“Over my dead body,” came the reply.
Guests recounted how Singam had skipped school aged 12 to catch a glimpse of Princess Diana on Swanston Street during a mid-80s tour. And how during his funeral, mourners spotted a handbag in his open coffin.
Caroline Ralphsmith, chief executive of the Melbourne Fashion Festival, told those assembled: “He had a charming and disarming way of using formalities and protocol that made people feel special.
“Shiva’s affinity with people, his intellect and his natural ability to connect … made it impossible to not get swept up in the exciting ride he was offering.”
Via a video, former foreign minister Julie Bishop also paid tribute.
In the early 1990s, Singam managed his family’s Curry Club Cafe in Bridge Road, Richmond.
By 1996, he spoke to The Age, listed as a 22-year-old socialite from Balwyn North, as he rubbed shoulders with former premier Jeff Kennett, garden designer Paul Bangay and restaurateur Maurice Terzini in a best-dressed list during Cup week.
“Exotic, eclectic and a lot of fun is my style. I mix a lot of European designers with traditional garments and that really exemplifies my look. Then I clean it up with Indian jewellery or accessories,” he said.
Actor Sharon Johal, who shared an Indian heritage with Singam, remembers well the first time she laid eyes on him as he wandered past her in a glorious cape at the races.
“I turned to my husband and said ‘Who the f— was that?’ and that’s how our love story began,” she said.
“Shiva helped me personally further embrace my culture openly and proudly here as an immigrant kid in Australia.”
An influencer before the term was in use, Singam was noted for his Comme des Garcons frock coat and Alexander McQueen butterfly-print suit. Once, invited to the opening of the revamped GPO, he wore a suit covered in a postage stamp design.
He was an early and faithful supporter of Melbourne designers, including Craig Braybrook, Kara Baker and Peter Jago.
Sketches of some of Singam’s most beloved outfits were auctioned last night to benefit children’s charity the Mirabel Foundation. There is talk some of his outfits may end up in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.
To his Instagram friends, he was “Arbiter Elegantarium”, an authority on social behaviour and style – but to his friends, he was a deliverer of fragrant home-cooked meals to their doorstep or behind one of countless other gestures to enhance their daily lives.
“He gave all of his precious commodities: his time, his consideration, himself,” author and journalist Rachelle Unreich told the crowd at the gala.
Singam’s death prompted Melbourne to bestow on him what in life he would never have sought nor thought possible: a gala event in his honour. And a chance, once again, to laud the creative industries that he spent his life enthusiastically championing.
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