Nicky & Chief

February 11, 2011 § 1 Comment


These are my parents.

Well, not yet, they will be. This is before all of that. This is when they were young, and far from home. The self-proclaimed bohemians.

There is no way I could do this blog without some mention of them. They’ve been the foundation of my life, a staple of my own universe for so long, that it’s easy to forget that there was a time before me.

They partied, they travelled, and lived in a groovy apartment with mirrors for walls. Strangers to Toronto, they embraced it, all the while staying true to those fabrics of comfort and vibrant colours of the East. You would think a blinding white landscape of snow would be the ideal canvas for saturated hues of every colour parka, toque, & scarf. Afraid not. The winter city can be a rather dreary place. But did that stop them? No, not at all. I must say I’m a chip off the old shoulder. Winter be damned, I need to wear colour!

I thought I’d get into my vintage roots a little bit, since this is the beginning and all. What better place to start than with the stylish cats featured above, Nicky & Chief as I lovingly call them.

Born and raised in India, Mum has always been so proud of our rich culture and people. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subcontinent. Having traversed its shimmering coastlines, bustling cities, fertile fields & hill stations, she kinda should be. We tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves and Mum, with her flair for exotic prints, is no different. This photo, taken in the 70’s, has the fetching Nicky dressed in a combo mid-riff blouse with floor-length skirt and matching attitude (ok, so Mum’s a stone-cold fox). I take so much from her, literally. I have nabbed every single tunic, vest or dress I could get my greedy little hands on. Old suitcases have been picked clean of its vintage gems only to be incorporated into my wardrobe. She taught me how to spot quality and her daring sense of style has certainly rubbed off. On a night out dancing, you can find me doing the shimmy in a purple & silver sequined bat-wing dress. I didn’t buy that shit at Urban Outfitters. She had that thing custom made! Jewelry, bags, shoes, you name it, I snag it. Wearing her things is such a pleasure I can barely describe it. Thoughts that go through my mind: when did she wear this, did she feel radiant & beautiful, what possessed her to employ a tailor to make it?! It’s a fabulous feeling. As her biggest fan, I can only compare it to what it would be like to slip on Audrey’s Givenchy gown from Sabrina or Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit. There is magic to these garments and I will treasure them as long as I live.

With Dad, what I take from him is his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude when it comes to wearing something ‘unique’. From this picture it is obvious that Dad, is a fan of the Kennedy brothers. There’s a drawing of them he made that still hangs in my Grandparents house in Malaysia. There is something very special about that time. JFK sparked the imagination not of his country, but around the world. I can just picture Chief, in his youth, quietly listening as the transistor radio crackles out that inaugural speech. The whole world strained to listen; and those who heard, I think were forever changed. As a tribute, whether subconsciously or intentioned, Chief is totally sporting a do a la Jack Kennedy. That voluminous side part, finished off with those full sideburns; there’s no doubt about it. Imitation is the highest form of flattery and I’m guilty of the same charge; I’ve cut my hair to look like Francoise Hardy. You might see the odd photo of Kennedy in a Hawaiian shirt, but not in this purple, silk batik variety. I love that about Asian men – wearing colour is not effeminate. Try saying that to Chief and expect the walloping of a lifetime. This is one proper hard dude in a purple silk shirt on his Saturday night and ain’t no one gonna tell him its fruity. I can’t help but notice that crisp white undershirt collar sticking out. That hint of a gent is there. I bet he has a folded pocket-square tucked away.

When I eventually make my way up to the cash at athrift shop, you’d be hard pressed not to find something silky, printed or loud amongst my finds. To me these aren’t the exotic other, the out-there item, that which I dare to wear. For me they are the classics, those wardrobe staples that get reinvented with every season. I guess mangos don’t fall too far from their trees either.


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