Friday, 5 February 2016

Three Birds

A parrot, a magpie and a crow all lived together in a wardrobe full of clothes.

The parrot was bold, confident and debonaire. She adored fine tailoring, classic details and well crafted yet comfortable footwear. She believed in the enduring appeal of a woman in menswear and could never resist a good blazer. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion and she never stopped talking about it. She would go on and on and on, banging on about English shoes or Jil Sander at Uniqlo or some such thing, until the other two had had enough and would tell her to shut up.

The magpie was a tinker, resourceful and endlessly curious. Old fashioned couture, luxurious fabrics, folk textiles, anything shiny, all of it pleased her. She was incapable of walking past a shop window without pausing or leaving a junk shop without buying something, but most of all she loved to sew. She was always trying to make things she thought would please the other two but they never came out quite right and she only ever pleased herself. 

The crow was thoughtful and clever. She knew that nothing beat a well-cut, quality avant garde piece and she liked to go about undercover in a minimalist overcoat and preposterously overdesigned shoes. She secretly wished everything was black, white or navy blue, and that the other two would stop shopping so that she could afford Yohji Yamamoto. 

For a long time the crow was in charge. She only liked the kind of imaginary clothes they sold at Dover Street Market and everything else was bogus and frivolous in her opinion. She didn't see the sense in trying to make a living at it. She knew that the parrot loved to talk and the magpie was full of bright ideas, so she set the two of them to work while she stayed quietly behind the scenes. She gave the magpie a workshop to make things in and sent the parrot out into the world to sell whatever it was the magpie had made, as long as it wasn't clothes. 

This was an excellent arrangement for all three of them and for a while they made a good team. The magpie would come up with lots of mad inventions, the crow would decide which ones they would work on and the parrot would talk everyone into a frenzy of enthusiasm about them.

Until one day when the crow burned out. "The world is changing. We can't keep up with this market!" she cried. "I'm tired of running this show. I need a rest!" She stalked out of the wardrobe and took a part-time teaching job at the art school in the next village. 

The parrot was at a loss. "With no clients to meet, when can I put on my elegant suits and perform for the public?"

The magpie looked up from her sewing machine. "You're never short of anything to say about clothes. Why not start a fashion blog? Why, here's a stupid pun of a domain name. You're welcome!"

"Excellent idea!" the parrot exclaimed, and promptly wrote a manifesto. The magpie shrugged and returned to her pintucks. 

Without the crow's guiding hand, the parrot had no staying power. After a few well received but scarcely circulated posts, she decided that blogging without an audience was thankless and she'd much rather hang out with a flock of internet parakeets where she could have a proper conversation. The magpie went and drank coffee with her friend, a blue jay who ran a small but successful atelier. 

"What's happened to the parrot?" asked the blue jay, "I really liked her blog!" 

"I don't know. She claims to be researching social media or something" replied the magpie. "Check out this jacket I made! It's all zero waste reclaimed materials!" 

"Ooh shiny!" said the blue jay. 

The crow, meanwhile, had been reading situationist theory and looking over the parrot's shoulder. "Fashion's changing." she observed. "Haven't you heard of normcore? You should write about that instead."

"Nobody wants to read philosophy!" cried the parrot. "I'm writing humorous yet informative vignettes about my outfits!"

 "They won't think much of that at Dazed and Confused!" chuckled the magpie, deftly pinning the collar she was rolling. "You'll need to be far more pretentious for the serious fashion press! They're only interested in peacocks!"

"There is no serious fashion press, you featherbrain! That's the whole point!" screeched the crow and flapped away in a huff.

The magpie turned to the parrot. "Wanna start an atelier?" 

"Sure!" the parrot replied.

The crow outvoted, the parrot and the magpie set to work. The magpie toiled away at her sewing machine, turning out prototypes for the parrot to show around the boutiques and markets. The parrot clucked away excitedly to everyone about all the pretty things the magpie had been working on. The other birds seemed impressed but nobody wanted to buy them. 

"It looks lovely, but I couldn't wear that!" tweeted the robin. "I don't have that sort of money to spend on a jacket!" chirped the blackbird. "We can sell that, but not at those prices!" sang the canary in the pop-up store. 

The parrot was silent. She liked what the magpie was coming up with but the numbers didn't add up. At last, she wandered into a shop belonging to an eminent and venerable old raven and ran her feathers sadly along rack after rack of beautiful, elegant, hopelessly expensive high-concept garments not unlike the ones the magpie had been producing.

A glossy jackdaw was minding the till. "Why do people need so many silly outfits when they can have one really special one?" she sighed. "Nobody thinks it’s worth the investment. They all want to shop at Zara!"

The parrot nodded. She thought about what the crow had said about the fashion press and wondered if she didn't have a point. Crestfallen, she trudged back to the wardrobe where the crow was waiting for her, ruffling her plumage and looking agitated.

"I've been talking to the blue jay," said the crow. "She agrees with me that you're a good writer. And you should stop listening to the magpie. She's great at making stuff but she has no vision and she can't focus. I just caught her cutting a hole in the middle of an old sweater dress and sticking her head through it for heaven’s sake!

"Now, if we're going to rescue this wardrobe, we have to learn to work together again. I’ve got a class to teach so hurry up and write this down: Street style is dying. Fashion is feminism. Hipsters don't exist."

The parrot was baffled. "What on earth are you talking about?" 

"You and I are changing places. You're staying in the wardrobe with the magpie while I get us a book deal."

The parrot looked around for the magpie, who was knitting along to a YouTube instructional video, oblivious of anything around her. "Does this mean I'm in charge now?"

"Yes. No. I don't know. Get typing. We're going to have to wing it."