The Story of East to West
East to West Vintage was founded by Sheba Remy Kharbanda, a metaphysician and creatrix who was raised on the stories of the elegant and multi-talented women in her maternal family. Her grandmother, Bhiji, was a craftsperson, musician and homeopath. Despite her meager circumstances, Bhiji cultivated a life-long love affair with elegance. Before leaving India, Bhiji used her nimble fingers to fashion her daughters' clothes of exquisite printed cottons and silks. Even after joining the thousands of other Punjabis who set sail in the early 1960s for the grey shores of England, and despite challenging circumstances, Remy's grandmother, mom and aunties continued to dress in the styles that honored their origins in a land that, to this day, reveres color in all its shades and hues as something akin to the sacred.
Remy grew up with
stacks of dog-eared photos of these elder women dressed to the nines in
elaborate saris and gold jewels encrusted with semi-precious stones.
From the stories she is told, Remy knows that even though dressing so
boldly and differently in what was then a very homogenous London caused
her mom and aunties to stick out like sore thumbs (Brown skin was not as vogue in London then as it is today), continuing to honor
their traditions was a way for these brave trailblazers to remain connected to their heritage and identity.
"To love beauty is to see light."
Remy recalls vivid memories of her mother sashaying down the streets of London in the early 1980s in saris made of richly patterned chiffon and silks which she would purchase on trips throughout Asia. She would accessorize with audacious chandelier earrings made of gold filigree or of antique silver, and strands of beads and bangles of differently colored glass or Papier-mâché, hand painted in a rainbow of colors. Most were culled from the many markets that line the main and back streets of cities large and small in The Motherland. These inherited pieces now hold a place of pride in Remy's jewelry collection (and are occasionally featured throughout this site).
“Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are.”
The idea for East to West Vintage was inspired some time between the Fall Equinox and the Libra New Moon of 2011. Remy was transported back in time during a trip West to see her ailing aunt, Baby Massi (the same woman who would sew and hand embroider dresses for her as a small child). In between hospital visits, Remy would, with her mother and her cousin Priyanka , peruse old photographs of her aunties in their fancy wedding attire, and of her elegantly turned-out parents wearing tailored clothing such as her father’s trademark colonial-inspired khaki safari suit and her mother’s many Salvaar Kameezes (traditional Punjabi attire) in printed poly-cottons in a riot of colors.
Reflecting on Baby Massi's life, Remy was reminded of the myriad ways the women in Remy's family had sought to put food on the table. Often working more than one job while raising children, they continued, despite quite the odds, to maintain the rituals they had brought from 'back home' which included making time for beauty and whimsy. Remy recalls that, until her illness, Sundays were Baby Massi's day for dressing up in her best Salvar Kameez's and jewelry - much of which was made by her own hands - and attending the Gurudwara (Sikh place of learning). And Remy's mother maintained a gloriously envious shoe, sari and jewelry collection all through Remy' childhood. This brief journey through Remy's family's rich history sparked the idea for East to West Vintage.
"We have no art. We simply do everything as beautifully as we can."
Remy learned an important lesson from those who came before; that sacrifices sometimes have to be made in life. But one should always stay true to one's core identity. For the women in Remy's family, remaining connected to the ethereal feminine through cultivating personal style was a way to ground in who they are and had always been. Remy considers this an important teaching and legacy. And East to West Vintage is her way to honor this bequeathment.
The name of this "cottage industry" is a tribute to Remy’s heritage and identity as a woman of Eastern origin (of the Old World) displaced to the West (to the New World). East meeting West.
Friends and family have been key to getting East to West Vintage off the ground. Remy is so grateful for the talented and beautiful women (and men) who grace her life. In particular, she owes thanks to Michele Richards for her humor and graphic design skills. Michele is responsible for East to West's stunning logo and the initial photography. Remy also owes a massive debt of gratitude to Anne Mourier DeFalco who, in collaboration with Remy's partner William Charles Moss, styled and photographed the photos for the Etsy shop. And lastly, Remy is glad that after many years of estrangement, this project has been cause amongst others to bring her closer to her talented and supportive cousin, Priyanka Mac who has offered invaluable insight and suggestions on putting this website together. This project could not happen without the legacy of Remy's family but equally without the support and generosity of her community.
"Beauty will save the world."
This project is occurring at a key time for Remy and through it she hopes others are brought to the same place of joy and harmony as she. On her path to wholeness and individuation, Remy has become aware of how empowering and healing it can be to reclaim the beauty and majesty of the body. As a survivor of sexual assault and growing up in an era when racism was less veiled than it is today, Remy has spent a good chunk of her life ashamed of her body and reluctant to be seen. Thus, taking care of her body, adorning it in ways that feel beautiful and liberating to her, has been a way to redeem what was momentarily sullied but which is forever sacred.
When not sourcing and modeling all manner of vintage finery, Remy occupies her time as an energy worker, counseling astrologer, intuitive medium/empath, entrepreneur, filmmaker, storyteller, poet and writer.
Connect with her here: www.shebaremy.com