Never had we received so many people. Even though our new premises are much larger, we had to push the desks and bookcases to welcome everyone who came. I didn’t expect these L’+xperience days would be so successful, the open-day event organized by our bank. It must be said that the perfume had got off to a very promising start. People are intrigued by our initiative. Nothing can be taken for granted, of course; we must keep up the pressure! I’ve learned to be pragmatic. And if ever I forget this basic rule, day-to-day reality is quick to remind me! The head of a small company has to take care of everything! A case in point: Lea, one of our two employees, came to see me about a problem involving water damage. I didn’t have time to take care of it earlier. Let’s sort it out as quickly as possible:
— I’m sorry Lea! I should have seen you earlier, but…
— No problem.
— So, we should call our insurance together. Is that right?
— No point. I settled it all with a text message.
Another problem solved to lighten my daily load in seconds! I felt like giving Lea a big hug!
Just after lunch, I finally had a few minutes of peace and quiet. I went off with my tablet to be alone in the small garden next to the office. I wanted to take a look at the real estate offers in the region. My life is in the south of France now, and I think I’ll start putting down some roots. I took a quick glance at my account aggregator and a loan simulation, and then started to read the newspapers, starting with the economic and financial press. I scrolled down the page underneath the headlines; an article caught my eye: “François Vardin, the éminence grise of the French luxury industry, has died.” The face in the photo looked vaguely familiar. I’d probably already seen it in the press. I continued reading: “François Vardin led an amazing life, walking the line between shadow and light, between secrecy and success, constantly devoted to developing his business. He even preferred to be called by his middle name, Charles, because he felt that François was too difficult for Americans and Asians to pronounce.”
I smiled, trying to imagine a Chinese customer pronouncing “Eva.”
“He created several business empires and well-known brands such as Ligne 5, Vestale, Brad or L’Anglais, in the up-market men’s ready-to-wear clothing sector. He was a man in a hurry – brisk at times, frequently feared – and who made no attempt to hide the fact, as demonstrated by his motto: ‘Better to be hurrying in life than standing still.’ ” Those words… Where had I heard them before? The man on the scooter! Yes, it was this face with gray hair and wrinkles. I skimmed rapidly through the article. Charles… The L’Anglais brand… Charles Langley. François Vardin died after a long illness. He recently told the press: ‘I made a lot of enemies in life but some friends too. Sometimes they are one and the same’ ”.
I remained motionless, my hand frozen over my tablet. I had finally met Charles Langley face-to-face. He was part enemy, part friend, a sort of guardian angel with the grin of a devil! I looked at his face a final time… before making it disappear with a swipe of my hand across the screen.
Illustrations: Karolis Strautniekas/Agent 002; Yann Le Bec/Illustrissimo
Photos: Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac ©Luc Boegly, Yvan Zedda/BPCE, Banque Populaire, Stéphane de Bourgies, CASDEN Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne, Julien Crosnier/KMSP/DPPI, BPCE, DPPI/BPCE, Le Pot Commun, Neustockimages, Fidor Bank.
Getty Images: Btrenkel, picturegarden, Inimma-IS, Koraysa, Moodboard, Rachel Dewis, Peter Carlsson, Clu, Twohumans, Donal Husni-EyeEm, Nikada, egafoldo, Oscar Wong, Alija Izetbegovic, Uschools, Westend61, Bloom, milazvereva.
Shutterstock: Jacob Lund, EQRoy, Prostock, Diego Cervo, GaudiLab, Monkey Business Images, Travel Stock, Zhu Difeng.
Design and production: Havas Paris
Groupe BPCE, Corporate Communications Department.
Author of the short story: Jean-Pierre Montal.
Editorial consultants and drafting of the “Clues” pages: Information & Conseil.