was waiting with anxious breath for news about this hat.
Of course, Hannah had come to me. Shoddy quality and even poorer designed imitations were selling out within minutes on eBay. The market was ripe for a Copoiš design. The problem was I couldn’t make a version that was any better than the Chinese knock-off efforts. I couldn’t get the right material that gave the hat the shine it had in the photo, the trim didn’t look good anyway I tried it. This stupid small hat was the hardest thing I had ever worked on. I had obsessed about it for three weeks, catching an hour’s sleep here and there; meals with even less frequency. The deadline given to me by Hannah was due by the end of the week and I was no closer than I had been at the start. I had never missed a deadline and had never been beaten by a task. It had turned into a matter of pride for me and led me to do something reckless, very reckless indeed.
I slowly turned around and switched on my small, penlight torch. A thin weak beam emanated from it, enough for me to see I was in a bedroom. The room was large, dominated by a queen size, four poster bed with white voile curtains draping down, obscuring the bed’s occupant. I carefully nudged one curtain to the side and in the dim light could see Princess Davina, sound asleep, her breathing deep and rhythmic. She was partly covered by blankets and sheets; however, I could clearly see her face. As I leant closer to look I could see she looked as perfect as she did the day her life changed. A few slight wrinkles around her eyes the only concession to time. I must admit I wasn’t prepared to see her and, although I am homosexual, the sight of her brought forth flashes of romantic lust, and wild proclamations of love, which I struggled to contain. I reluctantly retreated, letting the voile curtain fall back in place and stepped away from the bed, my pulse racing, surprising me greatly. No woman had ever affected me this way.
I took a moment to settle myself down and got back to what I was there for. I looked for any obvious places the hat might be: any hat stands, hat boxes, shelves. Nothing. There were three doors leading off from the room. I opened the first one, the nearest to me, and saw it lead to a hallway, dimmed LED spotlights at regular intervals lighting the way along the floor. I closed the door, careful not to make a noise and moved onto the next. This door was across the room from the window. I opened the door and saw this was the en-suite bathroom. The hat could be in there I thought. The bathroom was larger than my entire apartment, twin basins, a whirlpool bath, separate walk-in shower, bidet and a toilet. Under the basins were a set of six cupboards, I searched them in turn but found nothing. Where the hell is it? I asked myself. I left the bathroom and went to the final door. I opened the door and stepped in, immediately the room was bathed in light. The room was a twin of the main bedroom in size, with blazing spotlights in the ceiling. Reflected off dozens of mirrored surfaces were open-faced cabinets which were all backlit to display their wares of rows and rows of shoes, handbags and accompaniments. No goddamn hatboxes or hat stands though. Where can it be?
I hear a noise from the bedroom and then a voice, “Who are you? Why are you here? Get your hands up!”
Even though demanding, the voice sounded heavenly, perfect tones with a slight husk to it. I could have listened to her speak all night. I raised my hands above my head in surrender.
“I… I mean you no harm” my voice, in comparison, wavered, like I was going through puberty again.
“Turn around and drop to your knees.”
I slowly turned around, fully aware of how I looked in my balaclava and assassin-like black clothes. I knelt down, my knees creaking, my heart shaking. In front of me, eyes blazing, holding a very large gun pointed at my head, was the Princess. God, she looked incredible.
“I ha… haven’t come to hurt you.” I stammered.
“Remove your mask. I want to see you.”
Carefully I took off the balaclava. A strand of my long grey hair fell in front of my face tickling my nose. I fought the urge to scratch it.
“My name is Davidé Copoiš. I’m not a kidnapper or assassin, I’m a fashion designer.”
She paused for a moment taking in what I’d said and my unorthodox appearance.
“The fashion rip-off guy?” she asked, a touch of incredulity in her voice.
“Well, more of a re-designer,” I reply defensively while my mind swam because she knew my name.
The gun lowered, no longer pointing at my head. I liked it even less where it was now pointing.
“What the hell are you doing in my wardrobe?”
“This is going to sound crazy, may I reach into my back pocket, just to get a photo, that’s all?”
She nodded her assent.
I slowly reached into my pocket and pulled out a crumpled copy of the famous photograph. I unfolded it and held it out for her. She took it off me and looked at it.
“That’s me! Why have you got a terrible photograph of me?” She raised the gun again, letting the photo fall to the floor.
“The hat! The hat!” I called out, panicking, the gun barrel looming large and vicious, the closet lights giving it another-world appearance. “I’m looking for the hat!”
“The one... the one in the picture... I need the original hat to copy it. Millions of women want that hat. Your hat.”
She stood there, a quizzical look on her face, dropped the gun to her side and laughed at me.
“You come all this way, crept into my room, come within a second of being shot for a hat? A hat?”
“Erm, yes” I replied foolishly.
“I hate to break it to you, ‘Davidé’, if that is your real name, but there is no hat.”
“Wh… what? What do you mean? You’re wearing a hat in that picture.”
“You see how poor quality this photo is? And how far away it was taken from? The HAT is my hair. I sometimes tie it up that way in the morning when I wake up, before I can be bothered to style it.”
I felt dizzy and fell to the floor to support myself.
“Your hair?” I looked at her more closely, at her beautiful brown hair, latte colored, done up in a donut bun.
“How can I possibly recreate that?”