I rarely get lonely these days but there are times where I do a considerable amount of time without any direct interaction with customers or suppliers. Days when you are just cutting silks, just dispatching, just doing social media. Nobody will tell you on Instagram how lonely they might feel at times, we are all so busy trying to look occupied by our lives.
But when I travel I get a chance to lift my head up and take a look at a bigger world and visit cities where I have customers - hopefully happy ones.
I had arrived in Como and unpacked my bag, I lay down in a towel on my bed after a shower and checked my Instagram to see I had a direct message from Andy Poupart - known on Instagram as Style After 50). He was in Milan, could I meet with him during the week.
I could, and I made it happen. I worked Sunday and Monday and in the afternoon I took a short nap before I pulled out my smoking jacket which I'd had dry cleaned after it was saturated in champagne on NYE and I jumped in my car and drove into Milan to meet up with Andy at his hotel, the Westin Palace.
I will be honest, I was slightly nervous. One of Andy's packs of bow ties had gone missing in the post a few months back and we had come to exchange a few curt words trying to figure out what had happened. In the end, we were all fine, but the very fact that we'd had a misunderstanding was still on my mind.
Andy turned up at the bar so meticulously dressed that I felt on the back foot. The only competitive advantage I had was that my peacocking was a distraction from the details. His studded shirt looked beautifully pressed, his shawl generous and sweeping. His bow tie, not exactly how I might tie it myself, was still very well put together. Plus he had a waist covering. By contrast, my jacket was crumpled, on realising that my other shirt was poorly pressed I ripped a new Moth Of Sydney ready to wear one out of the packet but it's sleeves were too long for my particular torso, something I had overlooked as I normally only wear bespoke shirts. Even as I approached Andy he felt compelled to adjust my shawl which seemed too narrow on one side.
I will put down my wardrobe malfunctions to 'sprezzatura' - it's the best way for me to come to terms with the fact that I was less meticulous and in many respects, possibly less knowledgeable that my customer in terms of formalities of evening wear.
Of course, as it always the case these days, we were the two most over-dressed in the hotel and caught the attention of a few tables nearby who were perhaps wondering why two men not heading for a winter ball were wearing smoking on a Monday night in Milan.
I followed Andy in for a gin martini and as he told me about which particular gin makes the best martini I did my absolute best to retain the name in my head but by the following morning it was long gone. Suffice to say, whatever gin he did ordered did the trick just fine and coupled with those tiny little sandwich tasters they offer and a couple of olives, had to make do for dinner as we were all running out of time. Andy's wife had joined us and there were soon to depart for a dinner reservation whereas I was having to fetch my car and get back to Como pronto as I had meetings scheduled for the morning.
On the way home I considered that it was a great gift to be able to travel and meet my customers albeit, in this case, and as it was with James Andrew in May 2017, way too briefly. We all gaze at each other's Instagram walls and feel that we all know one another, but really, nothing replaces human conversation.
Andy, it was a pleasure to meet you. One day I hope we get to have that gin you prefer at that establishment you spoke of in London. Until then, see you on Instagram.