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That Papa: Vinay Melwani of Halo Creative & Design

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This month’s That Papa is super stylish Vinay Melwani of Halo Creative & Design. When he’s not working on design projects around the world he’s busy having fun with his two sons Taragh and Roan. He knows the city like the back of his hand and has all the insider tips on the best dad and kid activities in the city. We chat about his fave family-friendly dining spots, the ultimate birthday for his boys in Hong Kong and who plays good cop and bad cop at home.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your family and your career?
I was born in India but grew up between Hong Kong and London. My family is pretty large which was great when I went to boarding school as I had my siblings and all my cousins to hang out and travel with. Even now, both Claire’s family and mine are scattered all over the world from the UK, India and the USA to Dubai, Australia and Fiji! I started my career in the family business but wanted to work in fashion so started at the bottom working on the shop floor at Joseph and then went on to work as a fashion agent representing brands including Sonia, Sonia Rykiel, See by Chloe and True Religion jeans. I then worked in-house for British fashion designer Nathan Jenden handling his global sales before making the move into the world of interior design and furniture with Halo Creative & Design (Timothy Oulton, Oxford By Timothy Oulton, Blue Nature and Michael Yeung). I head up projects working with Interior Designers, Property Developers, Hotels and Restaurant groups.

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How did you choose the names for your sons?
Taragh was named after my grandfather Tarachand but as it’s an Irish name it honoured Claire’s father’s side of the family too. Roan was a Gaelic name we just liked and it was similar to the Indian name Rohan.

What was going through your mind when you first found out you were going to be a dad?
Excited, nervous and thrilled.

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Was it difficult to navigate the school system in Hong Kong for the boys? It’s known to be tricky!
Claire and I both grew up in Hong Kong and as neither of us speaks Chinese it was important that the boys would have the opportunity to be bilingual. So we picked a kindergarten and secondary school with strong Putonghua curriculums.

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How do you and your wife juggle work and family commitments together?
Claire has always been a full-time working mum and loves what she does. She used to head up Luxury Sales, Partnerships and Special Projects at the Financial Times and recently launched 852West with Monica Blanch Wells, a company specialising in  brand representation. We’ve always had both our hands full juggling business and family. We make it work by supporting each other when one of us is busier than the other and trying to make sure we coordinate diaries!

Who plays good cop and bad cop between you and Claire?
Depends on the child and depends on the situation! Sometimes I’m more relaxed and other times Claire is, but generally we agree on how to discipline the boys.

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Your top parenting tips?
Listen to your kids, be present in the moment when with them, be loving and supportive but allow them to fail, so hopefully they will grow up to be independent and confident and able to tackle the challenges life will throw at them. That’s the plan anyway!

What’s the best piece of parenting advice you have received?
That your kids are not you, they are their own people and should be allowed to be so.

Is your parenting style similar or different to your dad’s?
Completely different! He was a very loving father, but typical of an Indian man of his generation – very hands off in terms of day to day interaction. Let’s put it this way, there wasn’t much bath giving, nappy changing or being involved in my activities!

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Has your sense of style translated to your children and what are the best places to buy clothes for boys in Hong Kong?
I wouldn’t go that far but both boys have a strong sense of what they like and don’t like in terms of clothing. They definitely lean towards an English rock band look. So lots of black, skinny jeans, parka coats, V-neck tees and All Stars Converse. TOPMAN, Zara, J Crew Kids and H&M all feature heavily in their wardrobes!

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How do you balance being a husband, parent and director?
You don’t think about it and just get on with each day as it comes!

Any advice for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
It’s not about flowers or presents – I try to remember the things that are important to her.

What’s your ultimate idea of a day out with your sons in Hong Kong?
Going out on a boat for the day or hiking with our dog followed by a movie and Japanese food.

What are your favourite family-friendly dinner spots in Hong Kong?
Little Bao, Umami in Cyberport after a movie and the Thai Chinese in Shek-O. We also love the Fish Bar at the Marriott but for special occasions such as watching the fireworks or family birthdays, we always go to the Upper House. The team there are fantastic and it’s our home away from home.

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What are your top family-friendly places in Hong Kong for a super Sunday?
Hanging out at Big Wave Bay with friends while boogie boarding and eating noodles in the local shop, hiking in Tai Tam Country Park, or taking a boat to Lamma Island for lunch at one of the fish restaurants along the docks and then hanging out on the boat in South Bay.

Where do you go to relax and unwind in Hong Kong?
The location is often different but spending time with close friends and family over long lunches or dinners on the weekends is always my perfect way to unwind.

What are your favourite date-night and staycation spots when you need a break from the children?
Gaia, which is owned by one of our oldest friends Pino Piano, is also a favourite – we’ve had many memorable evenings there with and without the kids. Upper House wins hands-down for a staycation – it ticks all the boxes.

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What are your top three family-friendly holidays and the best things to do in each spot?
LA – stay at the Chateau Marmont, hike Runyon Canyon, eat from the Kogi Truck, horse ride in Malibu and watch movies at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

London – visit the Tower of London and the Tate Gallery, eat ice cream at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Park, go to the theatre and wander around Borough Market.

Phuket – stay at Andara, visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre near the Khao Phrao Thaew Royal Wildlife and Forest reserve, spend all day on Kamala beach and eat at Catch.

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Where should dads take their sons for haircuts and grooming in Hong Kong?
Justinpaul Chambers and Joey at Alchemy by Justinpaul who cut Claire’s hair and mine and have been cutting the boys hair since they were little. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re the go to stylists for Kendall Jenner, Jamie Campbell Bower, Lily Collins, Tilda Swinton and Godfrey Gao when they’re in HK!

What do you love most about having sons and being a dad in Hong Kong?
All their banter! Getting to do things with them that I did growing up here but at the same time establishing new traditions.

How has technology affected you as a parent, do you love it or hate it?
I love it for keeping in touch with family especially through group family chats or Instagram and when the boys use it to be creative like making short films on 8mm. I hate it when their noses are buried deep in their iTouches playing FIFA 15 and there is no conversation.

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When Claire needs a break where do you send her to relax?
She usually stays at home and I take the boys out, as given that we have full-on weeks, she is most relaxed at home in her own space.

What’s the best thing about having friends with kids in Hong Kong?
Most of our closest friends we have been friends with since we were either in our teens or early 20s, so its really wonderful seeing the next generation becoming close and doing many of the things we did while growing up in HK – going out on an a boat to the beaches near Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung, boogie boarding at Big Wave Bay, Rugby 7s weekend, the Christingle service on Christmas Eve and Ocean Park.

How do your kids and their grandparents stay connected while living far apart?
Facetime and phone calls but we are lucky as both our parents visit Hong Kong regularly.

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Top interior design tips for keeping a home stylish but family friendly?
Homes should be lived in so we didn’t make any real changes when we had kids apart from if something was irreplaceable it was moved out of reach! Consider how you live and decorate accordingly. We used animal hides instead of rugs as they are easier to clean when something gets spilled and made sure we had storage ideas that also look good (trunks) to minimise clutter.

What Hong Kong businesses make parenting a piece of cake?
Mrs B’s Cakery for birthday cakes and the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital for drop-in emergencies.

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Best birthday idea for boys in Hong Kong?
The Adventure Zone at the Aberdeen Marina Club, paintball and bubble football – generally anything that involves a ball and running around!

All images in this article were taken by the talented photographer Darren LeBeuf – get in touch with him at [email protected] and read our That Papa interview with him too!

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