The first TOPSHOP in Alberta has arrived.300+ people patiently waited their turn to pour through the newly opened doors this morning. But even with the most enthusiastic response to a TOPSHOP debut in Canada, the senior events and marketing manager tells me they still need to create more brand awareness.Steph Hoff whisks me away to the personal shopping room so we can chat.”We’re not really in-your-face billboard advertising,” she says. “It’s more organic, through social media and word of mouth.” Besides prepping for the opening event, the marketing team spent nine days partying in YYC — in the name of research. “To understand what the environment is like, understand what the people are like.”Like the flagship stores in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, the Calgary location will feature premium collections, collaborations and limited edition products. And that super VIP-yet-free personal shopping room. Which, I should mention, has a good-sized stash of cupcakes.In the denim dreams department: my hunt for the ultimate classic jean jacket may be over. You can find TOPSHOP in all its two-story glory attached to Hudson’s Bay, at the south end of the mall.
It snowed today in Calgary. Alllll day. After a summer-like 22 degrees Celsius yesterday — that’s over 71 degrees Fahrenheit y’all. But that’s not the big reveal. A vibrant hangover (story of the night before not included) led from a still-tequila-infused brunch to a Siberian hike through one of the largest municipal parks in North America. Created in the 1980s as a small antidote to rampant development, Nose Hill Park is home to a large amount of native fescue, which is a big deal. Grasslands like this are an endangered species.
With my brain cell count at a significant disadvantage, I didn’t realize the wonderfulness of it until a good friend sent this picture to me. I climbed Nose Hill this year. And won.
Peak foliage, as the leaf peepers say in Vermont, where watching autumn colors is a sport, has passed in Calgary. The leaves are swirling to the ground, dry and crunchy. Kinda like my skin, which, luckily is not currently yellow, orange or red.In my hunt for maximum pre-snow hydration, I turned to an old standby, Nivea. In Calgary I could wear this as a day cream during winter. Pure and natural moisturizing night care keeps my skin hydrated for hours. 95% naturally sourced incgredients. And no parabens, silicones, colorants or mineral oils.But when I want something a little lighter, ie an actual daycream, I’ve been using Aqua Effect nourishing daycare. Don’t let the almond oil worry you, it goes on as a nice, light lotion with the classic Nivea baby soft scent. Creamy but easy to smooth onto your skin without any oily feeling.This stuff makes your skin feel like velvet. Body Milk goes on thick and creamy, but doesn’t leave your hands sticky afterward. The only sticking point is that it goes on more like a cream than a milk, so it takes a little more time to apply. It’s worth the effort, but if I need a faster slap and dash to softness I usually go with the Shea Butter Hydra IQ Smooth Replenishing body lotion, not pictured here.
All photos taken on the pedestrian bridge to Lindsay Park, home of the huge Talisman sports complex. It’s looking a lot better than in did during the June floods, above.My favorite pedestrian bridge, just a few miles up the Elbow River, doesn’t exist any more. All three super-bouncy suspension bridges got washed out and won’t be rebuilt til next year. City engineers tell me they’ll be more solid, aka more safe and less bouncy. Here’s a run down memory lane, across the old bridge. At least this winter I’ll be more moisturized.
Best-selling author Todd Babiak knows exactly how many suits he owns.“30 in total. 11 in rotation.” The man who identifies as overdressed on his professional Facebook page has a passion for fashion. That’s why we’re meeting at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary ahead of Wordfest, which starts Monday — not to discuss the new book he released September 25th, with promo billboards coming soon to a city near you.
“There’s a stereotype of writers that they’re frumpy and they don’t dress well,” he says. “Because writers aren’t supposed to have any money, they’re supposed to be struggling and they’re supposed to be counter-cultural.”
His penchant for personal style is a rebellion to that — and growing up poor. He started off doubling preppy polo shirts in high school, collars up, and moved on to suits. Still, he’s embarrassed by his numbers, as if it might be a tad too extravagant. As a former news anchor, I think 11 sounds woefully low, especially for someone who wears them almost every day, even when he’s skateboarding to a business meeting in Edmonton (his home base). But then I remember he’s a guy. I ask him how many ties he has. “Oh, zillions.”According to his latest count, he also has a zillion shirts. Todd favors Banana Republic shirts for their slim fit and French cuffs. Which, in turn, can only mean a zillion pairs of cufflinks. These ones are from Artworks in Edmonton.With accessories like this conversation starter at the top of his fly, no one will ever notice if Todd wears the same suit twice. He picked up this Flightpath Designs belt buckle at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Dressing up is the great divide between his books and his business — a marketing company called Story Engine. “I have a psychological switch in the day. I work on novels in the morning wearing comfortable clothes, even PJs. Then I shower and get ready. Even if I’m going to stay at home, I get dressed up to work on Story Engine.”
He’s color-blind, but he knows the J. Lindeberg suit he’s sporting is brown. He’s got a thing for Swedish menswear designers (Tiger is another go-to for Todd) who do that slim Euro fit. “It works for me because I’m little.”A new round of drinks arrive, distracting us from a lengthy digression into the history of pleated pants. The Oak Room’s cocktail menu had so many delectable creations it was a tough choice, but I settled on the Green Park, because of the basil, and substituted Hendrick’s Gin for Bombay. Lemony and refreshing, it also part of the same color palette as the cover of Come Barbarians. But as delicious as it was, those floating green bits made me nervous. I ducked out to the loo to make sure nothing was stuck in my teeth.Which gave me a chance to appreciate the sumptuous lobby. With centennial celebrations in the works for June 2014, the Fairmont is one of the few old-school places in Calgary where you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The lobby is usually bustling, yet hushed. The perfect place to rock my new skinny crops that I stole from the Gap for $16.99. Who cares that they were on the summer sale rack? The fact that it’s not snowing yet in YYC is the ultimate excuse to bare some ankle. Purse, Gucci. Shoes, MICHAEL by Michael Kors. But back to Babiak in the Oak Room, where he was still focused on fashion. “You can’t wear bow ties all the time,” he says. “They’re too whimsical. So I’m probably 20% bow ties.”He looks for ones that are hand-made in small batches. Last time he was in Brooklyn, he discovered a boutique where he picked up this Pierrepont Hicks bow: 100% cotton and 100% hipster.“Also, I like the way an untied bow tie looks.”
So do I Todd, so do I.Did you notice the vintage polo photos on the wall behind our table? Of course this is now my favorite nook in the Oak Room.You’ll have plenty of opportunities to acquire your own autographed copy of Come Barbarians at the 18th annual literary festival in Calgary this week. With three Wordfest appearances, we’ll see if Todd ups his bow tie ratio. And if he wears one, will it stay tied?
Think you have to go to South Beach to enjoy a poolside mojito with piped-in DJ sounds of summer? Don’t book that flight to Miami just yet. Here in Calgary, Hotel Arts is the destination for bikini-clad bevvie-sipping hotties looking to cool off.Now that most post-flood cleanup scenes like this are in the past and the crowds from Stampede have corralled elsewhere…… the pool at Hotel Arts is one of the verrry attractive reasons to party in Calgary. One of the first boutique hotels to hit Cowtown, it did an Ace Hotel-worthy conversion of the Holiday Inn in 2005. Look beyond the exposed skin and you’ll notice a camera crew shooting video and still shots.It’s part an Tourism Calgary campaign currently running nationwide: We’re Open! The subtext being that the water is in the pool, not on the streets anymore. Welcome tourists! Of course Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is the star of the campaign. This photo, taken by Chris Bolin (who was enjoying the sunshine after covering the floods for the Globe and Mail) was snapped right after I interviewed the mayor on the hottest, sweatiest day of the year so far… 37 degrees Celsius. Watch the finished video here. Meanwhile, as the sun bakes into our backs, I feel like I can speak for the both of us here: we’d rather be in the pool with the We’re Open guy.
If you live in Canada, there’s no way you can’t know this, but for everyone else who might not have heard: the City of Calgary is currently fighting not become the next Atlantis. Like thousands of others who were evacuated last Thursday due to massive, unprecedented flooding, I’m just now braving the devastation to see how the homestead is doing. So blog posts will be sporadic for a while. In the meantime, mud-covered and sludge-spattered, the people of Calgary have more going on than a Jackson Pollock painting. It is the style of the brave, the hard-working and the ever-positive. And rubber boots are the must-have footwear fashion of the moment.
When Papyrus apologizes, they care enough to send the very best: It wasn’t even a big deal. In fact, it probably wasn’t even their fault. The stationery store had promised to send me a package, and it got lost in transit. But 2 weeks after the mysterious and minor disappearance, the manager of the downtown Calgary location at The CORE hand-delivered a lovely token of apology.Personalized note cards! I just happen to work with one of the most knowledgeable printing experts in the country, who immediately told me that Crane & Co makes The Best Paper In The Business. When the White House requires stationery, they order exclusively from Crane. The 200-year-old company eschews killing trees — it prints on paper made from cotton. He went on to tell me about their embossing technique that uses a hand-crafted die and no ink, but these details weren’t even necessary. The cards had me at Hello, Little Piggy.Just when you thought classic good manners appeared as often as pigs fly…
Alexandra Weston, Director of Brand Strategy at Holt Renfrew, brandishes her FEED bag given to her by Lauren Bush, who runs the charitable foundation of the same name. Pay $40 to buy one of the cotton bags, handmade by Indian artisans, and you’ll feed 25 schoolchildren in India.That’s the point of H Project, the new boutique at Holt Renfrew in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. Satisfy your need for retail therapy and you’ll be fulfilling the real needs of struggling folks around the world. Buy a WeWood timepiece at an affordable price point of $120 and a tree will be planted. A portion of your purchase of Proof sunglasses, made from sustainable wood, will go toward sight-giving surgeries to people in India.Many designers sell items with proceeds going to charitable causes, but rarely do they come together under one roof. Some, like Cornelia Guest and her cruelty-free handbags, were already selling their socially and eco conscious items elsewhere. Others, like Canadian designer Jenny Bird and her Guardian Tusk jewelry collection (proceeds go to the World Wildlife Fund) developed lines exclusively for H Project. In all, Alexandra has gathered thirty brands of apparel, accessories, home décor items and beauty products for the boutique, elevating fashion from style statement to ethics edict. In the midst of all this global artisan accomplishment, a local artist from the Alberta Printmakers’ Society strutted her silkscreen stuff.Limited edition bags, handmade in Calgary, free with purchase at H Project. Take a stand and self-indulge. It could help change the world.
This wrap almost makes the impossible plausible.Spotted in the Victoria Park district: the distinct tartan of a certain luxury goods clan. Tarted up by Ink’d Graphics, a Cochrane company that specializes in creative car wraps, I could almost imagine driving this Cadillac of minivans though the Scottish moors. But then I got ahold of myself and realized my Highlander fantasy makes much more sense when it involves more Burberry, less van. That buckle almost makes me want to take a look under the hood. Some things just make my engine purr.
If an area ever needed a new brew pub, it’s this lonely corner in Victoria Park. Someone told me there was a recent move to rename the area Victoria Landing to obscure the neighborhood’s ghetto past, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this myself. But no matter what you call it, the people who work and live in this part of town don’t have many dining options.Inside, a soft launch lunch was jammed with customers, mildly frazzled service staff and good food. The former Olive’s has been stripped down from a high-end Italian restaurant to the rough-hewn Vagabond Brewery, offering more casual fare and beer, beer… and beer. Still, I managed to order a sauv blanc.I sampled the Kale Caesar Salad (yummy with ginormous homemade bacon bits) and a hearty Pulled Pork Pizza. Also: the Lobster Dog. Deep fried in beer and corn batter, it’s a classier version of the deep fried everything that will be available just across the street at the Stampede Grounds in July. Vagabond is perfectly positioned for noshing pre- and post-concert at the Saddledome.