KOKTAILS WITH KOKET AT VANDAL
8:15pm — One word comes to mind — VANDAL. YES, THERE WILL BE SCANDAL AT VANDAL TONIGHT! Get your spray cans ready, the only names you’ll be reading on the walls are Roxanne, Paloma and Savanna.
The Rockwell Group’s lush, gritty, urban street-style design is the perfect place for a creative soul to escape the chaos of life. Renowned British street artist Hush curated the space’s intriguing art scene, commissioning seven “Vandals” to create site-specific installations using different mediums and techniques. Tonight, three scandalous, design-oriented vandals are prepared to vent about all of the ‘extra’, over the top tasks their clients commission them to do.
Paloma struts through the long, vaulted tunnel entrance where an enormous upside down purple breakdancing bunny sculpture gazes at her. She thinks to herself, looks like your day was as rough as mine. Teetering on the verge of a creative breakdown, due to overexposure of self-entitled clients, Paloma shouts internally,
I WILL NOT. BE. A. VICTIM!
Roxanne catches up to her in the ominous tunnel. She affectionately caresses Paloma’s arm, and assuringly whispers, “Upside down today, rightside up tomorrow!”
The duo perches on two perfectly round golden barstools. Without glancing at a menu, Paloma promptly orders a promotional cocktail. Vandal is her newest after-work-unwind obsession. “The Taxi Line please,” she instructs the bartender. Then, turning to Roxanne she vehemently continues, “in honor of the clients who call us as they are getting into a taxi and immediately yell – ‘I AM GETTING IN A CAB– I’LL CALL YOU BACK IN A MINUTE’. We all know they are going nowhere, deep down they know they are going nowhere, but they want the world around them to believe something other than reality.”
Roxanne responds, “This only happens to designers like you, who get so personally involved with your clients,” with a sly smile she adds, “I know you can’t help it, it’s in your nature, and I love you all the more for it. But I never pick up the phone. I love to hear those calls on my voicemail, especially when they bitch up a storm and call back minutes later to apologize. I bill them for the show!” she bursts out laughing.
As she turns to the bartender Roxanne says, “I will have the Miss. Demeanor No. 3, please.” Then turning back to Paloma, she begins a new toast, “for everyone who pays us to design, but puts us through hell trying to express their vision; without ever admitting their true budget is half of what they told you, then shop you and DIY the project themselves!”
“Ohhhh good one,” Paloma replies. “I recently had a client go into a design center and claim she worked in my office trying to get pricing and purchase direct. She totally lied and had them run her credit card direct. When the order came across my desk I almost lost it! I called her on it, and she sounded almost proud of herself, trying to justify what she did. When I told her she would need to pay me a commission for the purchase, she actually laughed out loud before rattling off all the reasons why she thought she had every right to use my trade discount with my only form of compensation being hourly design time fees. The lack of respect for our businesses never ceases to astound me!”
“I went into this career to create and improve the world visually,” Paloma continues. “I wanted to use my artistic eye and flair for spatial compositions to help people create homes that perfectly suit and enhance their lives. It was truly my passion, but with every new project a piece of the magic I fell in love with in this industry dies.”
“I know, right?! More and more I wonder if our clients are coming to us for our talent; or if they are just coming to us to take advantage of our knowledge and discounts, without compensating us even remotely adequately? Do they want our services because they want a beautiful, high-functioning home with as few hassles as possible? Or are they hiring us so they can tell their friends, ‘I have to cancel lunch today because my designer is coming over’?”
An hour later Savanna, a project manager at a luxury trend forecasting and branding agency, joins Paloma and Roxanne, who are now on drink number two and deep into their design biz bitch session. She gives them both bisous, and seats herself on the open stool they saved for her. She quickly glances at the drink menu while signaling to the bartender, and immediately orders an Up All Night.
Paloma leans in slightly, looking past Roxanne between them, and says to Savanna, “And why did you order that my dear? Please do tell!”
Savanna responds, “I have been up all night working on a concept for a designer who now wants to transition into a lifestyle brand and start a home décor collection. I’m hoping the Up All Night will keep me from falling asleep right here!”
“Ugh,” says Roxanne, “if I hear about one more designer trying to become the next Kelly Wearstler I am going to scream!”
“It is a pretty strong trend right now,” notes Savanna. “Not a trend we forecasted into play though, the mass of fame-seeking designers fueled by social media have created this one all on their own. First, they were high on licensing their name to any home or gift product brand,but with so many destroying their name through bad matches, now they all want to be the next Kelly.”
“Sure,” Savanna continues, “there are lots of rational, and even a few really good reasons to expand your design business from design services to products, but as an overall industry movement, these local celebrity designers and their dramatic shows and cries for attention are part of the reason your profession is so under-respected ladies. I can’t seem to narrow down what my client’s new tag line should be, there is no substance, what makes these designers think they can carry the weight of a full-on brand?”
“Hey now,” Paloma chimes in, “I carry the weight of my clients’ personal problems all day long. Wait until you hear the client abuse I endured today! For this story we need a round of Off the Walls,” she says as she waves the bartender over.
“Ok, ok, bring it on,” Roxanne and Savanna challenge, giggling slightly as they hear themselves speaking in unison.
After ordering Paloma begins, “Okay, are you ready for this? We finally installed at that ten million dollar penthouse on the Upper East side. Remember that pretentious and grandiose woman, with no facial expression due to injections I was telling you about? The one who insisted on a white sectional for her family room, despite the fact that she has two small children?! Well, we finally installed that massive white suede sectional. It looked amazing set in place with its jewel toned accent pillows and glamorous gold chandelier above. I was feeling really good about myself as we put the finishing touches on the room, and then bam!
Miss Thang came bouncing into the house in her yoga getup, whether she was actually at yoga or just prancing around in form fitting athletic wear as part of her usual mid-morning routine on a Wednesday, who knows. She flashed me a big smile looking delighted, making me feel even more pleased. Just then, her gaze moved past me, toward the sectional and her face quickly contorted with a look that clearly said, ‘what the fuck is that’? She beelined it to the sectional as I stood there thinking ‘oh shit’.
From the corner of my eye, I could see my three employees watching with looks of horror on their faces as she bent down, picked something off the couch, whirled around, and quickly crossed the room back to where I still stood frozen. With a look of disgust and total seriousness on her face she said, ‘I don’t think I paid to have this come with my couch, throw it away’ as she dangled her hand in front of my face, way too close than appropriate, with a long dark hair pinched between her perfectly manicured fingernails. At first, I just started at her dumbfounded, then literally biting my tongue, I put my hand out and took the hair. Can you believe the nerve? In an instant she stole all my glory and pride and squashed me like a roach. I felt like she smacked me across the face.”
“Oh love,” says Roxanne, “that is horrible, you poor thing! What a snooty bitch! I mean come on, like she has never shed a hair before. And to make you feel like a meaningless workhorse after all you made happen for her. I remember you telling me about all the freebies you were beating yourself up over giving on that project!”
“Ok ladies, time for an INTERVENTION! Bartender?!” calls Savanna.
“You are super talented designers,” she continues, “and your clients are lucky to be graced with your skills! If they are too caught up in their own selfish bubbles then e ‘em! It is such a mis-justice that interior designers are so often undervalued and abused!”
Paloma replies, “You are absolutely right Savanna, every time a client talks down to me I get the urge to go on a rant reminding them that I am a professional they hired to get a job done, not their best friend, not their punching bag or sound board – but of course I always bite my tongue!”
“This is precisely why we need to be so adamant about enforcing the value of our time and make sure we bill for every second of it,” adds Roxanne. “Our clients’ wishy-washy decision-making processes are practically a guaranteed liability. We must be compensated and should probably have an upcharge for the cruelty and chaos factors! Plastic surgeons don’t consult or inject for free, lawyers charge for every second and stamp, why on earth should we offer our services and expertise for free?!”
“Of course, we shouldn’t,” responds Paloma, “but it is so damn hard. We have to stay firm, but when you are in such a blurred personal/ work relationship, disaster lurks around every corner! When our clients really start abusing us – we have to stand up for ourselves and fire their asses!”
“Somedays I want to fire them all and run away to the Bahamas,” says Roxanne. “But then there are those clients that sing your praises and thank you profusely for bettering their lives through the homes you helped them create, and for a moment all feels right in the world!”
To this, the three ladies raise their glasses of Intervention and cheers to the shit they put up with and to demanding respect!
words by: Anna Bimba
Article Originally Appeared in Love Happens Volume 2, 2018
To read more of Love Happens’ second volume, explore HERE!