If you were a teenager in the '80s you'll understand my penchant for Bobby Ewing. Oh yes, Bobby and I had a great relationship; it was occasional it's true, but regular. Every Thursday night, right after Top of the Pops, front row chairs (bagged the night before) in the common room at Monmouth Girls School. It was a rite of passage and all I knew of America. We wept with Sue Ellen and envied her alcohol supply, we hated JR and cheered at his shooting and we ogled Patrick Duffy, AKA The Man from Atlantis and also our darling; the honest, hardworking, ethical younger brother to the tyrannical Texan oil baron.
So arriving in Dallas for the first time is quite exciting. It's true I'm not here to relive my childhood but to spend time with the JoJo Maman Bébé Reps and work out if this all-American city has a place for our European design style. I'm sceptical for JoJo but very excited for me. Actually, when we arrive at the vast and wildly impressive Trade Mart I'm really excited. This is the wholesale showroom complex of all complexes...
Before we arrive I have already spent half a day with Jennifer, our Rep, who reminds me of myself (except she is sexier) and her fun assistant Hollie. We have lunch with her army of other helpers, all called upon during the ups and downs of the business's needs; Annette, Nicole, Jenna, Cathy and Camille are totally lovely, Southern beauties.
I'm flabbergasted by how friendly they are and every single one of them has the confidence to give an opinion when I ask for advice on our working together to promote the brand. They may be part-timers, but they are very much committed to Jennifer and JoJo. The few days we invested in flying the boss and her assistant to London last July is well spent. They have passed on their training to the letter. Once again I am so pleased that personal contact has paid off. The showroom is gorgeous and our JoJo Breton style has even received a Texan make over, complete with cowboy boots and hat on the mannequin, as you can see in the image below. I was worried that a distinct lack of diamanté and glitz in the collection may hold us back, but in so many respects, JoJo is a breath of fresh air amongst the over embellished local brands.
In the morning before our round table lunch conference, I have been taken to meet a delightful family business in Cow Town, also known as Fort Worth. Unexpectedly set amongst the cosy clapperboard homes in a residential neighbourhood is a genius of independent retail. A family house converted into a super quirky children's wear store. Stocking original brands with a designer feel and especially good for gifts, sisters Sheila and Rachel, helped by mum Loretta run Zoe and Jack. JoJo will be perfect here. I am proud they have chosen to stock us. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, and happen to need a gorgeous new outfit for your little darling, I recommend a visit. Each room - and there are several - is filled top to bottom with colour and creativity.
I'm captivated by the success of 'College' motif-adorned kids' wear which commands about 10% of the retail space. Here it's the TCU (Texas Christian University) and there are T-shirts, sweatshirts, trousers, nappies, coveralls, onesies and hats all bearing the logo with pride. I can't quite get my head round the trend to dress one's offspring in fashion embellished with our university logos? Would I wrap my gorgeous new-born in a Cambridge Tech hooded towel? No, and that's not because I'm snobbish about this great educational establishment which I attended, now renamed rather more grandly to 'The University of East Anglia'. In fact I would be even more reluctant to dress my kid in an 'Oxford' nappy. We just don't do it, any more than we hang a flag on a pole outside our house. If you were to hang a Union Jack off your roof top you'd be labelled a nutter. I do confess to having a small Welsh Dragon sticker on the back of my car, but it's tasteful (Celtic style) and it's a sort of subtle thumbs up sign to other Welshmen expatriated in London, as I have been since the age of fifteen. We just don't blatantly show off about going to a Christian University College. Maybe we should?
We at JoJo did try selling toddler knits with St George's Crosses, Welsh Dragons and Highland Cows on, and we do a great line of fun tops appliquéd with Knights of the Realm, but these sell best in our York, Cambridge and Chester stores. I'm guessing they sell best to tourists and not to the descendants of the peerage? Maybe we should check this one day? But hey - design team, should we diversify into Bangor baby grows or Cambridge comforters, maybe some Newcastle nappy covers? This is not a laughing matter; the business over here is worth billions of dollars! Let's brainstorm when I get home?
Boys, our lovely female Reps here are to die for, literally. Not only are they professional, hardworking and have an impressive showroom, they are drop dead gorgeous. They definitely raise the glamour stakes amongst the team and I'm puffing my chest out in pride to be associated with them. Or maybe I'm pigeon chested to offset my rather flat one in comparison?
After a day's work I'm taken to watch the Dallas Mavericks basketball game. I love it; glamour, excitement, fast action sport and more than anything, impressively well-endowed cheerleader girls during the intervals. I'm definitely a man-girl, but I can't help noticing their impressive mammaries, and whisper to my neighbour how...well, impressive they are.
"Sure" she replies, "Boob jobs are the No. 1 graduation present these days, those girls have all got 'em. Don't y'all have 'em in England?"
Erm, no. Cough, cough - can't you tell?! I guess she was just being polite NOT noticing my LACK of impressive ones!