TORONTO - Gord Downie has always been a flamboyant showman. For the Tragically Hip's latest tour, he's wearing that style on his sleeve.
Downie has been sporting a collection of brightly coloured metallic leather suits during the band's Man Machine Poem Tour, which kicked off in Victoria on Friday.
They include bold creations in hot pink, turquoise, silver and gold — an unusual colour palette for a rocker more often seen in subdued tones, says Downie's fashion co-conspirator, Izzy Camilleri.
"When you think of Gord Downie you think of a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of a guy," says the Toronto-based clothing designer.
"You don't think of hot pink metallic leather. Now we do."
Camilleri says she and Downie started collaborating on the look last September, before he learned he had terminal brain cancer.
Camilleri says Downie kept his wardrobe plans secret from his bandmates. He only revealed his wild look at the tour's kickoff in Victoria, when he strode onto the stage in the hot pink suit.
"It's really appropriate and something I never thought that he would be into," Camilleri said Monday of the bright colour palette, describing this tour as "a celebration."
"I think he wears them so well and he's been having a lot of fun with it."
Later that night, he put on the silver outfit, then the gold.
At the Vancouver show on Sunday, he walked out in the turquoise outfit, and later donned the silver and gold suits. All are adorned with metallic zippers and are very much in the vein of David Bowie, says Camilleri.
"Bowie is one of Gord's idols," she says, noting she helped dress the late rock legend for his Toronto-shot music video "Dead Man Walking" in 1997.
"And it wasn't really something that he realized but I kind of let him know that these colours are very Bowie and that Bowie was going to be with him."
Each suit is paired with a custom-made hat inspired by Bob Dylan, adorned with feathers: a black hat for the gold suit, a mauve-grey hat for the silver suit, and a white hat as the finishing touch for the pink and turquoise suits.
Downie was very hands-on with this part of the outfit, crafted with the help of milliner Karyn Gingrass of Lilliput Hats.
"We sat for three hours and picked feathers," says Camilleri, who dressed Downie in three leather suits (black, white and brown) for last year's Fully and Completely tour.
"It's been a really great experience for him even just during this horrible time for him. It's always made him really happy to be working on this."
Even Downie's ankle boots are custom-made. Camilleri says Jeff Churchill of the Toronto-based footware company Jitterbug Boy lasered the lyrics of "Ahead by a Century" into the leather soles.
The tour wraps Aug. 20 in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ont., with a concert set to be broadcast and streamed live on CBC-TV, CBC Radio and cbcmusic.ca.
So far, concertgoers have raved about emotional live shows performed by the high school pals, whose Canadiana-tinged anthems include "Bobcaygeon," "At the Hundredth Meridian," and "Ahead by a Century."
Camilleri says the 52-year-old Downie, diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma, is keen to make this tour one to remember.
So far, his efforts seem to be working.
"The outfits are shining even more through him because he's just doing such an awesome job," she says.
"I guess right now he's pulling out all the stops. And why not?"