Tucked away in Mount Royal, along the 14th Street SW corridor, you’ll find The Heather Company for design and decor. The boutique features hard-to-find bedding, drapery, cushions and fabric.On this particular day, founder and creative director Heather Draper is too busy being hostess with the mostess to take time out for a posey pic. Keeping her clients’ flutes topped with champagne takes priority as she celebrates her latest creative collaboration.The interior designer prides herself on keeping the catalog status quo out of her store. Now, to compliment her own bedding line, The Heather Company Collection, and a curated selection of furniture pieces, she’s found the perfect paintings: abstract acrylics and mixed media on canvas, by a local artist.Glamazon fashionista Samantha Da Silva is that local artist. Originally from Brazil, Samantha now calls Calgary home. Her fearless approach to fashion is a sartorial indication of the art education she also provides, in a course called Fearless Abstract — which is not only a fabulous fit, but also the opportunity for a double entendre.There’s original art in every nook and cranny of The Heather Company. I spotted these glass bowls by another Calgary artist, Michelle Atkinson. They’re part of her Jewel Notes glassware and sculptural pieces collection.In case you’re wondering, all the art at The Heather Company is available for purchase. Except for the painting that sold during the party!
“What is going to be healthy and delicious, and also make me happy?”The host of Literary Death Match is starving. Maybe not quite to death, but definitely in that just-got-off-a-plane and made-it-through-customs kind of way. Yet Adrian Todd Zuniga is not the type to order off a menu without some intense Q&A.
I get it. We’ve met at Joey’s Eau Claire, just around the corner from the Westin, the Wordfest hotel of choice, so I can do some grilling of my own. Once Adrian finishes his blackened basa, I want to know — what will he be wearing tonight as 4 authors face off onstage?A cornflower blue suit. Of course.
Literary Death Match is a traveling word circus. With Adrian as its ringmaster, no staid, snooze-inducing readings are allowed on his world stage. The show, which visits dozens of cities a year, is Def Poetry Jam meets American Idol (minus the meanness) meets Double Dare.
The Los Angeles-residing, Missouri-born author and screenwriter created LDM eight years ago. This is his second visit to Calgary. Being a man of style, he abhors being seen in the same outfit twice.
“I rotate through suits. It’s very important for me not to wear the same thing in the same city. It would be lame.”Last year Adrian wore a red velvet smoking jacket, which bookended nicely with 2013 competitor Todd Babiak, no slouch in the wardrobe department himself. See my style feature on Todd here.
Besides making sure he didn’t lame out with a suit repeat, Adrian didn’t feel comfortable wearing a bow tie back-to-back with his last appearance in Calgary. Also important to note: “I don’t wear bow ties on dates. I think it’s too much of a statement. I think I’m a more subtle gentleman on that front. But I do wear suit jackets to pretty much everything.”Even while our interview cuts into his pre-show quiet time, he has the rumpled flair of someone out of a Robert Doisneau photograph.
Like “The Kiss” sans a girl to kiss. Which is confirmed when Adrian volunteers, apropos of nothing, “I haven’t kissed a girl in Calgary yet.” Later that night, onstage, he mentions he is single.The downside of his fashion daring can have drawbacks. Like when he told his friends his new suit was the ultimate in Don Draper. They said, ‘You mean the Pete Campbell suit?’
Luckily, the Sterling Cooper doppelganger apparel on stage at the GRAND couldn’t derail the momentum of the 2014 Death Match. In fact, the cornflower shine only added to the intrigue of authors Michael Crummey, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alison Pick and Matthew Thomas being rated on literary merit, performance and intangibles.
LDM is normally judged by a panel of three, but the only way to compensate for a last-minute cancellation by Mayor Nenshi was to bring in two backups. From left to right at the black table: comedian Chris Gordon, author Carrie Shyder, Olympic hero Mark Tewksbury and author Johanna Skibsrud. I will totally name favorites: even though Mark claimed he wasn’t a literature type, the author of three books was hilarious and enthusiastic. Ginger Jesus, aka Chris Gordon, was a close second, and as he made very clear, sponsored by Hudson’s Bay.
The evening ended in a race to ring the bell, to identify classics from one-star Amazon ratings. Lone stars, as Adrian aptly put it.
Don’t worry, Adrian, I’m not taking it personally. And thanks for this candid with the cows, by the way.
In a wonky Wordfest mashup of fashion and literature, Calgary’s book festival (on right now!) held an event last night devoted expressly to an anti-fashion book on style: Women in Clothes.Held at Theatre Junction GRAND, festival-goers got to experience one of the coolest venues in the city. Built in 1912, the Grand Theatre was a glorious space for live performance. Gradually, though, it sank into disrepair. In 2004, its existence as an indoor golf driving range embodied the depths of its despair. To top it off, developers were about to turn it into a parkade. That’s “parking garage” for my American friends.Luckily a few forward-thinking citizens stepped in to save the heritage building. Some of the old despair is woven into the uber-gorgeous design of the current re-vamp. The box office attendant told me countless people have asked her when the ceiling will be repaired. Sigh.The space is also home to WORKSHOP Kitchen+Culture. Opened just last month for lunch and dinner, it’s named for the original theatre company at the Grand.But I totally, completely digress. Upstairs, the audience was getting warmed up for the Women in Clothes event with a clothing swap, which reminded me of my old YEG days, when my friends would take turns hosting closet-cleaning giveaways. Items not snapped up by the girls were donated to a worthy cause. Same principal here, but perhaps less wine. In a Wordfest-y twist, the swappers were encouraged to pin a note to the clothes they were trading, explaining the specialness of the items.On to the main event, inside the Flanagan Theatre: a reading of some of the stories edited by Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton (Heidi Julavits was unable to attend). The book is based on a survey of women’s emotional connection to what they wear. The stories have a depth that takes us way beyond the glossy pages of fashion mags. In one, we heard from a mother who wears her mom coat, a puffy black-grey or grey-black number. While it has the bonus of bounteous pockets that can carry goldfish, sippy cups and other items needed for her kids, she yearns for a wardrobe that is exclusively Comme Des Garcons and causes constant confusion. In another, we heard from a garment worker who will never wear the intricate and expensive bras she sews. Hilarious and poignant.
The reading was followed by a sit-down with surprise special guest: internationally-renowned-yet-Calgary-residing fashion designer Paul Hardy. He recently upped the style situation at Calgary Stampede, check out my one-on-one with him this summer.The resulting conversation, moderated by Shelley Youngblut, was philosophical and funny at the same time. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off the swap leftovers Paul had brought up on stage with him. Those green pants looked like they would be a perfect fit.I was distracted by the man sitting beside me — one of the few in attendance. It was Calgary’s Poet Laureate, derek beaulieu. FYI that’s not a typo, he prefers the e. e. cummings mode of moniker. The second only poet laureate for Cowtown, he’s already started his two year term with a digital bang, bringing poetry into the everyday on Pattison billboards around the city. He’ll be hosting Wordfest’s Poetry Cabaret this Friday.The evening wrapped up with author autographs, while the final unswapped items remained onstage. I swooped in and got lucky.
Nordstrom is finally here! I arrived at last night’s gala event via a long walk in high heels through Chinook Mall — and managed to arrive at the door without the red carpet. But there were still 5 fresh faced new Nordstrom employees to welcome me to the soiree.Inside, both levels of the upscale fashion retailer’s first foray into Canada were jammed. 1800 people partied around the purses, jewelry, skincare and clothing. Important brand alert: Nordstrom has the Calgary exclusive on Kate Spade apparel.Upstairs, the restaurant Bazille was converted into a VIP room for friends and family. And it was a family event — three generations of Nordstroms are in Calgary to help guide the opening. The family takes an active role managing the 275-store chain.Jim Pattison, West Vancouver kazillionaire and all-around good guy, told me he was returning home from Chicago, but decided to have the plane drop him off in Calgary so he could join the party — he’s old pals with the Nordstroms. I recognized the Order of Canada pin on his lilac-accented lapel, but not the other one. Turns out Jim is also a member of the Order of British Columbia.You know Nordstrom is a big deal when you find the Mayor of Calgary at the opening. The last time I bumped into Naheed Nenshi, it was during his heroic handling of the Calgary floods. Now, after our emergency response center recently re-opened to deal with the aftermath of our September snowstorm, it’s nice to see him at something a little less sweaty and more social.Outside the VIP room, liberally-poured Rose enhanced the shopping experience.Casey Wagar, lover of all things fancy, was loving his Chardonnay.Photo ops were everywhere, including with the 30 live mannequins on display throughout the store.Fraser Abbott was on hand to quality-check the delicious edibles provided by Hotel Arts’ Chef Duncan Ly.Bumped into the amazing Cynthia Moore, who’s jetting off next week to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, just one year after kicking flesh-eating disease in the you-know-what. Meanwhile, Jay Skelly of Holt Renfrew swears he was no spy — just an innocent partier.No Scandinavian reserve here. Erik and Julie Nordstrom mingled with Beth and Terry Drayton, enjoying the party (with some particularly fabulous cowboy boots in the background). And they should — the evening raised $180,000 for Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and United Way of Calgary.More of those mannequins, trying to make those white pillars look good. Sprinkled throughout the contemporary Nordstrom decor, they’re a structurally necessary holdout from the previous Sears space.Tucked in between the escalators and the shoes, Toronto-based recording artist Sean Jones sang to throngs of adoring women…… who didn’t mind one bit when he jumped off stage to dance with them. I’m sure Nordstrom appreciated the fact he sang the “Forget you” version of Cee Lo Green’s hit tune.This security man’s job is just beginning… because the opening party continues tomorrow, bright and insanely early, with the Nordstrom Chinook Centre Pre-Opening Beauty Bash. On Friday, September 19 from 7:30-9:30 am, enjoy complimentary consultations and demos at the main Nordstrom entrance in the mall. Expect to see hot makeup brands including Butter London, Dolce & Gabbana and Tom Ford. Everyone’s invited.
Lori Bacon’s outfit may be water-resistant. After all, she is the president and owner of Swimco, a Canadian retail success story based on a bathing suit narrative. She’ll be at the Westin next week to help entrepreneurs build brand legacy and growth strategy. I’ll be there, so expect Blue Besos to go from niche to mainstream in, oh, the next few weeks, after listening to the wisdom of Lori’s 30+ years of entrepreneurial experience.In addition to listening to Lori’s presentation, plan to participate in a mysterious-but-intriguing-sounding “Connecting Activity,” enjoy some Q&A action and a glass of wine, all in a tight two hours! The event is September 24. Get your tickets here. I hear they’re selling out fast.
Calgary’s downpour last Friday made the normally buzzing Stephen Avenue a desolate place. Perfect for the opening night of Venus in Fur, presented by Alberta Theatre Projects!From the nosebleed section on the Martha Cohen Theatre, aka Tier 2, I had a wonderful view of the stage. Even the cheap seats are fab in this room.… although the leg room is a little tight. But I forgot about my knees jammed up against the railing as soon as the lights went down. Plus you’re allowed to drink during the performance. Although alcohol wasn’t required to make things interesting — I was riveted. Promoted by a saucy photo of a woman in thigh-high boots held up by garters, you expect this provocative play to be purely about pleasure and punishment. But it ends up being much more complex and intriguing, and will get you talking about a multiple of social issues beyond sex, to gender politics. The cadence of theatrical delivery makes it easy to watch. Just when it starts to get really serious, there’s a comic break that cuts the tension. Actors Tim Campbell and Amanda Lisman accept a champagne toast after the premiere, with Artistic Director Vanessa Porteous behind them. Apologies, Amanda , for catching you on the way to a blink and obscuring your baby blues. Not only is she beautiful, her performance, switching between wildly different characters, was thrilling. Go see this play!Afterwards, we stopped in to the new-ish Chicago Chophouse, next door to the theater complex, across from the skating rink (which, I’m pleased to say, despite our snowstorm last week, is still in liquid form). They didn’t balk at our 10:30 pm arrival, and we proceeded to have a fantastic meal. A surprising Caesar salad — the lettuce seemed more bibb than romaine — was light and lovely, with strips of The Best Bacon I’ve Ever Had alongside. Filet mignon was served a perfect medium rare.
Even though it was Friday night, the place was kind of empty. Although I think the cavernous heritage room in the Burns Building (no relation, unfortunately) would be hard to energize even if the restaurant was jammed. I humbly suggest filling the empty white walls with murals, Ayn Rand style. Chicago Chophouse has a cool Art Deco thing going on, but it’s not quite there. Although the decor was the perfect backdrop for our formal black attire.
For most of the 2500 guests who attended the oh-so-elegant Diner En Blanc, it was beaucoup de travail. Pulling together a sensational outfit, tout en blanc. Waiting until the last-minute communique for the muster point. Traveling en masse par l’autobus to the secret location. Carting chairs, tables and gourmet picnics up to the field at Pumphouse Park.But after setting everything up, it was oh-so-worth it. Especially if you could flaunt your white on white coordination down to the bag you schlepped your meal in.Starting in a Parisian park 26 years ago, Dîner en Blanc is now an international exposition of all the best Frenchie things: joie de vivre, friendship, elegance and gallantry. Held in approximately 50 cities around the world, this was Calgary’s second time at the enchanted evening rodeo, where diners gather in a secret location, by invitation only.Those who attended the Parisian-themed pop-up picnic courtesy of major sponsors avoided the shlep, sitting down to a beautifully appointed table in a prime location close to live music, complete with service and gift bags. This was despite Core Value Number Four listed in the lengthy rules and regulations of Diner En Blanc International, which states that “There are no VIPs and no VIP spaces at a Dîner en Blanc® event.” However, I am pro VIP, as long as the list includes me. Nordstrom, Indochino, Telus, RBC, Evian and Alliance Française … sign me up!Chef Michael Noble didn’t have to agonize over his white outfit — Diner En Blanc was just another day on the job. He created 600 picnic bags of gourmet edibles that could be pre-ordered, all in the name of The Nash Restaurant and Off Cut Bar, his new venture that will open in the old National Hotel in Inglewood next month.Another person who didn’t spend the day shopping for her outfit was the lovely Miss Treena, who went green while wearing white, recycling her wedding dress for one more fabulous night.My own moment of white glory was this corsage. And pourquoi pas? Diner En Blanc makes prom style chic. Polo players always have plenty pairs of white pants at the ready.Artist Jason Gogo, one of the event’s hosts, superbly attired as usual, distracting from the fact that the champagne was rose, not blanc.In a city whose claim to fame is hosting the largest rodeo on earth, it was lovely to see the enthusiasm for an evening devoted to elegance. A votre sante, Diner En Blanc!
I’ve always said that polo is a stylish sport, but now you don’t have to take my word for it — Calgary Polo Style makes it official.The launch of the new magazine (brought to you by the folks behind Avenue) took place at the Calgary Polo Club, natch, with cocktails and the Canadian Open. Anders Knudsen of Red Point Media offered up an athletic bowl-in for the 20-goal game.His brogues were made for bowl-ins.Not many people in Calgary realize that polo is played here all summer long, just half an hour south of the city. Seven fields are just waiting for folks to roll up backwards in good ol’ gas guzzling SUVs and tailgate while taking in a game, like those watching Fred Mannix in jersey number 4 trying to keep an eye on the action behind him, without getting steamrollered in the process.Fred Junior and the other players were motivated by Rich Roenisch’s beautiful bronze trophies.The Ranch House had plenty of seating on its grand balcony overlooking the field, but I found it easier to avoid wardrobe malfunction by standing. Shoulders back!Those in the know, like Miles Durrie, Editor of Polo Style, always seem to end up on the berm, where the height offers fabulous viewing … and great acoustics for all those swear words in Espanol. The berm is also where The Men Of Polo tend to hang out if they’re not playing… … with their eagle eyes on Julian Mannix, keeping his focus despite the pressure from the opposing team.Back to footwear. It’s important to make the right choice for a night that includes a divot stomp. Wedges work wonders for the ladies, especially when they’re Tory Burch.The divot stomp is really just a jaunty half-time opportunity for a fashion show on the field.This Calgary Polo Style reader shows his support in style.Calgary Polo Club President Anne Evamy talks speech strategy with Anders. They’ve got both the verticals and the horizontals covered.Besides cataloguing the good life surrounding my favorite sport, Calgary Polo Style puts players in the spotlight. Not only did I make the official roster (yes, you’re reading that right, I’m a minus one — and I’m in good company)……I may have written an article or two for the magazine. Now that I’m a writer, instead of a television journalist, I spend a lot less time on my hair.
If you didn’t receive a copy in the mail or with your Globe & Mail newspaper, check out the free stands at the Glencoe Club, Ranchmen’s Club, Bankers Hall Club, Silver Springs Golf & Country Club, Eau Claire YMCA, Calgary Winter Club and Bearspaw Country Club. Congrats on the launch, Polo Style!
Nordstrom doesn’t open until September, but the party’s already started. Good strategy. Any store that hosts a Stampede Social will fit in to the Calgary way of doing things just fine.John Bailey, PR Manager for Nordstrom, came in from Seattle for a little boot-scooting fun in Cowtown. When Chinook opens in Calgary, it will be the first Canadian location for the century-old American department store. Welcome to town, John! And don’t worry, that’s not The Thing on your shoulder, it’s just my hand.Because Nordstrom’s Stampede Social was at Hotel Arts, I had to stop in to Yellow Door Bistro to say hi to the man with the coolest name in the city: Sebastian Bravo. He’s spreading good karma with Mealshare, adding “buy one give one” items to the Yellow Door menu.Meanwhile, back at the party, Mike Morrison of the Bloggity Blog showed off his Stampede style with his new Paul Hardy cowboy shirt. Check out Paul’s CS Mercantile boutique at Stampede here.And –aaah– the pool. Hotel Arts has wisely located a bar just steps away. With this Stampede heatwave, it always seems to be time for a cold one. Nice drinking with you, Nordstrom — looking forward to shopping with you!