Far Cathay

Time in New York flew as it had in the other two cities and Calypso’s mood boards and product notes were expanding rapidly. Athena had reviewed Paris and Milan while in New York. After the first few minutes of hums and ‘interesting’s, Calypso had fled to reception. Fulfilling her promise to the monster below was less nerve shredding than trying to read the tones and minute expression shifts as Athena pored over the images and plans.

She returned to their work area some time later, wrung out but relieved. She’d survived one ordeal, only one more to go.

Athena gave her a level stare as she re-took her seat, “Are you seriously telling me I’m scarier than Scylla?”

Calypso choked.

Athena laughed at her and patted her hand reassuringly across the desk, “Your work is looking great. It’s a strong start, heading in the right direction and I’m looking forward to seeing more. There are some ideas and options that may not be feasible but that’s not for you to worry about at this stage. We can get to that in round two.”

Her assistant piped up, “I love how distinct you’ve made each city mood. The colour palettes and styles are really evocative without being souvenir-ish if that makes sense.”

Calypso grinned, “It does to me, thank you.”

The review gave her more confidence in her choices and ideas for the New York boards, it was a very definite look, possibly the most industrial of the cities so far, but still blending to create a harmonious, comfortable home for a small space renter.

She was still scribbling as they boarded the plane to Hong Kong. It was an unusual choice of location but Z Corp had a history there, and used it as a preferred shipping port for many of its products.

She’d never before been and was looking forward to it.She did have a question though, “It seems we’re cherry picking cities from different parts of the globe, why Hong Kong for Asia?”

Athena gave a fuller answer than she expected.

“We’ve covered the traditional fashion capitals now, with London, Paris, Milan and New York. It’s now time for the new world ones. The challenge with it is, where to start and where to stop. By rights, we should be looking at Shanghai or Tokyo for this part of the world but Hong Kong is much easier to navigate as a newcomer. Singapore was a consideration but I don’t want you anywhere near your father. Especially now, Odysseus is there and apparently they’re not getting along, adding you to the mix would be volatile at best. Sydney’s more than close enough to worry me.”

She thought a moment longer and continued, “Of course we’ve got a couple of glaring gaps in the plan at the moment – Africa, especially the countries south of the Sahara and South America. Then of course there’s North Africa, the Middle East, India, and Eastern Europe. I’m making an arbitrary decision on two and if this goes as well as I think it will, we’ll add more cities over time.”

Calypso’s eyes widened at the potential scope of the project and she resolved to be thankful for the relative ease of the starting set. They were mostly cities she was familiar with, Hong Kong being the only completely new one.

The plane began its descent into Hong Kong and she eagerly looked out of the window, trying to spot landmarks in the early morning mist.

The rest of the day was spent settling into a hotel, Z Corp only had a couple of high end executive flats in this city and Athena felt they were too removed from the day to day life Calypso needed to connect to.  She ventured out briefly in the afternoon, nervous but excited, this was a very different place to the other cities she’d visited. She retreated to the relative peace of the hotel an hour or so later, senses overloaded. This was a city with an essence all its own, but so complex and layered, Calypso quailed at the task ahead. Distilling all that was Hong Kong into mood boards and product ideas in a matter of days was not possible.

The next day, Athena introduced her to two local Z Corp employees, tasked with familiarising her with the territory. One was a local, the other an expat who’d come for a six month project and had just completed the seven years required for Permanent Residency.

They scooped her up and bundled her into a taxi, first stop the ICC and Star Ferry terminal. After a trip across the harbour and a wander down the waterfront, fending off people trying to sell her ‘copywatcheshandbags’ and tailored shirts, they returned to the Island and the obligatory trip up The Peak. While they were on the bus, her hosts explained. It was best to get the obvious sightseeing trips out of the way early, then there would be time to wander the back lanes of Sai Ying Pun, explore the Ladies Markets and absorb the astounding change of pace between the North and South sides of the island. They started rattling off other places that were not to be missed, bickering amicably over the relative merits of different waterside restaurants and hiking trails.

Calypso simply blinked, listened and absorbed the ever-changing view from the top deck of the bus.

The following week was a whirl of colour, design, glaring difference and strange familiarity. As she settled into the plane seat as they left Hong Kong, she knew this was possibly her weakest set to date, there was just so much to absorb – distilling the essence felt nearly impossible. It seemed to come naturally to her when she dug herself into the other cities, she could only trust that further time here would allow a focal set of themes, colours and feelings to emerge and take form on her boards and the pages of her notebooks.

She’d shared her concern with Circe who, ever supportive, assured her it was simply a matter of time and familiarity.

“You’ve known your other four cities your whole life. You may not have visited all of them very often, but they’ve been a constant part of the world you’ve been walking through. Asia is a world apart from Europe, and whatever city in Africa they choose will be just as challenging. Deep breath godmother, I want gorgeous Hong Kong thingumies for my baby.”

“Thingumies?”

“Anything cool and a little bit different that will still be useful and easy to wash. There is no way this baby is going to be anything but totally fashion forward and I want all the mums in our future playgroup and creche to be dying with envy.”

Calypso laughed and came away from the conversation with some ideas and a vague sense of relief.

Next stop was Sydney, the final of the first cities for the home collection and another she’d never been to but hoped she knew a little better than the enigmatically theatrical Hong Kong.

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