Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Devil Wears Prada (but some cool people do too)

So for my 50th post I'm going to reveal a dirty little secret.  My ever useful Bachelors was in Fashion Design.
I feel like I should have typed that extra small so that maybe you'd miss it and keep on reading blissfully ignorant.

To be fair I wasn't so much into the stereotypical fashiony bit.  I didn't dress to the nines and sashay around campus in stilettos (though many, many of my fellow fd students did).  I had loftier ideals, I was into the artistic part, I wanted to make costumes and crazy feather dresses, I worked with a historical fashion collection and loved nothing more than exploring how each piece was built.

But out of school I did make a short lived attempt at working in the fashion industry, you know... to pay off the magnificent student loans I'd accrued.  I interviewed with a womens wear designer, a running shoe manufacturer, and a bridal wear designer then ended up working for Canada's biggest sock producer and designer.  Doesn't sound very glamourous right?  You'd be shocked how strikingly similar I found a lot of it to The Devil Wears Prada.

The CEO refused to have meetings before two unless you brought a large fancy starbucks beverage to his home and met him by the pool to have them.  He generally couldn't be bothered to show up to work until late afternoon and then proceeded to force employees (who had often started as early as 7am) into long winded meetings going as late as 8pm.  Without feeding them, or stopping to allow time to eat!  He famously had his secretary call me at home one saturday, the week before I was  moving, to come in and make some catalogue changes after I spent the entire week putting in 12 hour, or longer, days, but because he didn't feel like coming in until saturday afternoon he felt it was a good time to call me in to make changes.
I was in my early twenties, fresh out of school, being paid just enough to keep me in an apartment and marginally fed, it seemed I had the best of it all.

An-dreh-ah (which by the way is how my mom pronounces my middle name and she doesn't even have the british excuse) is not unlike me at that age.  Except for the journalism dreams of course.  Just out of University, she finds herself interviewing for a job she wouldn't otherwise consider, but, as she's frequently told, it's the job a million girls would die for.  So why not?  Runway's renowned Editor in Chief, Miranda Priestly, needs a new 1st assistant, and Andrea is it.  How a green 23 year old from Avon Connecticut survives a couturier fashion makeover, 14 hour days, and being continually expected to accomplish the impossible without questioning or complaining, all while living in New York for the first time is the core of the story in The Devil Wears Prada.  Throw in some soft moralizing about the importance of making family and friends number one and you've pretty much summed up the book.

Its a quick, soft read, but I enjoyed it.  It was funny and I would be lying if I didn't say reading about her living hell didn't make me feel better about any annoyances that happened over the course of the day.   Her spectacular end with Miranda was unbelievably cathartic and one of those great literary moments when you want to jump up and yell YAH! no matter where you are.

I didn't enjoy the silliness with her family and friends though.  I have to say I found it pretty unbelievable  people who care about you wouldn't understand and support you for a mere 12 month tenure in hell.  Especially when going in everyone was aware the job would up your career prospects in amazing ways.  Lets face it, she was working for a class A b@#$%h, not killing kittens for a living after all. 

If you've seen the movie but not read the book, pick it up, the story is very different and I guarantee you'll like it even more.  Although Meryl Streep plays Miranda quite nicely I have to say I was imagining Miranda more like Glenn Close in Damages, mean bordering on evil is what Patty Hewes and Miranda Priestly are all about.  The fact you question just how far they'll go is what make their characters fascinating.  
So if your in the mood for a work horror story that can trump almost anyone elses, then this is your read! You're day will get better just by reading how much worse it could have been.

The Devil Wears Prada, By Lauren Weisberger
Published by Broadway books, April 2004