For Lover’s Nic Briand and Susien Chong, home is where the heart is, and that heart is named Potato. By Kate Williams. Photographed by carolyn richardson
Potato is the center of attention in the Lover household. “She doesn’t really do anything, and people come to her,” Nic Briand says of their ridiculously cute grey kitten. “You are such a Russian model,” he tells her. “We actually aren’t allowed to have a cat,” Susien Chong says, “but everyone else in the building had one. So, you know…” “You’ve got to get a cat!” Briand jokes. “You get 10, 12 years into a relationship, and you need something else to talk about.” Ever since a chance meeting on the street 12 years ago, Briand and Chong have been a couple, and for the past six years, since they started women’s denim and clothing line Lover (they once collaborated with Levi’s to create Lover Loves Levi’s), business partners as well. Though they now have an office in Sydney’s Surry Hills, their onebedroom apartment in the suburb of Bondi was Lover’s first home. “It was a glorified walk-in wardrobe, and our dispatch and warehouse was in the hallway,” Chong says. “We’ve got really great photos of us in here with racks reaching up to the ceiling.” Lover first started selling their clothes by loading up the car and heading down the street to the famous Bondi Beach markets. “I don’t think we even hit the gas,” Briand says. “We just rolled down the hill, stopped, and then unloaded it.” “Sometimes our car was so packed with clothing racks and things that Nic wouldn’t even fit in, and he would have to walk down,” Chong adds. Their apartment is clearly inhabitated by people whose work is more than just a job, and there are traces of the label throughout. Poster-sized lookbook images rest against a wall, mixed in with vintage science fiction movie posters; smaller ones are tacked on the fridge alongside childhood photos and tarot cards; and the original inspiration board, from the first collection, still hangs in a workspace off the bedroom. “That board is exactly the same as when we first started,” Briand says. “We pinned that Cat Power image on the board and thought, when we started a label, it’s got to feel like a Cat Power song; have that same sense about it.” The main space is dominated with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that are packed to the gills with books, magazines, and more DVDs than Blockbuster. “I think we actually buy more DVDs than we could humanly watch,” Briand says. “We go to Virgin Megastore when we get to New York, and we buy baskets full of stuff.”
nesting the original cat power inspiration board; briand and chong in their hallway; the original potato; a small showing of the dvd collection; even the dining table is covered with books.
lookbook images mingle with posters and asyet-to-be hung art; relics of briand’s rock ’n’ roll dreams and toe shoes signed by a dancer in the sydney ballet; the bedroom complete with one of lover’s denim pieces; chong and briand on the front porch; a friendly reminder.
“And then there’ll be a rainy Sunday afternoon, and we’ll pull something out and be like ‘This is still in its wrapper!’” Chong says. “Yeah,” Briand adds, “I had to take a couple of things out of their wrappers before you came around.” There are also two nearly identical mid-century credenzas in the living room, both of which are laden with stacks of magazines, books, and vases of flowers. Chong points at one and says, “That was the first piece of furniture we bought together.” It sounds incredibly sentimental, until she adds, “And we think we got duped.” They both burst out laughing. “We paid way too much for it.” She motions toward the other. “And then that one over there was about $14.” “We sometimes ask people, ‘Which one do you think we paid more money for?’ They always say the cheap one,” Briand adds. It’s winter in Sydney, and though it’s only 4:30 in the afternoon, the last remnants of daylight are filtering through the stained glass windows in the living room, and the couple have soft rock (in this case, loud rock ’n’ roll at a soft volume) playing and Diptyque candles burning. Potato rolls around in the middle of the floor. “Look at her,” Chong says. “She’s just showing off!” Two guitars sit in the corner, evidence of Briand’s long-harbored desires to be a rock star. “I wanted to be in a band,” Briand says. “You know, we’re 33 now, and every year, I’m like, ‘Next year’s the year that the band kicks in!’ But it’s funny, we’ve just kind of fused all of that into the label. We’ve always looked at it like it was a band, and every time we put out a collection, it’s like we’re putting out an album.” Lover’s collections have always been strongly influenced by music, and the apartment is no different: A small, framed photo of a shirtless and sweaty Black Flag-era Henry Rollins hangs on the wall above an amp (“That’s my inspiration in the morning,” Briand says), upon which sits an autographed pair of ballet shoes—Chong was a ballerina throughout her teens—and Briand’s fedora (“What Nic wears when he’s feeling like Bob Dylan,” Chong teases). When we leave to go to dinner, I notice a handwritten sign on the back of the door that reminds “susien: house keys? car keys? wallet? mobile phone?” The apartment is only a few minutes from Bondi Beach, and we walk down. “Sometimes people think we’re being ironic for living in Bondi,” Briand says, “because we don’t exactly strike them as beachy, outdoorsy types. But I think when we moved here, we had every intention of becoming those people.” “We were like, ‘We’re going to get up early and jog down to the beach.’” “And it never eventuated.” “On the rare occasions that we do go down to the beach, though, it’s magical,” Chong adds. “I always tell Nic ‘We’ve got to come down here more! It’s only 10 minutes away.’”