Back inside the house, Pearl proceeded to tell a small cluster of the guests about the incident upstairs involving the Herald on Sunday reporters. According to her, they had arrived uninvited, were trying to gather information for a news story and were sent packing – all facts I could corroborate. One fact, however, I could not confirm (because I simply did not know), was that they had been tipped off by (NZ Fashion Week owners) the Stewart family.
The small group stood awkwardly listening to the news. When Pearl walked away, the nervous chatter began once again. At this stage it’s safe to say that the nervous energy level had reached an all time high. The word palpable comes to mind.
I suddenly remembered Aimee. Approaching Pearl, I asked (as casually as possible), where Aimee was, and if she would be joining us. The response was immediate. Aimee had broken her ankle. The cast, which had been put on by a medical student, had caused her toes to change colour, and she was in hospital getting it fixed up. But that was not all. Due to the initial cast being put on incorrectly, the foot had become infected to the point where leeches had had to be applied in order to stop it from becoming gangrenous. Despite that ordeal, Aimee still hoped to come later, though she would be forced to wear track pants to the event.
I reported the news to several of the other guests. They all confirmed the broken ankle story – having been told it word for word on the telephone the previous day. My mind was just about 100% made up that Aimee did not exist.
I walked to the bar to talk with a friend. Sitting next to a collection of vodka bottles was a stack of real estate leaflets. The NZD$5,000,000 mansion owned by the Going family appeared to be for sale. I mentioned this to one other journalist standing nearby. According to her, Pearl had just said that the house was jointly owned by the St George and the Going families. The St Georges were apparently a wealthy family from Wellington.
Something didn’t add up. We had initially been told that we were going to a NZD$5,000,000 house owned by the Going family. But the bus driver had specifically told our party that the venue had been changed at the last minute that morning. Pearl, however, hadn’t mentioned the change of address to any of us. Was the bus driver mistaken or were we in a different Waiheke mansion from the original house spoken about prior to the event? That said, it’s entirely feasible that the Going family own several multi-million dollar houses on Waiheke Island – I wouldn’t possibly know.
The guests were still milling around, unsure of what was to come. A designer asked Pearl if the suspense was intentional and whether we were going to be played off against each other one by one like an episode of Survivor. Pearl laughed and responded that it was all intentional and that the event would officially begin once the final two guests had arrived.
The final two guests arrived.
Pearl stood at the front of the room with the FedEx representative (the lady from the bus with the three small children) and began to speak. We were all there on Waiheke to commemorate the FedEx Global Fashion Access Award. The award itself had been set up to assist New Zealand designers to grow their businesses internationally. As far as I heard, NZD$10,000 was being offered to the winner. The money would be supplied by FedEx. There were to be five finalists.
Five Wilson volleyballs sat on a table. One ball for each of the five finalists. Little did I know that this was a reference to the film Castaway (I’ve never seen it, though now perhaps I will). Each ball represented 10 balls that would be donated on behalf of each of the five finalists to schools in Fiji. The Crocs shoes were also to be donated on behalf of all the guests to the Treasure House charity in Nadi, Fiji.
Besides the volleyballs, the five finalists would, if they so chose, also be given a free offsite show at Pearl’s consumer fashion event. The event, named Style Series, is scheduled for late March 2010. I am not able to release any other information about Style Series due to the fact that it’s all strictly embargoed until January 2010.
Pearl read out the names of the finalists. They were as follows: Nom*D, Huffer, Stolen Girlfriends Club, Lonely Hearts and Zambesi. One by one, they all collected their balls. The winner of the FedEx Global Access Fashion Award would be the company who put the most effort into organising their offsite fashion show at Style Series.
It was time for lunch. A gourmet barbecue had been prepared by a lady chef, and was laid out on the dining table. The food was delicious. Over ham-on-the-bone rolls and garlic prawns, Pearl talked at length about Aimee and how she was still in hospital – though she still hoped to make it over to the island. She then mentioned the 30-something year old man who gave us our tickets back in Auckland.
He was her brother.
But he wasn’t just Pearl’s brother.
He was also Aimee Ryan’s husband.
I just about choked on my vegetable kebab. I literally couldn’t take anymore, I had to walk away.
A couple of the designers mentioned catching the 3:00pm ferry back to Auckland. It was 2:30pm. I agreed that it was time to get back home, and a cab was called. We said our goodbyes and got into a taxi, marvelling at the bizarre day we’d just experienced. As we neared the ferry terminal, I commented that despite feeling like we’d just come out of a surreal thriller film, at least the food had been amazing. One of the designers agreed. These were his words:
“Yeah, the food was great. Crazy how the chef was Pearl Going’s mum!”
Since writing Chapter one of the Pearl Going chronicles, I’ve received plenty of comments and emails. I’ve accepted some of the comments and rejected plenty – largely because I didn’t want this to become a nasty slander-fest. If I didn’t accept your comment, please don’t be offended, that was my reasoning. I’ve been warned by many people that I would soon be hearing from a lawyer, this has not happened. I’ve been told all sorts of crazy things, some in support of Pearl, some against, but none of it is really my concern. I was simply interested in sharing the story of my experience.
One thing that I will mention, however, is that Pearl Going did contact me today. She told me that Aimee Ryan was indeed a real person, and showed me photographs of a girl on Facebook named Aimee. I obviously can’t say with absolute certainty that the girl named Aimee on Facebook was the girl that I’ve talked with previously on the phone, but she could well be.
The greatest thing for me about this whole experience has been the uncertainty of what was actual reality and what was fiction. If it was all fiction, then I say congratulations are in order for taking me for a ride. If it was all reality, then that just makes this whole scenario even more interesting.
Regardless of the reality/fiction, if I could go back and do this all again, I would. I haven’t been hurt in anyway and I’m not angry or upset about anything that’s happened. I’ve had a huge amount of fun.
As for Style Series, I hope it does go ahead. In my opinion, anything extra to the events we already have here is healthy competition and can only force the existing companies to up their games.
And that’s what I think about that.
I LIKE YOU!