THE IT: Celebrating Jie Matar

Story by Leanne Delap. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

The other night at the Canfar Bloor Street Entertains fundraiser, I had the pleasure of being seated beside some bright young things. It was great fun—I enjoyed them and wondered at the verve and nerve.

But I was struck by the lack of history in the fashion industry of this city.

More particularly, mention of some of our classic eccentrics, I was struck by how fleeting fame and infamy is in this city. The currently current generation does not have a clear sense of what came before. Good heavens, someone must retain the grand memory of the years Bentley-driving Babs hairdresser Robert Gage wore nothing but white. Oh, except for the half-decade he wore only red.

Which brings me to Jie Matar. I first wrote about the self-professed “God of Hair” in Toronto Life when he opened his eponymous Parthenon on Avenue Road.

The new, reincarnated Jie is not on the bright young thing’s radar; then again, neither is the tale of his scandal and resurrection. Therein lies the tale: Fashion is a fleeting business. Good news is that we forget bad stuff. But bad news is we don’t celebrate the knotty stories that make larger-than-life legends like our embolden-empower American cousins.

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LETTER FROM LEANNE: Lauren Bagliore’s fresh start

A look from Lauren Bagliore Spring 2011, a collection that our veteran fashion writer saw through fresh eyes (with a little help from a friend). Story by Leanne Delap.

Fashion reporting has changed completely since my days on the tour. I whipped around London, Milan, Paris and New York for a half dozen years in the mid-90s as fashion reporter for the Globe and Mail before I had kids; later I cherry-picked ready-to-wear shows and five-starred the haute-couture a couple of times as editor-in-chief of FASHION. Though in the years hence I never stopped writing about fashion, I oft maintained that I’d sooner eat beetles than sit through another show. It sounds so glamorous, but humping through the full seven-week tour filing stories made me more tired than a toddler with projectile stomach flu.

That was a puerile dismissal, for I now realize I was very privileged to have witnessed some extraordinary moments: I remember now crying at the first McQueen show I saw at the Royal Horticultural Gardens when the late genius sent models out in filmy gowns shackled inside cages, wading through water. That was the show he hand-carved a leg prosthesis for model Amy Mullins. I sat behind the legendary Suzy Menkes from the International Herald Tribune, and beside Jerry Hall. Everyone was moved.

I was crammed into a gate rushing the buzzy first Theyskens show, where then-Hole bassist Melissa auf der Maur was his Goth bride in elaborate black crepe corsetry. I saw Miyake’s final show, where 30 supermodels were strapped together in an undulating green silk cocoon at the Academy des Beaux Arts. (I was lucky enough to see the real supermodels in their runway heyday, the Naomis and Kates, even the Lindas, Helenas, and Christys at the Versace tribute show after his untimely death.)

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LETTER FROM LEANNE: Marc for the people

The limited-edition Marc by Marc Jacobs tote ($48), created exclusively for Holt Renfrew, and on sale now. Part of the proceeds go to support Vision Spring, a non-profit organization providing affordable sunglasses to people in the developing world.

Story by Leanne Delap, who will be writing a regular column for The Style Notebook.

Carry-alls have become an important accessory. We all drive, bicycle, or tote on transit, many grocery and sundry bags. You feel like a criminal carrying a plastic bag, so you collect reusable totes in a way you never would have predicted. I love the oddball, though curated, cloth sacs I grab: a Harrods bag, one from a bookshop in Martha’s Vineyard, a Toronto Public Library tote, and a plasti-straw Marc Jacobs tote with retro red piping.

So I was intrigued when Holt Renfrew recently launched a limited-edition charity bag from Marc by Marc Jacobs. The bags are like the Prada parachute fabric: High-tech with a sheen. The front is the logo in the form of an eye chart. In short, the kind of item you see and unreasonably want, whatever that says about me-slash-us.

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LEANNE DELAP: At the amfAR gala

Shinan Govani with Ciara Hunt at the amfAR/Dignitas Cinema Against AIDS fundraiser.

Story by Leanne Delap. Photography by Natalie Castellino.

Name-dropping is crass. Unless you are a professional. Panty-flashing personal journalism is worse. But now that we have that out of the way, I’m left with dilemma of how I gossip about a gossip columnist who is a friend.

People who go to black-tie galas all the time mark the seasons differently: April through June, then September through November are society’s hot zones. I used to take my gowns out to play in heavy rotation, but except for spin-around-the-dancefloor loans to girlfriends, my finery has been gathering dust. So I was excited and uncharacteristically nervous about the recent amfAR/Dignitas fundraiser “Cinema Against AIDS” at the Carlu.

The event was notable not just for the million dollars raised for AIDS research, but because it stands as the one glossy event at TIFF for which you can buy your way into a room to rub elbows with celebrities. I knew it would be like riding a bicycle, but I had become invested in the success of the event because I had spent the spring and summer  listening to my dear friend Shinan Govani (one of the gala’s three chairs, alongside departing Hello! editrix Ciara Hunt and Elisa Nuyten, one of this city’s most active arts advocates).

Govani is the Post’s jewel-in-the-crown social columnist (and novelist—Boldface Names, his debut fictional take on the international rabble that are his subject, was a deftly subversive volley).

It has been dead-good fun watching how his growing success and clout plays out in the real world, and a gas to watch how people simultaneously suck up and are wary of his sharp pen. I’d wager there is not a salon or soiree on the world stage to which he would not be welcomed these days. As a side note, he works damned hard, but he really has a lot of fun, which makes it all so much more of an accomplishment.

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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.

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TIFF SPECIAL: Inside the Soho House

Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper, last night at the Soho House. Photo courtesy of Grey Goose.

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: Touring the ultra-exclusive Soho House pop-up space.

Some parties around town are lit by searchlights and paparazzi strobe, but the most exclusive lounge in town has a back alley entrance off Spadina and the only identification is a tiny brass plaque hidden on the loading dock that reads Soho House.

We’ve been colonized by the Brits again, this time for a splashy six-day stint: The London private members arts club (there is a branch with boutique hotel in New York and a recent West Hollywood club only) trucked its signature mismatched couches and lamps up from New York along with the club chef, Paul Gerard.

There is no guest list, as the doors are open only to the private club’s international movie mogul jetset members. The club has set up temporary shop in Cannes for some years now, and did a trial party here in Toronto last year before extending their commitment to most of the festival this year. “It just made sense, this is where our members are this week,” says the club’s plummy London-based publicist Izzy May.

The heaviest hitter, Harvey Weinstein, has brought in a stream of box office boffo, from Colin Firth (who was feted with a giant chocolate cake for his 50th birthday) to Javier Bardem, Marion Cotillard and Blake Lively.

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TIFF SPECIAL: Dressing daggers, part 2

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: Celebrating the inimitable Jeanne Beker.

As of today, our televisions are peopled by a shiny perky army of celebrity presenters, chirpily presenting celebrities. I often can’t tell them apart, so pleasant, nondescript—well, nice looking—and even of tone are they.

They all follow in the footsteps of, and don’t hold a candle to, the woman who is our real cultural ambassador, the woman who introduces us to famous people and us to them: Jeanne Beker. Who is darn well tremendous looking, just not in that talking head kind of a way.

And though I’m a newbie to this spontaneous medium, I hope there is room between the ventilating and the fanning for some old-fashioned earnest appreciation. For I have tremendous admiration of and respect for Jeanne Beker, the hardest working woman in the business. She has been on-air since 1985, first at New Music where she belied the mold of bubbleheaded VJ with her feisty personality and gravitas. Yes, I said gravitas. Call her questions air-balls, call her fawning and you would be missing the target by a mile.

Jeanne has helmed FT for a quarter decade, along with innumerable newspaper, magazine and radio gigs, a relentless schedule of hosting duties at charitable events where she is unfailingly gracious no matter how tired a (divorced) single mum she ever was. Then there are the TV specials, shifts filling in on the anchor desk, and a stint filing for MovieTelevision—not to mention her tireless support of the Canadian fashion industry. Others dazzled by the lights of Milan and New York have forgotten their homeland; never Jeanne.

The great thing about Jeanne is that her voice—the pitch, the sway, how she does voice-over—is how she talks and how she writes. It is why she clicks: There is a through-and-through authenticity to her style. Watch other hosts, they follow a time-honoured formula of erasing their own personality. Their goal is to make it look easy.

Jeanne’s art is that you see the brass tacks. She hustles, she pushes her way through the throng. That is fashion! She fits!

And what she does is damned hard: Even as the senior vet among the television crews of the world, even beloved by all the players, she phones nothing in. Look, I’ve interviewed Karl Lagerfeld, to use the most extreme example in the business, and he makes you sweat blood. The famously taciturn Tuton breaks into a beam with Ms. Beker.

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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.

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