Dressing Bowie since 1983

PHOTO: The New Paper

More than 30 years have passed, but tailor Manu Melwani still remembers the day he first met David Bowie.

It was October 1983 and the rock star was in Hong Kong for his first performance there.

"He came to the shop by surprise and a lot of clients were here," said Mr Manu, who was then a 35-year-old helping his father at their family business, Sam's Tailor, in Hong Kong's bustling Tsim Sha Tsui district.

"They told us he's a very famous guy, he's a very famous singer. We just treated him like a regular person."

Bowie picked out silk suits for his gig, going for bold purple, pink, white and black.

From then on, the Melwanis became one of his most trusted tailors whom he would invite to New York for fittings every year. He also visited them occasionally when he was in Hong Kong.

"He was very down to earth and he was a really different character from everybody else, his fashion style was very bright," said Mr Manu.

"He was very stylish, he always made sure nobody could copy him. He liked textures and everything tight-fitted, never loose."

Bowie and the Melwanis last met in New York less than a year before the singer's death.

Mr Manu, 68, recalled how Bowie looked "fit", with no signs of his struggle with cancer.

SHOCKED

"When I heard of David's death on the radio, I was shocked.

"I said, 'I don't believe this, I just saw him, he's young'," said Mr Manu, speaking to The New Paper in between seeing to a stream of customers who were there to have their measurements taken and to pick out fabrics from the more than 18,000 bolts of cloth available.

Bowie was not the only big name to frequent Sam's services.

The tailor's database of celebrity clientele include Elton John, Pierce Brosnan, Nelson Mandela, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher.

But Bowie was special to Mr Manu and he treasures a photo of himself, his father, Mr Sham Melwani, and the singer. It was taken in 1983, during their first encounter.

The laminated black and white photo takes pride of place near the entrance of the shop and stands out in the mosaic of the rich and famous faces plastered across the walls.

"He was very good to me, very friendly," said the tailor.

"Suddenly, we lost a very good client, a very famous guy who used to support us and bring us lots of good customers."

 


This article was first published on Jan 18, 2016.
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