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!
O, Canada! Where else would you want to spend Canada Day? The Calgary Polo Club celebrated our country’s birthday in style, with two polo games and tailgating to the max.The 20-goal game, Alegria vs Hawks, was a fast-paced match and thrilling to watch. Nice reach, Fred.But it was tough to concentrate on the game, with a record crowd partying in grand Canada Day style, along the edge of Palmer Field.Former event planner (and American!) Heather Lilly took Canadian color-coordination to a whole new level with her multi-tiered treats. Spectators competed in a foot mallet competition between games, discovering that hitting those balls can be a little tricky. Back to the real game. It’s always nice when there’s a throw-in right in front of your tailgate. But in this instance, may I suggest utilizing the zoom function?Luckily, the play moved away from the sidelines, and Mr. One was ok. Happy Canada Day!
When I bumped into fashion icon Jeanne Beker at Holt Renfrew last night, it made perfect sense: we were in the shoe department. The last time I’d seen her was in the makeup chair beside me at the Chum Building on Queen Street West in Toronto. Before the massive media amalgamation in Canada, all of Moses Znaimer’s stations were housed in the same super-cool building with the news truck sticking out of the side, three stories up. With shows for Fashion Television, Bravo, Much Music, CityTV, CP24 and more being produced in the same place, it made for some fun moments in the makeup room. Fast-forward several years and one Order of Canada later — the snowflake pin is always a sure sign. Besides being in Calgary to emcee the HR charity event, Jeanne tells me she has a “big, fat new project” up her sleeve.
“I’m chomping at the bit,” she says, using a metaphor from the Stampede-approved list of cowboy colloquialisms. “It’s been two years since the show was cancelled. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a new project.”
But beyond mysterious references to the digital nature of said project, Jeanne wouldn’t reveal any details. Hard to believe she resisted my tough questions couched in charming banter, but she’s a pro. She did talk fashion with me, though, assuring me it’s more than runways. She believes fashion is embodied by people, and it’s all about character. I agree, Jeanne. Love fashion, love life!The pre-Stampede party at Holts Calgary was a benefit for Calgary Health Trust, and the bold-faced names were out to lend their support, including luger Sam Edney, four-time Olympian.Country western singer Matt Masters was a natural choice for this hay bale photo op. His shirt’s a classic by Caravan, a Calgary company from the fifties and sixties. Yes, he does thrift shops. Although Matt tells me he lassos most of his cowboy gear when he’s on tour. His best finds are in Texas, natch, and in Mexico. He’ll be performing throughout Stampede, including CBC Radio’s morning show on Canada Day.The already impeccably attired Ryan Scott, left, and Gregg Scott, of Scott Lease and Land, told me they weren’t at the invite-only charity event to update their wardrobes — they were on the lookout for ladies. Seems like they go for the strong, silent types!A celebrity auction featured one-of-a-kind cowboy hats. I had to find the guys who made this Stampede stetson, made by Canadian jewellery designer Anzie Stein, look so good.Even with pressing business with Cher and Cyndi Lauper, the Style Guys, aka Jason Krell and Alykhan Velji, took time to bookend and say cheese, while I hoped my sweaty post-polo situation would be perceived as party glow. Thanks guys! And thanks to everyone who helped out Calgary Health Trust’s Best Beginning Program.
Looking for bold Stampede bling? Mosey over to Joydrop at Market Mall and lasso up some heavenly horseshoes. Not everything at the new boutique is rhinestone cowboy, but I cried a tear in my beer for this cuff by Rebel Designs.Business partners Shashi Behl (on the left — I didn’t let her put down her champagne before the photo) and Lila Lewandoski celebrate the opening of their second store at Market Mall in Calgary. Friends since their Saskatchewan days, the two gave their first location a try in Westhills in June 2012. Now they’ve broken through the mall ceiling, as one of the rare locally-owned independents in the shopping hood. They’re targeting the lower-priced yet designer accessory range, which no one seems to be doing yet in Alberta. Taking a cue from the success of others like Blue Ruby in Vancouver, they’ve Joydropped the concept and made it their own.Featuring collections by Alexis Bittar, Melinda Maria and Love Heals, Joydrop has room for more Canadian jewelers. Lila tells me she’d love to see some Calgarian bling displayed in the store. So YYC designers, get to it!