How much better can life get for Paul Hardy? Calgary’s internationally renowned fashion designer can now add museum curator to his list of couture accomplishments. I caught up with him last night at the VIP opening reception for his new exhibit, Kaleidoscopic Animalia, which opens at the Glenbow today. Through a feat of accidental iCamera magic, his head appears to almost float away from his dark-colored clothes, in a dramatic echo to brain beside him, culturally influenced by animals. Also available on a scarf in the gift shop — the kaleidoscopic brain, that is, not Paul’s head.Even though Paul was double-booked, expected at a party at his own studio (which tend to be fabulous) he took time out to give a Kaleidoscopic personal tour. The displays are a mashup of his original designs and artifacts he found languishing in Glenbow’s vaults. As the museum’s Artist In Residence this year, he had special access.You’ve got to see the exhibit in person to experience the true hustle of a Bay blanket bustle. Anyone who knows their Canadian history realizes those blankets weren’t originally a branding brainwave — they were all about the fur trade.My fave is “Homestretch,” which sent me off into a trippy polo fantasy. But Paul told me it was inspired by the Run for the Roses, aka the Kentucky Derby, in which the winning horse is draped in a blanket of roses. Besides being inspired by the mannequins, the exhibit reminded me of the opulent department store window displays that seem to be nearing extinction. Grouped around themes instead of strict museum sorting by date or place of origin, the creativity is easy to consume, yet complex in meaning. In Everything Isn’t Black and White, Paul delves into a time when the Haida created argillite art for Europeans, in reaction to a declining sea otter trade.
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.
Don’t be fooled by his “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” look — Paul Hardy’s just getting his cowboy on. Which is only appropriate, since the internationally renowned fashion designer has partnered with Calgary Stampede to take souvenir shopping to a stylish new level.
The richest rodeo on earth initially asked him to design a private label, but Paul declined after realizing their store wasn’t quite up to his brand standards: “They don’t like me saying this, but they were catering to the carnies.”
Them fighting words only whet the whistle of Stampede execs, who then asked Paul if he’d like to be the creative director of all their product merchandise. Opting to become the Oprah of favorite western things, Paul agreed, and CS Mercantile was born.Under Paul’s direction, overt Calgary Stampede branding has been dialed down. Instead, he opted for a subconscious association with Stampede colors of red, white and black, traveling the globe to find exclusive items he felt reflected Calgary culture– ie, ones that can exist outside the ten days of Stampede, like this gorgeous, subtle wolf scarf. (Shopping hint: they’re rolled up in that basket to the left).Paul believes Stampede style is more urban western lifestyle than costume, hence the home decor items. “Everyone in town has a small section of their closet that is western apparel for ten days,” he says. “But as Calgary evolves, becoming a global center of finance, we’ve become a lot more cosmopolitan and a lot more diverse in our culture. People are starting to interpret Western in their own way.”You can still find souvenir T-shirts, but they’re interspersed with paintings by Calgary artist Jane McCloy, inspired by the historic photography of Edward S. Curtis. Coincidentally, in his mission of curation, Paul sourced other products inspired by Edward Curtis’ photos, including Pendleton blankets, coffee table books and a belt buckle.Even though the buckles aren’t officially Paul Hardy designs, his collaboration has influenced almost every aspect of the CS Mercantile collection, from graphics design, to packaging, to piping on shirts.Paul’s fave belt buckle. Mine too!Besides the high-end fashion items, there’s a whole bunch of novelty going on, with prices on rubber duckies and tattoos that dip below ten bucks.Meanwhile, if you have a few more doubloons in your saddlebag, Paul has some of his own jewelry for sale, at a lower price point than usual.You can find CS Mercantile at the Grandstand until July 13th, with the online store continuing in virtual foreverness. Will we be seeing a future Paul Hardy-curated trading post off Stampede grounds, in the wild west of Calgary retail? Paul hints that there’s a possibility he may soon have another place to hang his hat.
Is that the Maharaja or designer Paul Hardy?Held at his Calgary studio, where he toils on creations for celebrity clients like Bette Midler, Sarah McLachlan and Carrie Fisher, his Halloween Fashion Fete came with a strict dress code: come as your favorite fashion icon.So it was no surprise to see Lady Gaga, James Dean and Katy Perry on the guest list.Along with Princess Diana and Sir Elton John.It made sense that Boy George would be here to DJ — not to be confused with Nathan Hedley of Formula Promotions.Kim is glowing, but Kayne looks a little pale, thanks to my flash. Please don’t get mad, Mr. West.Jenavive’s singing pipes rocked the dance floor in zebra stripes. Jean Paul Gaultier and a stylist I didn’t recognize jetted in from Vancouver for the soiree. When Stylist Guy showed me a photo of the real Stylist Dude, I realized he nailed it!But no one got my costume either. It took a lot of explaining and pointing at my now monolingual Hello sticker. But that’s the fun of Halloween: it’s the best conversation starter ever. What ARE you? Turns out magic assistant Gwyn Auger was a bunny in a top hat. Meanwhile, Mr. Hardy gives us his best side on the left. His secret two-way mirror overlooking the front door is on the right. Umm… am I not supposed to mention that, Paul?Upstairs, Mandy Stobo came as an artist.Recently of Scuba Nenshi fame, the Bad Portrait painter has been known to mix media.I couldn’t resist the ultimate party favor. Good to know that style icon Hello Kitty will be immortalized in watercolor forever… … since party pix tend to get blurry as the lights trip fantastic. Especially when you’re hanging with Gianni Versace.
Last year, I had a Venetian Ball to attend.The Grave Gala’s theme, Venice is Sinking, made for some dramatic moments at the Hotel Arts in my favorite elevator …… and on the dance floor with gondoliers — and the occasional venetian blinds. This year, however, with the Grave Gala resting in peace, I’m moving on to Paul Hardy’s Halloween Fashion Fete. The mandatory theme, Fashion Icon, Past or Present, is sure to inspire a future post. Boo!