I was taken into an office overlooking the workshop floor. Dozens of women hunched over sewing machines and tables of leather, fabric and felt.
I sat down with the founder of the workshop, an older white woman with mirror sunglasses, a bowl cut of salt-and-pepper hair and a flamboyant black and gold suit. Laureline Fond had begun her business in 1985. Thirty years ago.
I sat my recorder on the coffee table as we both reclined on the couch.
“Ask your questions, sweetie,” said Laureline in her sing-song accent.
“Just tell me how you began all those years ago?”
“Well…” she whistled. “I was in my twenties when I crossed the Atlantic. I was born in a vassalage of AlpenHeim. I was working here in a laundromat. I lived with four other Teuton girls. One day a couple of Clan boys came in to clean their coats of bloodstains. They needed it mended and paid me for the work.”
“And that led to you making uniforms?” I asked.
“It just kind of happened. After getting a little extra on the sides mending clothes, a Clan Boss took me for a drink. Nice Boss, I think he died in ninety-one. He asked what it would take for me to make him a custom coat. I did it on the cheap, but he was so pleased; he gave me a month to outfit his entire Clan. Almost a hundred goblins! All of them wanted something made by me! I was twenty-five and had a huge order.”
“And how did you feel at the time?”
“I want to say I was overwhelmed, but I really wasn’t. I was thrilled. Focused. I had spent a few years feeling aimless, like an animal trying to survive. I wanted more. They paid half up front and when I realized what I had to do, I quit my job and recruited my roommates. We finished the order with two hours to spare. An entire month staying up late stitching, sewing and cutting, filling already cramped apartment to the breaking point.”
“What do you remember about that month?”
“Oh god,” she laughed, taking a sip of her glass of Champaign. It was nine in the morning. “It was a blur. I remember being in a routine of sewing and sleeping. I think my roommates kept making this terrible TV-dinner pasta thing just because it was cheap, fast and filling. It tasted like salted trash.”
“Then what happened?”
“Two other Clans almost got into a fight outside my door. They both wanted outfits for their entire clans. At that point me and the girls rented out a small basement and bought a few more machines. Then I made the rules.”
“I heard a bit about them,” I said, flipping through my notes. “Plenty of Clans have rivalries and are willing to go to war for the dumbest of slights. How did you circumvent that?”
“Well, after that first fight, no one died thankfully, I made the rules. Duh, duh duhhh,” she mimed playing a piano. “My office is neutral ground. No fights. I meet clients here. Business is not to be discussed outside. I will never add body armor or anything extra to the uniforms. They pick what I have in the book. If they want to modify my designs? Fine. I’ll cut their ears off if I find out.”
“Maybe,” she said playfully.
“How many Clans do your provide uniforms for?”
“Oh, about fifty-eight now. I get specialized requests regularly.”
“How many Clans still go to war, both sides wearing your work?”
She chuckled, sipping the glass. “Only DownTown Clans really. This isn’t the eighties. Street battles aren’t as common as they used to be.”
“What happened to your roommates?”
She glanced out the window. “They are running things as we speak. My best friends in the world. To think, I was ready to move out the morning I got that first order. Beatrix was a cocky slut in those days and Daniella was a judgmental bitch! Now they are my sisters!”
I smiled and allowed the flamboyant seamstress-tycoon to continue her stories.