“When you see a beautiful woman in a beautiful hat, you know she’s not afraid to be seen,” says Rehn Dudukgian, a hat designer from Los Angeles and founder of Bijou Van Ness, a unique online boutique specializing in hats which infuse 20th century European fashion with the distinct style of classic Hollywood.
A woman in a hat is also sexy, confident, and mysterious, qualities that can spark inspiration and imagination in any writer. And it’s the Bijou Van Ness collection that provided an unlikely inspiration for me.
I first saw an early design from the premiere collection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where I was representing my short film The Birthday Gift. The piece, Riviera Rose, was somewhat unfinished at the time, but still garnered this talented young designer much-deserved attention.
The Riviera Rose was instilled in me, and so were the other hats Rehn brought to Cannes - a polka dot cocktail hat and a simple yet daring creation called The Last Leaf after the Oliver Wendell Holmes novel, just to name a few. Each day called for a new design; all beautiful and classy, and unseen on the streets of LA. Very French, very elegant, and very ‘Bijou.’ I was fascinated.
Once I returned home, I knew I couldn’t let the memories of those hats die. I started to write a story about a woman in a hat, and named that woman after this extremely unique designer. As I got exclusive looks at Rehn’s newer designs, the story evolved and started to take shape. This designer has allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and tackle on a genre I never had before. My piece, still unfinished, is a romantic fantasy set on the French Riviera during the Cannes Film Festival; a story I never thought I could write in a million years. But it’s been coming along quite nicely and I am incredibly proud of my first draft.
As Bijou finds success designing hats for celebrities, most recently blogger Perez Hilton, star dancer Julianne Hough, actress AnnaLyne McCord and singers Colbie Caillat and Mya, I become more and more inspired by her unconventional success story.
The lesson here is to never doubt inspiration. It can come from anywhere, even the most unlikely place. My inspiration for this story came from a hat.
Here, then, is a sneak peak at the opening of the piece, Bijou’s Love Affair with Paulo. Enjoy, and please comment!
The gawkers crowded around Le Martinez Hotel trying to locate their bait. Most had been there for hours, the scorching sun burning their faces, their dripping sweat causing the clothes they wore to stain and stink. But none of that mattered as long as they got a glimpse of celebrity. Any celebrity would do, and their digital cameras were ready to take pictures of a familiar face.
It was the first week of the Cannes Film Festival, and the legendary 1920s hotel, situated on the town’s famous seaside promenade, La Croisette, was where visiting celebrities stayed. This was public knowledge apparently, but Bijou had no idea of it as she made her way to the hotel entrance, dolled up in a slinky black dress and mini black and white striped hat she had designed and sewed herself. Bijou wasn’t particularly fond of her dress but she needed something simple so that it wouldn’t draw attention away from the star accessory – her hat – which would be classified as “haute couture” according to the strict French standards.
Access to the hotel was limited to guests or those with passes to the festival, and Bijou felt a sense of accomplishment as she flashed her exclusive badge to enter. The gawkers snapped pictures of her as she pushed her way into the hotel, pictures she was sure they would delete upon realizing that she wasn’t anyone important. Yet.
Bijou had a mission. She was determined to find Paulo.
Paulo was a best-selling writer. Not just any writer. He had the most unique literary voice Bijou had ever heard. He made love to his words and Bijou wanted to make love to him. She had fallen in lust with him through his writing, and was anxious to meet the person whose words had had such a profound effect on her life.
Bijou knew Paulo would be there through a blog on his website. Paulo, or his assistant, had posted a message allowing any of his readers who just happened to be on the French Riviera, to look for him in the hotel lobby, where he would engage them in conversation and even sign purchased copies of his latest novel, The Winner Takes It All, a thrilling tale of love, blackmail and murder set in Cannes. The website posting was very ambiguous, and Bijou knew finding Paulo would be a challenge, but she was ready and determined.
Bijou wondered why Paulo hadn’t let his fans know a film festival pass was required to get into the hotel, why he never listed a specific day or time to meet him, or specified exactly which section of the colossal lobby he’d be in. She thought that he must love playing mind games with his fans, leading them on a wild goose chase before they could have the pleasure of meeting him for an autograph, if they were lucky enough to have access.
In any other circumstance, Bijou was sure a number of his crazed fans would be willing to cough up a few hundred bucks and buy a pass from a money-hungry stranger in a dark and secluded French alleyway. But, in Cannes, during May, everyone was there for the festival and no one was interested in selling their pass. Even if one unlucky soul did manage to find a deluded imbecile trying to sell his or her pass, security was strict, and carefully analyzed the picture on each badge, which had to be a clear profile of the person entering anything, anytime, anywhere in the festival vicinity. In short, Paulo’s pass-less fans were shit out of luck.
Bijou liked Paulo’s game and a part of her was turned on that he could be so ruthless to the people who resulted in his making millions. She imagined a swarm of his readers going up to the Martinez entrance only to be turned away, not because they weren’t good enough, but because they weren’t good enough to have a pass to the festival (or enough money to rent a room at the overpriced hotel.)
He must get such a thrill knowing how inaccessible he is, Bijou thought. And I have that access.
Bijou knew she had succeeded. She was one of the lucky ones and the score was 1-0. Paulo was losing but it was anyone’s game.
The Accidental Blogger