The story of Conchita, seamstress in Elio Berhanyer's atelier, and Ava Gardner.
I am convinced that, if we delve a little deeper into the life of any of the older people around us, it would surely be full of experiences and anecdotes that would be more than interesting to write a good book.
María Concepción was born in 1942, the fourth daughter of a carpenter father and a busy housewife. A childhood that she describes as very good, she lived in a comfortable house, without being ostentatious, in the best area of the Salamanca neighborhood, Madrid, where she was simply happy.
At the age of fifteen she decides that she doesn't want to study, that what she really likes is sewing and, full of courage, she knocks on the door of one of the great designers of the time. Perhaps because of her desire to develop that work and the grace of her youth, she manages to be received by the great Elio Berhanyer “and what do you know how to do?” He asks her, “well pass threads and baste” Conchi answers.
And just like that, with the consent of her parents of course, she begins to work with the haute couture designer of Cordoba origin. “At first,” Conchi tells me, because from now on I will affectionately refer to her with this name, “part of my duties as an apprentice was to deliver the dresses to the homes of the atelier's clients, most of them left good tips.” . I remember that one of the first days, after delivering one of the orders, and it was time to eat, I entered a good seafood restaurant without really knowing if I had enough money to be able to have the dish that, suddenly, I had craved, but the owner smiled at me. I don't remember very well what ticket they had given me as a bonus, but, after paying for the dish, the returns were very high.”
Thus time passed and Conchi rose through the ranks, second assistant, officer, second officer and so on, until she reached first officer.
Ana: Conchi, who were Elio's clients at that time?
Conchi: The best of the society of the moment, marchionesses, countesses, wives of businessmen and politicians, American actresses...
Ana: American actresses?
Conchi: Yes, like Liz Taylor, she had a beautiful face, but her body wasn't much, but for me her favorite was Ava.
Ana: What Ava?
Conchi: Ava Gardner of course! She was a good friend of Elio and made many outfits at home.
At that moment my interest in the conversation rises to the stratosphere.
Ana: Have you met Liz Taylor and Ava Gardner? The protagonists of "Cat on a Zinc Roof" and "Mogambo" (now I'm all ears) Tell, tell!!
Conchi: Well, with Liz Taylor the treatment did not go beyond what my work allowed, but with Ava I became more intimate. I don't know why, but he became quite fond of me and, when he got home, he would enter the room where we worked and he would tell me, “Conchi, let's go have a coffee,” and I would answer, “but Ava, I can't leave my job.” of work." And she said energetically, “Don't worry, I'm in charge here.” In a few minutes she returned with Elio Berhanyer who looked at me kindly and said, Miss Conchita, please accompany the lady to have a coffee.
Ana: Have coffee with Ava Gardner? Don't you think it's incredible?
Conchi: She came around the house a lot, it was even normal. I remember that when we went out into the street everyone would stare at her or greet her "The most beautiful animal in the world" in nature she was even more beautiful than in the photograph. I, who got to see her in a swimsuit, assure you that she had impressive legs, a wasp waist, and wonderful eyes. She was really beautiful.
Ana: And what did your classmates say?
Conchi: Honestly, now that I think about it, I might make my colleagues a little jealous; But I assure you that I didn't do anything special to make her want to be with me.
Ana: And what were you talking about?
She would tell me about the parties she had attended or who she had met the day before. The truth is that she had very bad luck with men, or she fell in love with the one who did not suit her, "Conchi, when they get what they are looking for, they leave." Plus, she was very splendid and she ended up paying all of her bills.
Ana: At that time and at those levels, a woman would pay the bill?
Conchi: It's true, she was very generous and you know, in these cases there are always many smart people who take advantage... I remember one day when we went for a walk together, we passed by a window of a lamp store and entered the store. establishment. There was a table lamp from an Italian brand with a high price. Ava asked me if I liked her. It was really very pretty and I said yes, and she bought it. When we left the store she put it in my hands and told me, “Conchi this is for you.” I was embarrassed, “but Ava, I can't accept this…” and she immediately calmed me down saying “don't be stupid, Conchi, so you have a memory of me.” That's how she was, beautiful inside and out. She was wonderful.
Upon getting married, Conchi stopped working in the atelier of this Spanish couture great. Her husband insists that he leave the job to start their life together and she accepts it with the normality of the time, and keeps good memories of her.
“Without a doubt they were very happy years, in addition we earned very well and Elio treated us with a lot of respect and affection. Yes, it was a great time, and, although my life changed radically, I will always remember those moments with Ava. She was a great woman. ” she tells me with a certain nostalgia.
Conchi is currently 82 years old and has a hundred thousand more stories to tell that I want to hear, our passion for fashion also unites us, and surely little by little I will get to know this woman's life more deeply. Surely it would be enough to write an encyclopedia, but here is my small tribute to all those anonymous lives that should be told and especially to this woman whom I already consider my friend.
I have to admit that, deep down, almost with a bit of healthy envy... I would also have loved to meet Ava Gardner in person!!