When he was 10 years old (circa 1980s), photographer Laird Kay would pore over the National Geographic magazines found in his parent's Elora, Ont., home and think, "When I grow up, I'm going to go there." A specific photo essay that caught his eye was a spread on the Boeing factory in Seattle. It began a lifelong passion for both photography and airplanes.
On family trips, he would behave on flights and be presented with the coveted plastic gold wings before being invited into the cockpit to visit the pilots (when such things were allowed). He came away from these experiences not wanting to be a pilot, but with the reaffirmation that, "I loved everything about airplanes and flight, from the shape of the windows to the sound of takeoff, and even the food," he says.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, which included a degree in design from OCAD University in Toronto and a career as a wine-cellar designer. Looking for new challenges, Kay's love of photography burbled to the top of his wish list of potential new career options and he did just that.
With pie-in-the-sky dreams, he began photographing things that he loved, including planes. "I'd go out to Airport Road and take photos of the planes screaming overhead just before landing," he says. "I'd focus on the finer details of the plane, not the entire plane. The designer in me saw the graphic composition of the aircraft as a flying three-dimensional sculpture: the landing gears, the flaps and slats."
Seeing a natural opening on the runway for runway-inspired fashions, last year, Kay felt it was the right time to bring back stylish dressing for air travel, with a twist.
To that end, he took some of his favourite images – many of which were culled from his exclusive behind-the-scenes photo shoots for clients such as Lufthansa, TAP Portugal and Frankfurt airport – and turned them into the perfect statement pieces for those fascinated with flight (or with simply looking posh).
Marvel at the aeronautical details most people can see only from 30,000 feet, through the likes of his black nylon bomber jacket featuring a 747 window and blue skies beyond, or the neoprene clutch featuring the tail of a business jet, or a cotton T-shirt that sports the underbelly of a 747 seconds before touchdown.
How does he capture these high-flying images? "I'm one of the plane nerds you see standing by the runway at Pearson, waiting for the approaching planes to fly overhead," he says. "There's quite a community of us out there. I usually go during the afternoons when the overseas flights typically arrive. There's an adrenalin rush, then you feel the jet wash [the wind that forms behind an airplane as it passes through the air], and then there's the euphoria of getting a really great shot."
Kay is already in talks with North American and European retailers to carry his line of clothing and accessories. For now, you can get his chic throw pillows at Teatro Verde in Toronto, and the rest of the ready-to-take-off, ready-to-wear items online at veryplaneclothes.com.