A launch isn’t just any old launch when it’s yours. When you are CEO of the company launching the thing to be launched, you can’t feign invisibility, safe in the knowledge that your lack of cuticle care will go unnoticed. Oh no. You’re right up there, luminously visible, on requisite, confidently sparkling form.
A dilemma then for this CEO, whose long hours preclude time-rich attention to roots, cuticles and the rest. For the God that’s in this sort of detail requires her devotee to have the hours and the cash to spare, not to mention the patience of a saint, a moniker to which I cannot lay claim.
A presentation to shareholders at the Forte Medical AGM last week was to be followed by the launch of new, improved Peezy Mark II. Joining us for the party, were customers, prospective customers, media, healthcare gurus, opinion formers, our own loyal advisors and other friends; I became suffused with more than mild concern. This much-anticipated event was taking place within the Gallery at Tramshed, the chicken and steak triumph that sees Mark Hix return to his native EC2. It had to be good; and so did I.
Time for some fancy footwork, choreographed by a trusted local network.
The plan: decide what to wear, arrange hair, manicure and pedicure appointments, organise on-the-day logistics and hope for the best. By the skin of teeth, seat of knickers and goodwill from all around, it worked. This, dear reader, is how.
One week prior
Following examination of my woeful wardrobe, I realise that my abandonment of cheap clothes in favour of very few, very good ones hasn’t been going long enough to bear fruit for this event. I consider my options and decide that a CEO suit simply isn’t me, and the career frock even less so. A recent investment of beautifully tailored J Brand denim from Start forms the basis of a plan. These, with my black suede Replica heels (featuring gorgeous gold calf leather ankle straps) and a yet to be acquired top, feels right.
I do what every East End Girl should do when faced with a sartorial dilemma. I return to Start. Not the cheapest but certainly the best boutique in London, it’s on my doorstep and the wonderful staff there, honest. “That’s not right for you,” isn’t something you’ll hear from just any old fashion gaff. The Start Girls size you up and deliver an edited capsule of things that work. And they never get it wrong. The shirt I was after plainly didn’t suit. Rebecca brought me a couple that did and from these two I made my choice: a pale yellow Sonia Rykiel ruffle collar blouse. One of the finest silk pieces I have ever possessed and one I would never have chosen for myself. I am in raptures. My ensemble is perfectly complete.
One day prior
At 5’2”, one’s unfortunate roots are screamingly evident because, well, everyone else is taller. There are other issues too, such as perceived presence, or lack of it, that have to be addressed. In short, petite is a problem.
To whit, at 10am, I make a dash for 3Thirty Hair & Beauty on Old Street. After a few soothing words, the provision of good strong coffee and biscotti, the quietly efficient and friendly team gets to work. Just over an hour later I emerge slightly darker, glossier and far, far happier, with a Harmony Hairspray spring in my step.
At 5.00pm prompt, I am at Cowshed where my hands and feet are examined and not-quite-inaudible sighs emitted from the Therapist. Diana asks how I would like my fingernails. She’s holding them aloft, a silent rebuke as to their bitten condition. In truth, I stopped this filthy habit some years ago but recent stresses have conspired against them. Trimmed, I say. You’ve no choice she doesn’t say, but we know each other quite well.
There follows sheer unadulterated bliss. This de-scaling, scrubbing, rubbing, buffing, polishing and varnishing is a truly stress-busting, health-giving process. Corporate bosses take note: add this treatment to your female employees’ benefits and you will, in turn, benefit beyond. For this, we are truly thankful.
On the day
At 4.30am my eyes pop open. That’s it. I’m awake. Lap-top-on-tummy, I write the day’s To-Do list, revise my presentation to shareholders, rewrite the launch script, rearrange the Order of the Day and change it back again. The whole lot is then e-mailed to Executive Assistant, he who brings order and logic to Forte Medical HQ. An Earl Grey Tea later, I pack my ensemble into a bag and cycle to the gym at Shoreditch House.
Rarely have I crossed the hallowed threshold of a gym at 7.30am. It looks different. The people are different, the place is colonised not by fashionistas and creatives who indulge in the gentlest of exertions accompanied by their Blackberries and iPhones, but by the grunting, sweating sort who really mean it. Umph. Aargh. Grrrrn. Horrible stuff to witness so early in the day.
By 8.45am I’m enjoying porridge and black coffee, bar-side at The Rivington (this bit I could get used to). Desperate for someone to know of my early rise, I have already texted a boast to Fashion’s Top Picture Editor, who duly materialises for coffee on his way to work. We chew the cud over my outfit (who better, frankly, to proffer an expert opinion?) and fall silent at the expression on the face of Dishy Head Chef who emerges from his kitchen, shocked to find us in situ at his bar. Stabbing a finger at his watch he stammers: “Its sunny out there. It’s the wrong time of day for you lot. What’s going on?”
And then an idea strikes. After its foray into my bike-bag, the Sonia blouse will need fine tuning this afternoon. DHC agrees with pleasure to keepsafe it within his office, ensuring the restaurant iron and board would be poised for action at 3pm … Bless the Rivington’s neighbourly ways.
A spell at HQ with EA proves calming. We prepare for a Full Team Meeting to be held there from 11am-3pm, followed by Tramshed arrangements (and blouse ironing); from 4pm-5.30pm the AGM and 5.30pm-7.00pm our Launch.
Agenda: check. Notes: check. Presentation: check. Scripts: check. Name badges: check. Beauty agenda: not quite.
At 10am I gather my Replica heels, black suede renovator spray and head back to 3Thirty to see freelance, gentle giant Damian, the only hair guru with an infectious Sid James chortle. After a brief remonstration involving big-sad-eyes over my recent cheating episode (yes, dear reader, I dallied elsewhere – but that’s the world of hair for you) we agree that a trim is “not for now” and Damian steers me to the sink for wash, heavy-duty condition and better-than-sublime head massage. Damian, never let it be said that being all thumbs is a bad thing. Yours are to die for.
On return to the chair, Damian responds unfazed to my request for an old newspaper, which I stuff into the suede heels. While he gathers the implements of his craft about him, I dash be-towelled and be-gowned, outside. Clutching shoes and black renovator, I crouch roadside and spray. Doubtless I look completely mad but fortunately, this is Shoreditch and no-one takes any notice. Duly renovated, the shoes dry alongside my hair, which is given super-bouncy treatment by Maestro. Never before have I played host to curlers, but hey, they work like magic and I emerge sleek and shapely and Goddess-like into the Autumn sunshine.
As the day too takes shape, my butterflies gather flutter and before you can say Peezy, my blouse is crease-free, the stage is set and we’re off.
On the night
The AGM wasn’t without the odd blip; shareholders are entitled to say what they please, right or wrong. Some of them do and its not always what people like me want to hear. Exocet Daughter, present with her first commission for the nascent Forte’s Pasticceria, tells me later that I performed like a “bull with sharp horns.” But overall, the meeting is a success, the Team is applauded and within a blink, Launch guests start to arrive.
My nerves for the presentation to the larger audience are tempered by two very modest glasses of chilled dry white. My GP brother and Peezy inventor Dr Vincent Forte says a few words, followed by Mr Andy Goldberg OBE, a supporter from Peezy’s birth and indeed, bestower of our very first Medical Futures Award in 2001.
I watch the crowd in front of me grow; a face or two I hope to see are unexpectedly absent and my tummy hollows. But those present beam a solar system of goodwill into my heart and I refill, happy.
We end the words with an announcement about Forte’s Pasticceria and the beautiful violet and almond Peezy Swirl confection and cupcakes that grace the event. The party begins in earnest.
Reader, like me, the evening turned out beautifully. Hix did us proud, people met and mingled, Peezy Mark II was admired and lauded and the night ended as it should, in the familiar Eyre Brothers, where the warmest of welcomes balanced the chilliest Cava and celebration completed the night.
More importantly still, business is already crystalising from the event and Forte Medical is looking with confidence at a future of growth and success.
I am blessed. I love where I live; thank you friends and neighbours.
It wouldn’t have been the night it was without you.
© Giovanna Forte