Generous. Humble. Legendary. These are just some of the words that Singaporeans have been using to describe Steve Dadlani, the beloved late owner of La Vanita.
Born Shewak Metharam Dadlani, he contributed immensely to the proliferation of rock music culture in Singapore, through his store at Peninsula Shopping Centre. Soon after it opened its doors in 1972, La Vanita became the go-to haven for all rock music and football apparel and collectibles in Singapore.
Steve was the familiar face that greeted patrons until his passing on 13 July 2022 at the age of 78.
The humble shop, where Steve took pride in catering to the desires of his customers and warmly welcomed patrons throughout the generations that have passed, is a landmark venue in Singapore’s rock music scene.
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An endearing figure, Steve was integral to the self-expression of rock music enthusiasts through fashion, and La Vanita offered Singaporean youth an unprecedented and unparalleled experience as these collectibles and pieces of apparel were incredibly rare in Singapore during the years before the Internet.
In the 2000s, the store turned its focus towards housing football memorabilia and was a pioneer sports collectibles shop in the country, as Steve shares in a 2002 interview with Asia Business News, on Money Talks.
More recently, he was also featured in a 2018 documentary on the Facebook page 'Singapore's Shopping Mall Heritage', in which he fondly recalls the beginnings of his business and reflects upon the store’s growth.
Visitors of the shop who affectionately remember Steve took to social media to express their grief and goodbyes after receiving the news. As they offered condolences to Steve's family and friends, some mentioned that the Steve was the "nicest and friendliest person that greeted every customer" despite heavy crowds, and that he always presented himself with "warmth and joy".
One commented: "I can only say this: A true great man. Humble and kind-hearted."
Many also fondly addressed him as the "OG" and "legend" as they paid their respects.
"Waaah, legendary figure from our youth! RIP," wrote another patron.
Local musicians who used to frequent La Vanita have also come forward to pay tribute to the man who helped to change their lives.
"The earliest memory I have is getting patches and cool band shirts. The best thing about the store was that they treated all customers the same. We felt accepted going there, no matter how rowdy we looked," recalled Suhaimi Subandie of Stompin' Ground and LC93.
He shared that the store was pivotal to the "early street culture" cultivated by hardcore rock and punk kids, as well as skating enthusiasts. He mentioned that La Vanita's affordable band t-shirts and patches were a gateway into the DIY arts scene too, for those who could not afford luxurious apparel.
Ragu, the vocalist of Singaporean hardcore bands Bind and Shortfuse, also remembered Steve fondly.
He said: "Some of my earliest hardcore band t-shirts I got from there were of Judge, Shelter, and Slapshot. Steve and everyone at the store were always warm and welcoming to us kids. I continued buying band merchandise from their store well into the 2000s, so we've had a long history together. Rest in peace, Steve, and condolences to the La Vanita staff."
This article originally appeared on Bandwagon.