Tay is our Thanksgiving present to the Stylelikeu family. His story is such an inspiration as to the possibilities of where life can take you when you are impassioned and courageous. He was born in a dirt floor hut in Vietnam, where he made toy cars out of clay and used toothpicks for their axles. En route to being placed in the U.S. at six years old with his immediate family (he was separated from the extended one), he lived in a refugee camp in Indonesia. Tay spent the rest of his childhood in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, a town of 2000 – it was so small that it had only one stop light. It was here that he told me he would stare out his window and know there was a world out there for him. He learned about the world that he was referring to by watching “Fashion with Elsa Klensch” religiously every Sunday, a show on everything related to the kingdom of fashion. Totally hooked on style as self-expression, he wore his Levi’s 501s and French Connection shirt with the label on the sleeve almost every day to school. The sensitivity with which he describes this visual of himself in his “favorite outfit of the year” is priceless. Tay recalls that when he was poor, the brand name made him feel powerful. Today, his wardrobe is an extremely well-edited selection of quintessential pieces, some with well-known labels that live up to their name and deserve his affection, and others that are so timeless that they were branded a hundred years ago. The ideal camel Prada blazer, the perfectly cut Junya Wantanabe motorcycle jacket, the “bad-ass” python cowboy boots, and the salmon colored Gucci button-down are among them. His deep joie de vivre is noticeable as much in his massive amount of cultural interests as in the detail with which he describes his discovery of the non-primary color palette during those early years by the sea in Southeast Asia. Tay’s fervor for “fashion as art” made my heart race when he pulled out a plaid blanket that he converted into a cape/coat inspired by Comme des Garcons Fall/Winter ’09 collection. However, what defines him most is his rapture with the liberation of motorcycling and his near-fatal accident that was the impetus to leave the rural Midwest for urban Chicago. When Tay awoke from his coma, his first feeling was that he had “had a fight with death and won,” his second was “Is my motorcycle OK?”, and his third, “Where are my prized, worn-to-perfection motorcycle boots?”
Check out Tay’s blog here.