Building a Legacy
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
“You sound like you look beautiful today”...
Thats how my Dad would speak to me over the phone. Today marks the 10 year anniversary of his passing. Some days it feels like it was only yesterday we were laughing and sharing stories, then other days feel so much heavier and every bit the 10 years since I last heard him say those words.
With a cool quiffed up pomade, Dad was first and foremost a hot rod and custom car designer / builder. His passion was for traditional 50’s and 60’s custom cars and old school American muscle, the full metal body ‘don’t make them like they used to’ type of cars.
An artist in his own right, he was very well known in the car community with the quality of his work admired and equally desired by fellow car enthusiasts. Customers would travel from all over the country hoping to get Dad’s ‘award winning’ stamp on their rides with quality and a wild imagination always at the forefront of everything he touched.
He didn’t believe in reproduction parts or using modern day machinery. Everything was done by hand, the traditional ‘old school’ way, the hard way, the longest way but in his words ‘the right way'.
He’d spend hours, sometimes days in the garage making fancy little brackets for an engine bay or a custom mould for the body. More often than not, the parts he’d spend so much time making, were things you could buy over the counter for a couple of dollars, but it was his personal standard of quality that always rivalled inferior products.
When dad passed, I vividly remember so many people accompanying their condolences with, ‘your Dad was an incredible artist’ or ‘no one built cars like your Dad’ and ‘your Dad’s legacy will be carried on in you’.
I remember every time I heard those words, I’d reflect on all the times over the years I’d spent with him in the garage, passing spanners, holding doors, holding boot and bonnet lids, helping him sand and paint and the hours I’d just sit and admire him tirelessly building these beautiful works of art to life.
Every time someone shared those words of admiration for my Dad’s craft, I’d smile with such pride and gratitude knowing that in some way I was part of that history, that I witnessed magic in the making, and the man that everyone held in such a high regard, was my Dad.
He had built a legacy. A lasting legacy that people still talk about today, one we can still physically admire, touch and enjoy, because the longevity of craftmanship was in the quality of his work.
I recently rolled out the mustang from the garage (my 65 coupe Dad built me when I got my licence), gave her a good clean and took her for a little drive. Subconsciously, I’m sure It was me just wanting to feel close to Dad, knowing his anniversary was fast approaching.
I ran my hand over the converted custom built dash I had watched him spend hours forming and sanding by hand, then down to the floor, where he'd removed the old rusted sections before welding in new floor pans, and in that moment I realised, in a world full of so much forgettable, some things will always be memorable and something with class and quality can last beyond a lifetime.
Sliding the key into the ignition, hearing the purr of the motor and that familiar smell of petrol wafting through the air, always connects me back to Dad, and a world of quality and a world of memories.
Coming up to Dad's 10 year anniversary, it got me thinking about what kind of legacy I might leave on this world. What will people remember me for, what will I accomplish and what will I leave behind? Will any part of my story be an inspiration to the next generation of 14 year old kids flicking through the pages of magazines with big wild dreams just like my Dad had done as a little boy?
Not long after I started Bella Leopardo, a friend joked about how cool it would be if my shoes popped up in a vintage shop 30 years from now. I knew right then, that was my bench mark and quality would always be at the forefront of every decision I made.
Just like my Dad who built his career on quality and craftsmanship,
I wanted to create classic, well-made investment shoes that were built to last.
Shoes I would be proud to put my name on and be every bit worth someone's hard-earned dollars. Shoes that would outlast seasons and trends and become a failsafe wardrobe staple she will still be loving and reaching for in years to come.
Shoes, that may just last beyond a lifetime.
I know some people might buy them, wear them a couple of times and then store them in the wardrobe, and that’s ok. They are made to last and even if they don’t wear them out because they love them too much, someone from a future generation will.
My hope is for Bella Leopardo, in some small way, to carry on Dad’s legacy of true craftsmanship and commitment to quality in my own unique way.
My now 60' year old mustang Dad built all those year ago, is a perfect example and proof that, quality has a value that needs no justification.
Many people say I’m Kenny’s daughter, and I’m so ok with that. Not only do I share his eyes and passion for the custom car culture and everything from that era, but I also inherited his work ethic, his attention to detail, his appreciation for quality and design, his natural creative flare and his wild imagination!
He might not be here today to share in my achievements and little wins, but I know he’d be looking down today smiling, knowing that his little girl followed her dreams and building a legacy of her very own.
I can still hear his voice,
'keep the mustang clean', 'don’t slam the doors',
'did I tell you, you sound like you look beautiful today!'
Love you Dad, then, now and always.
Love Bella x
Featured in the blog images, shop the ROYAL & the PROWLER here!
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