The countdown to Christmas is on at Shillington’s luxury department store in Dublin in Ally Bunbury’s new novel The Love Department, where, as luck would have it, THE GLOSS is the go-to fashion bible of the Head of Beauty, Janette, who in this extract, receives a little lesson in quiet luxury …
I usually gravitate towards the big house as the stage for my novels but I realised that the dynamic of sustaining a family-owned business is essentially the same as maintaining a grand house with all its demands. And so, The Love Department came into being, starring Shillington’s luxury department store on St Stephen’s Green, in danger of imminent closure unless the dashing Lando Shillington, heir apparent, can remedy the endless shortfall in profits.
It is a story of balancing the weights and pressures of the past and keeping the legacy intact as the baton passes from generation to generation. I created the character Charles de Croix as I strolled around Le Bon Marche? in Paris. Godfather to Lando Shillington, de Croix agrees to come to Dublin and brush up staff members on their retail eloquence. Here’s a little extract from Chapter 18 of The Love Department where the topic of Quiet Luxury is discussed …
The light shining into the beauty hall at Shillington’s department store was breathtaking. Charles de Croix, who made temptation an art form, surveyed the central gallery covered in silk headscarves, velvet hats and long cashmere coats. He knew anyone with available funds would be unable to resist.
In preparation for the Christmas season, de Croix decided it was time to further educate Janette, Head of Beauty, who appeared to be following his instructions by keeping her mobile phone switched off behind the fragrance counter.
“Good morning, Janette,” said de Croix. The sprinkling of grey in his neatly cut hair was the only hint to his 60 years of age. “How are we today?”
“Could be worse,” she said. “Better if we got a pay rise.”
“Ah, yes, indeed; it’s all about the money, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t say all,” said Janette, contemplating his statement. “But it’s definitely relevant.”
De Croix moved behind the counter. “You see the gentleman over there?”
“The man in the baseball cap?” Janette took the lid from a bottle of scent to spritz her neck.
“Exactly,” said de Croix, “and that is not just any baseball cap, but a Loro Piana baseball cap – like the one Kendall Roy wore in Succession. It is known as quiet luxury.” De Croix spoke just above a whisper as he discretely observed the morning customers. “Such a display of wealth is only noticeable to those who know what they are looking at.”
“So if a guy rocks up in ripped jeans, don’t necessarily think he isn’t going to be a big spender?”
“Exactly,’ said de Croix, impressed Janette was catching on. “We give all customers the opportunity to be exposed to our most luxurious brands. People don’t want to show off these days,” he removed his Montblanc from his pocket to scribble a reminder on his business card “but they will spend, you can be sure of it.”
De Croix colour coordinated a tray of nail polish as he spoke.
“We want to attract what social media calls ‘the freshly minted’. They are chic but anonymous. Take Brunello Cucinelli, who creates uniforms for the wealthy, but there are no labels, no showing off. Items of quality do not have to scream to the world, ‘I’m insanely rich’.” De Croix pulled his shirt cuff over his Rolex and continued with his soliloquy. “And you know that posting wealth on Instagram is a no-no for those in the know,” he said, holding up his iPhone. “Not bragging about the finery around you gives you the power.”
Celine de Croix, dressed in a grey cashmere jumpsuit with her blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, descended the stairs.
“Papa, there you are,” said Celine, holding an iPad to her chest, “and Janette, how are you?”
“Intrigued,” said Janette. “Your dad is giving me the lowdown on how not to be flashy.”
“I was just saying that gaucherie is no longer acceptable,” said de Croix.
“Papa, who uses that word anymore, why be so old- fashioned?”
“Then let’s use the word discretion,” said de Croix. “It is the true key ingredient to style, and on that deluxe note, Celine, I want to order dress sneakers from Berluti.”
“With pleasure,” said Celine. “You know these shoes, Janette?”
“Are these the runners that will set you back at least a thousand smackers?”
De Croix enjoyed Janette’s expression. “Even more than one thousand smackers, as you say, though you wouldn’t know unless you knew.”
“It’s like the Harmony bangle from Hemmerle,” said Celine, “people will spend a fortune even though the bangle looks nothing more than a bangle.”
“Low-key baubles,” said de Croix, “they are all the range.”
“And how do you lot keep up with the trends?” Janette reached for a copy of The Gloss magazine. “This is my go-to for fashion and beauty.”
‘Like you, we do our research,’ said de Croix, tapping his phone. “Our team at Le Marche? Cher in Paris have their fingers on the buzzer, ready to order the next big thing before they can say “Oui, Jean Pierre” on Qui Veut Gagner Des Millions?”
“Sorry, I’m lost,” said Janette.
“It’s an old TV programme in France,” said Celine. ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’”
“I do,” said Janette, “and as soon as I become one, I’m going to buy a pair of those Berluti runners.”
The Love Department, published by Hachette, is out now; www.easons.com.