TIFF SPECIAL: Meet the man who made Nikki Beach

Story by 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. Today: Behind the Nikki Beach phenomenon.

Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

If you build it, the models will come. And so it was with Nikki Beach Toronto, a pop-up bar conversion specially for the festival. Nikki Beach is the white hot brand that founder Eric Omoré started in Miami in 1999. The French-born impresario then took the poolside champagne cabana concept back to the homeland setting up in St. Tropez, then expanding his empire to other playgrounds of the Diddy and fabulous, such as St. Barts, Cabo, Marbella, Croatia, Egypt, Qatar and Panama among the 20 outposts.

Some seven years ago, Omoré took a temporary tent to the Cannes festival; this is his second year in Toronto (Nikki Beach was in the Park Hyatt last September).

But its temporary home this year, at C-Lounge on Wellington, is a natural fit. The team brought in an ocean of white—the brand’s signature non-colour—to drape every inch of the place.

Then they filled it with models. Unlike other temporary havens set up for stars around town (such as the London-based private members’ club Soho House, reported on in this space earlier this week), Nikki Beach Toronto is open to regular paying customers around parties planned for this week.

Thus is the place you could actually have seen Will-i-am  from the Black Eyed Peas mingling with normal folk. Pretty, normal folk I qualify that, all swaying around the reflecting-pool-side bottle-service cabanas bathed in soft light.

“We have many Toronto customers,” says Omoré. “We wanted to be here for them, and to build our brand, to be discovered by new customers.” After all, the celebrities already know Omoré’s hospitality. To that end, Nikki Beach decorated the interview suites at the Four Seasons in the same zen-like white on white. “They are at home with us,” Omoré says.

Sure, I could learn to be at home with pretty people presenting me with bottles of Veuve. (Actually, prices here are comparable to bottle service, and champagne markups in restaurants around the city outside film fest: it will cost you 150 for the basic Veuve Cliquot, 500 for the Dom, and 250 for a 26-er of Grey Goose.)

The DJ booth is manned every night for supper and drinks by spinners brought over specially from St. Tropez. I honestly think every kid’s dream job now should be DJ: You get a cool handle, first-class lifestyle and throngs of fans.

Omoré himself drinks Krug, but the host with the most has slowed his personal partymachine down. Now the married dad of a 5-year-old son, Omoré blends empire-building with a domestic flair—albeit he hangs his hat in St. Tropez for summer and St. Barth’s for winter. When he isn’t jetting around the hottest spots on the globe looking after his interests.

Omoré and team (including business partner, Peter Higney) flew straight to set up Toronto from the opening of their latest resort in the Dominican Republic last Thursday night. Toronto in September is chilly for a crew used to tropical temperatures. (‘Course, we had those but two weeks ago, ourselves.) Omoré wore a woolen scarf knotted around his neck and some very good shoes.

Eric Omoré and Peter Higney inside C Lounge.

He got his start at Club Med, and then mixed up a formula that is a little Euro, a little Miami: “We program the day. Nikki Beach is a daytime concept, that we have discovered works at night too. On the Mediterranean, the party builds at 3:30. We ramp up the music, the food, the champagne to a crescendo at 6 p.m. Then we wind things up as the sun sets.”

Next up on the schedule is a massive Nikki Beach in the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, a place where they can keep the party going long past dusk. And long past a film festival.

Check out Nikki Beach at the C Lounge—tonight and tomorrow, the party is all about The Bang Bang Club, starring Ryan Philippe.

Want more TIFF 2010? Read Leanne Delap’s first TIFF column, and check out our picks for the fest’s hottest parties. Torontoist’s complete coverage of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is all right here.

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