The Fashion Victim

C.J. Carter-Stephenson

Originally published in Writer’s Muse, Issue 20.

Nobody could fully explain the rise to fame of Francisco Valentino. One minute, he was just another wannabe; the next, his clothes were a mainstay on catwalks across the globe. There was talk of Machiavellian machinations against his rivals, of criminal activity to raise the necessary funds to get himself started, but in reality, perhaps it was simply a matter of talent, for there was no denying that this was something he had in abundance, envisaging unique designs with unerring regularity. His were not clothes inspired by the work of others or rooted in the trends of the past. Each item was a veritable work of art - a perfect blend of vivid color in a cut that worked in harmony with the human body as though it were part of it. There was no particular theme which guided the work, but there were many who felt Francisco's clothes were like physical embodiments of natural phenomena - a jacket that resembled the raging fires of a forest inferno, a crop-top that was so much like the inside of a tornado it made one dizzy to look at it.

At his peak, Francisco was arguably the most famous designer in the business, so it was perhaps not surprising that he would one day come to work with Chrissie MacLeod, who was arguably the most famous model. They met in an exclusive nightclub, where nothing but celebrity status or a hefty personal fortune could gain you admittance; just the kind of place that Chrissie loved to be seen. She was notoriously arrogant, and as per usual was flouncing around the club as if she owned the place, when she walked headlong into Francisco, spilling red wine all over his immaculate suit. Recognizing him instantly, she struck up a conversation about nothing in particular. A couple of winning smiles later, she was confident he was putty in her hands.

"I simply adore your designs," she told him, fluttering her eyelashes.

Francisco, who seemed to have forgotten for the moment that he was dripping with wine, nodded. "Then why don't you model for me?"

"Do you really think I’m pretty enough?" she asked, though it was clear from her voice she was entirely free of self-doubt and was simply hoping to be flattered.

"Sure," he replied without hesitation, "though personally I'm more interested in putting your unique character on display - bringing out what‘s inside, so to speak."

Chrissie smiled triumphantly. "Sounds great."

Of course, conversations like this take place all the time in fashion circles, so it could easily have come to nothing, but it didn’t. Less than a week later, it was announced that Chrissie MacLeod would be appearing in Francisco's next catwalk show.

When the day came, the anticipation was intense. The press were packed in like sardines, all eager to see what wonders the great designer would unveil.

The show began in a typically spectacular way with flashing strobe lights and billowing smoke. Then the models began to emerge, making their way down the catwalk in steady succession. Their attire on this occasion had been designed to imitate trees and undergrowth - gossamer thin fabrics of silk and metal fibre trimmed with embroidered foliage and flowers, leaf motifs on belts and jewellery, a cloak made of immitation pine cones.

Everyone waited with baited breath for Chrissie MacLeod to appear. It was assumed she would be wearing something to augment her natural beauty, but instead, she came out in a rubber suit that made her look like a hybrid of woman and toad. It was hideous to look at, but at the same time strangely compelling for its realism - a saggy second skin dotted with lurid warts. She was completely enclosed by it, so if it hadn't been for her eyes peering out from two wrinkled sockets, it would have been impossible to recognise her. People leant forward in their seats to get a better view, cameras flashed on all sides.

Chrissie made only one appearance in the show, but not surprisingly she was a subject of conversation for all who had seen her. Afterwards, she sat smugly backstage, admiring the outfit that had made her such a talking point in the mirror. The models around her were all busy with their own affairs, so weren't paying her much attention. Then she started to scream hysterically.

A crowd immediately gathered. At first they assumed she hadn't removed the Francisco Valentino outfit, because she was still covered in warts and wrinkles. Then, they realized to their horror that she was, in fact, holding the garment in her trembling hands.

A few of them tried to calm her frantic howls, but mostly, they were too stunned to move. So it was that nobody stopped her when she fled the room in a blind panic. She ran along the corridor outside, forcing her way through the milling people, and plunged through a fire escape straight into the path of an oncoming bus. Death was instantaneous.

The dramatic change in Chrissie MacLeod's appearance was never explained and the only person who might have shed some light on the matter was Francisco Valentino, who promptly vanished without trace.


The right of C. J. Carter-Stephenson to be identified as the author of this story has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, or a license permitting restricted copying.