Africa, ancient Nairobi is the land of my birth. Exciting, diverse Britain has shaped my life. But the beautiful, lush and vibrant Punjab rich in tradition is my spiritual birthplace. Dad, Harbhajan Singh Chatwal was born in Amritsar, India and my mother, Balbinder Kaur Chatwal (née Rekhi) was born in Mombasa, Kenya. When I was just a year and a half, we left Nairobi and arrived in the U.K. So my natural inclination towards an eclectic fusion of different countries began at a very early age.
Growing up in Croydon, South London in the 70’s was tough. Our Sikh traditions and culture pulled one way and the western influences of our peers in fashions, food and behaviour pulled in the other direction. I wanted to belong and absorbed my Britishness along with so many other races and cultures that lived side by side, growing to accept eachothers’ differentness.
I was proud of who I was. Proud to converse with my mother in Punjabi and with my father in English. Both upheld our Sikh faith which to this day, is very close to my heart. Not just bi-lingual but proud of fusing together the culture of my heritage and the British way of life of today.
It was at a very early age, as I watched my mother get ready to go out in her beautifully embroidered sarees and salwar kameez, that I found myself transfixed as she transformed into a stunning, majestic Princess, looking exquisite and always regal. She would finish off with a huge bindi, proudly placing it on her forehead. To this day, I remember vividly the sparkle of sequins, the rustle of her petticoat and how her very enthusiastic bee-hive had me mesmerised while I watched a rainbow of vibrant colour and supple fabric mould around her body.
This was my introduction to the vibrant colours and luxurious fabrics that have influenced my first collection. I’m proud to have been able to fulfill my dream and always believed and understood my fathers words, “You were born on a very special day, become something, live your life and make your dreams come true.”
I know you are with me Dad in everything I do and I’m so proud to be your daughter.