Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Mod in Miami

What would be the point of having a Mod wedding if you didn’t have a touch of Mod on your honeymoon, right? So my wife and I decided to spend a couple of days in what has to be one of the hippest place this side of the Atlantic: South Beach, Miami.

We had been to South Beach a couple of years ago for only a day while on a trip to visit my parents on the west coast of Florida in Fort Myers. We had vowed we would be back soon.

Here we are in the middle of the Art Deco hotel capital of the world. Technically not Mod, no one can deny the fact that Art Deco exudes “cool”. For some reason, 20s and 30s architecture seems to be the perfect match for mid-century modern decor. And just by peaking into a few hotel lobbies, I’m not the only one who had the same thought. The streamline, futuristic, jet age aesthetics go hand in hand with the Mod ethos.

The iconic Eero Saarinen Ball Chair spotted in a hotel lobby
Thanks to the help of the Miami Preservation League, over 800 significant buildings, contained in approximately one-square mile, have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Just by walking around, you can understand why.

I think it’s safe to say that Art Deco is one of the starting points of what we now consider Modern Design. The movement in the USA, especially here in Miami, has found its inspiration in many distinct early 20th century design currents such as Bauhaus, Cubism, de Stijl and Expressionism.

This hotel was recently featured in one of my favorite tv series, Dexter.

Unique to Miami, local architects have come up with their own interpretation of Art Deco called Tropical Deco. Heavily influenced by the steamships and oceanliners of the period, you can see it being represented by details like the round windows mimicking nautical portholes and the steel deck railings.

One of my favotite features of any Art Deco building has to be the finial spire. Most of those "tower-like" shapes have unfortunately been destroyed over time. Those that remain conjure up images of a Buck Rodgers rocket or the type of skyscraper King Kong would love to climb.

Our hotel, the Circa 39, might have been just of a few blocks outside the Art Deco epicenter but it still met all of our expectations for a very reasonable price. With its clean, slick rooms, funky lobby, friendly staff and poolside beds, what else could you ask for?

In front of our hotel. Thanks Mom and Dad for letting us borrow the BMW Z3!
Miami might not be "Mod central" but just like a futuristic 60s cyborg, my eyes locked in on any Mod related objects, vintage scooters being the first.

PX150 with less then 2 miles on the odometer
Nice Vespa but chances are its a Vietnamese death trap
Original Zundapp Bella
Beautiful example of a Heinkel Tourist
No matter if you're fan of Art Deco or not, South Beach is without a doubt a romantic place. I can attest to that!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Having a Mod wedding: Part II - That's entertainment

I mentioned in Preparing a Mod Wedding that music was the central theme for our special day. We basically based the ceremony on a Soul and Rock concert with us being the main act.

One of the hardest decisions we had to make had to do with the songs we would play walking down the aisle. I finally settled on The Precisions’ 1964 Northern Soul hit (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet. I just love that song. It’s upbeat, funny and accurately reflects my quirky personality.

I wasn’t looking for a solonel march to the alter. I wanted to burst in dancing and singing. And that’s exactly what I did. I think the “audience” was pleasantly surprised when Ben, Eric and Christophe jumped up and joined me as my back vocals, swaying to the beat in harmony.

Nikki walked in on one of our all-time favorite songs, It Must Be Love by Madness. No Here comes The Bride for her! It took my lovely lady a while before settling on that song. It’s easy to fall in the tacky and cliché trap. When she revealed her final choice to me, I had no idea she even liked that song. I was elated! The most important part was that I hadn’t associated that song to an ex-girlfriend.

The exit song was quickly picked. All Day And All of The Night by The Kinks was an obvious choice for us. We didn’t want your typical slow paced romantic tune. We wanted to leave on a bang! Obviously, we didn’t take the traditional route. Besides, this was far from being a traditional ceremony. So as soon as I kissed the bride, we put on our shades, turned around and rocked down the aisle. The party was on!

We opted for Signed, Sealed, Delivered by the legendary Stevie Wonder to be introduced for the first time as husband and wife. “Here I am baby. Signed, sealed, delivered. I’m yours,” sounds pretty appropriate for the occasion.

DJ Papa Bill took care of setting the mood during dinner spinning the best sweet soul music the 60s had to offer.

To kick off the evening’s festivities, I had a little surprise in store for the bride. I had been practicing for a month, in secret, a song that is one of our guilty pleasures. Appropriately enough, I sang Adam Sandler’s ballad I Wanna Grow Old With You from the movie The Wedding Singer. Far from a being a Mod classic, my partner in crime, guitarist Daniel Fiocco from Mod band Le Chelsea Beat, gave it a definite 60s groove. I might not have the sweet voice of Otis Redding or the power vocals of a Roger Daltrey but the important thing is that my wife seemed to genuinely enjoy it. I think I pulled it off!

We were very fortunate to have 3 great live acts as the night’s bona fide entertainment. First was my mate Eric’s band, Les Séparatwists. They gave us quite a performance. With classic hits like Peter Gunn, the James Bond and the Pink Panther theme, they had the floor packed in no time. I was touched when my father came up to me and said: “They’re amazing! I could listen to them all night.” I think the band was quite surprised when they were asked for an encore. The acclaim was well-deserved.

Next was Ben & Zoë, better known as The Soul Distributors. Black Clouds was to be our first dance. Let me tell you how amazing this 16-year-old singer is. Picture Amy Winehouse full of potential AND sober. When Ben sent me a link to his demo on YouTube, we both fell in love with his original composition. How can you not? Now if these guys don’t hit it big one day, there’s something wrong with this world. I’m just proud to say that they had their first public performance at our wedding. You should also check out Ben’s Soul record label in the making Papa Bill Records for updates.

Our final act of the evening was my favorite Power Pop French Mod trio, Kid Sentiment. They were dynamic to say the least. The added privilege you get when you tie the knot is that you get to ask the band to play your favorite songs off their new album. Available on iTune, give them a listen.

With the crowd warmed up, I had no problem keeping the guests moving with my own DJ set. Why DJ at your own wedding? I don’t know. I guess I like to see friends and family enjoy themselves and knowing that I lit the fire.

Eric took over and had no problem keeping the floor packed until the wee hours of the night.

Now that it's all said and done, I wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe for the fact that a had raging fever the whole night. But that must the effects of love. Now, off into the sunset...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mod wedding fashions

My previous post focused mainly on a how I got a custom Mod suit made for my wedding. It would be a travesty not to have a look at the breathtaking dress my wife was wearing.

The original idea was to have my mother-in-law make one for her. She’s a very skilled seamstress and this wouldn’t have been her first wedding gown. She did make the dresses for my four nieces. From all the compliments they got, my sister’s children certainly hit a 10 on the cuteness scale.

Sophie and Julie posing in their a-line dresses and go-go boots
Marie, the futur model
As my wife was shopping with her mother for the fabric for her dress, she came across this number. Not only was it exactly what she was looking for but it was also incredibly affordable. Taking into account the cost of the material and the time it would take to make it, this was THE ONE.

Tradition dictates that the fiancé should not see the gown before the Big Day so I had no idea what was in store. I had planned to copy the Prince William approach and be the last one the see her before she nestled beside me but the anticipation was unbearable. As soon as I caught a glimpse of her, I was breathless. I wasn’t expecting to be fighting back the tears. Don’t tell anyone. This should stay just between you and me.

I am now fortunate to have these photos of the moments leading to the ceremony.

Nikki in her white faux fur coat

There was no strict Mod dress code at our wedding. For apparent reasons, Mods weren’t the only attendees. We did appreciate the fact that some people went the extra mile to add that retro touch. I thought I would share with you a few of my top pics.

My beautiful cousin Ariane was wearing an early 70s dress given to her by her mother. It was hand made by a professional seamstress from a Vogue pattern, very sought after at that time. The long coat is a Stirling Cooper of London, designed by Antony Price. Price was known for designing the clothes for the Rolling Stones' 1969 American tour. Lou Reed and David Bowie were some of his other famous clients.

I had a soft spot for Virgine’s stunning 60s inspired dress. With bold colors and funky patterns, she definitely stood out.

I give a gold star to my mate Eric who had a great velvet double breasted black suit with a bright purple shirt. and silk scarf. That is the perfect mix of class and audacity. Well done my friend!

I can always count on my skinhead mates, Frank and Stephane, to show up looking smart and sharp. They are the best bodyguards you can wish for. 

My mate Jonathan proudly wearing his bespoke plum colored suit. His sense of style is hard to fault.

Special praise goes to my father-in-law for joining us in having a custom suit made for the occasion. Check out the ticket pocket!

I have to give it up to my friend DJ Lee Modern for choosing a bow tie instead of his customary slim tie. Love it!

My accomplice Dan Fiocco from the band Le Chelsea Beat is once again immaculate, wearing a smart classic 3-button jaket and crisp white button down shirt and slim tie. You just can't mess with a classic.

The Mod contingent didn't disappoint. Dressed to the nines, my mates stand proud. You can tell that these guys have an eye for details. This has to be one of my favorite photos of them all.

I had to finish with a few more images of the happy couple. So please indulge me one last time.

Parading in my grey suit
Switching to the burgandy suit for our first dance.
It's all about the details. Monogramed sleeve, vintage cufflinks and Ben Sherman chronograph watch