TIFF SPECIAL: Dressing daggers, part 1

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Welcome Leanne Delap, one of Toronto’s top writers (fashion or otherwise), who will be covering all the glitz, glamour (and Glowerers) for The Style Notebook during TIFF. First post: On last night’s FashionTelevision anniversary party.

Jeanne Beker ascended the glass podium and there were audible gasps from the fashion/journalism veterans around me. She. Looks. Fan. Tastic.

She does: All shimmering in a black sequin dress showing off toned and well—why beat around the bush—gorgeously thin gams and arms. Model thin.
”Herbal Magic, I heard she did Herbal Magic,” said a fashion director beside me. “No way, the Elizabeth Manley thing? She doesn’t look like that!” Said the retail titan.

It was Jeanne’s party and she rocked it. Tuesday night’s 25th anniversary bash for FashionTelevision launched the season, and the unofficial start of TIFF for the city’s media and fashion set.
Yes, it was the first day of school (or the night before the first day for private school mums), but the schedule is competing with not only New York Fashion Week, but Rosh Hashanah and, of course, the elephant in the city, TIFF.

And people dressed quite decadently, considering the 7 to 10 call time. The standout for me was the reigning social queen Catherine Nugent who wore an haute couture Hanae Mori custom cream silk tuxedo. Ballsy as hell in a room with red wine on trays. “That’s life,” was her response as a pair of young men in some leiderhosen-like arrangements lurched by sloshing their grape juice.

Flare editrix Lisa Tant also surpassed in a grand-shouldered Greta Constantine black satin cloaklet.
I personally grooved on Hermès PR director Kate Chartrand in her customary towering heels and crisp cropped grey pants with a tough-ass set of chains on the pocket.
Suzanne Boyd was regal in embroidered leather, and retired to the patio for air in the dense throng.
Bernadette Morra wore a sleek blue sheath and her new role as official FASHION mag editor very well.

This crowd for me was a trippy reunion.

Back in journalism school there was a grid formula for crowd calculation. I do not excel in maths, though, hence the career covering shiny, pretty things. So I will instead divide the crowd into two personal camps: The vast majority consisted of warm, friendly faces I was very excited to see, some from a ways in the past. Anniversary bashes can really rifle the woodwork.
Then there was the very small splinter camp I call the Glowerers. But more on them later.

This seems an apt moment to focus on the one-woman dynamo who is FashionTelevision around the world. Part 2 of this column, to be posted tomorrow, is an Ode to Jeanne (as a print girl, I’m trying to wrap my typing fingers around the digital brevity mandate; I figure I will just keeping chopping up my long spews into chunks; and yes, I may have to wean myself off an anachronistic penchant for semi-colons. But semis beat exclamation marks any day).

In thinking about Jeanne, whose accomplishments dwarf most anyone in the field, I’m always surprised by the strong reactions she incites. Intense love and loyalty (I’ve seen grown women cry meeting her), and then a real nasty sniping that has always pissed me off in her defense.
Maybe I’ve lost the shell you need to survive in this industry, maybe I’ve been flitting about travelling and mommying and I forgot how harsh the air on the game field is, but I felt some real daggers drawn last night, on myself and on others. I figure the number of people (women, let’s just say it, only women pull this crap) who narrow their eyes at me or make catty, directed comments (no, thanks so much, I never will care to hear how just ducky my ex’s new partner is, exclamation mark) is pretty in proportion for the scope and span of my career in journalism and fashion.

In two decades at major publications, I have fired my share of people, given favourites assignments and overlooked others.
Maybe I’m just shocked coming back to the scene after a happy reprieve: fashion is murder, baby. Pack a knife. (And yes, there were. At least four plastic surgeons in the mix, and more than a few sporting some of their handiwork.)
But this is the real meat of the story for me: There were all kinds of people with no connection to the show, FQ magazine, the fashion or media business. What were some of the hanger-on types doing there, besides glowering? Who makes guest lists anyway?
Why would they want to be on them?

Therein lies the thrall of TIFF, too. The glamour sets the whole city to full throb. It has oft been observed that people who never see a movie go bananas dressing up for a 10-day marathon of 4 a.m. cocktailing. Everyone is out just to be out: After a sleepy summer where you could toss a bowling ball down Cumberland, thou shalt not dine now without a reservation in any corner of this city.
Ambitious young (and not so young) things elbow and plot to get on lists. Follow the drumbeat to limo-lined clubs and restaurants filled with others. When we hit critical mass inside a venue, will everyone’s yearning to be part of something finally ease?

As the “official” parties with actual stars (or producers, directors and American press) grow more exclusive every year, Toronto’s social butterflies and aspirational pupae have created a parallel party world. Maybe concentric universes of parties is more apt. Just add a clip-board out front and call it an “after party” and people will fork over. Or stab you with a fork.

That is why the FT bash (and the follow-up goodbye across the street at Ultra to Irish dynamo Ciara Hunt, who after brightening our city much during her tenure at the helm of Hello! Canada is off to Boston) was such a satisfying kick-off to Toronto’s September madness (nasty-pants aside): It was all ours. The limos arrive tomorrow, and the local social set is all warmed up.

One thought on “TIFF SPECIAL: Dressing daggers, part 1

  1. I’d like to see some pictures of the outfits described.

    Entertaining article aside, isn’t that the point (or at least a large part of it) of parties held for the fashion scene? I already know that a large part of the crowd consists of vapid, social climbers.

    And I echo your sentiments for Jeanne. I think she’s done a great job for the industry and I have no idea why so many people dislike her.

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