Friday, March 04, 2016


It was a special delight-invited to publicly speak to the students on Business Day, at The Waterford Institute of Technology. I had to grab a few hours alone in my wardrobe to choose a well-tailored, dark business suit, but once I had that accomplished I felt like I was making progress.

I was also trying hard to come up with a few well-chosen words. Recounting my experiences with friends and fashion is easy, because I’m grateful for the life I have, and I know it intimately, but how do I talk to a room full of people, and be inspiring? I scribbled on nonetheless, and then rang Mary.
Glamourous, sensible, tell it like it is, shoot from the hip, take it or leave it, Mary.
An hour later she’s sitting in my Boudoir, dressed in a gorgeous chartreuse chenille swing dress and Isabel Marant, Roxann black suede ankle boots. She fluffs up her cropped ginger curls and looks at me from out of a freckled face.

“Don’t like it Agnes, it’s not you.” She says matter of factly, after I delivered my speech standing imperiously in my full length silk dressing gown.

“What do you mean Mary? It’s a progressive account of how I built up my business.”

“It’s not you, it’s boring, fell asleep after 3 minutes listening to you drone on about business, where the hell is Agnes in all of this” she points at the pages that litter my dressing table, and refills her Moet glass.

I look disgruntled, yes I’m great at giving advice, not so great at taking it. She sees my pouting lip.

“Oh for God’s sake Agnes, just tell the naked truth would you? …your truth, that’s all you can do, and if you start wringing the life and energy out of things for the sake of sounding more like a business professional because of the environment you will be in- you do those who have come to listen to you, and yourself, a disservice. Where’s the fun? Where’s the spontaneity? These are young people you are speaking to, right?”

Mary, Mary quite contrary. But always right.

That night, I scrap my speech and make bullet points instead. Ok, The Naked Truth I think, let’s do it!Next day I’m stepping out in tailored style and am met at The Waterford Institute of Technology by the utterly fabulous duo, Lizzie and Orla, who had a huge hand in organising the entire event. They brought me to register outside the auditorium where the Business Society Logo had been emblazoned loud and clear across a banner “A World Of Possibilities” and as I stood there among a group of highly enthusiastic students, so bright, so full of humour and intelligence, and so poignantly inquisitive and so effortlessly chatty, I realised that the world of tomorrow, will be filled with possibilities, far more than now, because they will be running it.

As I stepped onto the podium in front of a sea of expectant faces, to give my thirty minute speech, my mind suddenly drew a blank, but I laid out my bullet points and looked down at them, the first one being…Speak from the heart.

“Hello I’m Agnes” I said, “and it’s a real honour to be here.”

The lights were bright, my own voice sounded over the auditorium, I broke out in a sheen of perspiration, the words weren’t flowing, where the bloody hell was my heart? I needed to speak from it. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

Suddenly I saw bullet point two, Begin at the Beginning with the naked truth. It had an instantly calming effect. With this prompt I leaned toward the mike and decided to do what I was really good at “Let me tell you a story about a little girl who loved clothes.” I said. All of sudden I had things to say.

Thirty minutes later there was a genuine burst of applause, and I had felt like I had made a whole new bunch of friends.

Orla, Lizzie and Co. gathered around me and were delightfully complimentary, and the positive feedback was overwhelming, and we got together to have a group photograph taken with some rather dishy young men. It was an afternoon that I just didn’t want to end, but of course it had to, and as I got home, kicked off my heels, and sunk into the sofa- I got to thinking.

In the panic of trying to put together a plausible speech, I had lost myself, because I kept thinking I had to give a “Public Speech” but in fact what I had needed to do all along, was give a truthfully private one, in the shape and form of a story, my story. It might not have been business like, but it was intimate and personal, and everyone responded. From the moment I related my experiences as a young girl who loved dressing in her grandmother’s shawls and jewellery, to the young woman who arrived to Ireland with nothing but a suitcase and a love of labels, I could see the attentive eyes and ears of the audience brightening and picking up.

That’s the thing when you speak from your heart, you’ll never miss a beat, and the truth doesn’t feel so ashamedly bare.

So is the truth naked when it’s clothed in experience? When I shared my life experiences in the auditorium with that same love that I have for clothes; I didn’t feel exposed. Maybe life and truth are a bit like a wardrobe, we open them up in the morning and make choices. Sometimes poor ill-fitting choices that cover us up, and conceal the loveliness of our nature, or we take from the rails something beautiful to enhance ourselves. In doing so; we either hide or reveal our identities.

Truth might well be stranger than fiction, but I discovered during my speech- that in all its vulnerability and occasional silliness, it’s a lot more entertaining, endearing, and beautiful than we give it credit for, and it has a vast array of colours and textures, and while it’s ultimately revealing in its nature… naked it is not. 

Edited by Roland Thackaberry 

Photography by Partick McArdle


No comments

Post a Comment

© Vintage Agnes | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig