The Thompson Hotel, to me, has always been a trendy place. The graffiti patterned walls, black/white/red outfitting of the lobby, and the sleek exterior, cater almost exclusively to the young and wealthy and “important” crowd. So, when I walked into the Escape The Runway Gala on May 10, filled with professionals and people of general importance (confession: there were many people whose importance I didn’t recognize), I felt like a small fish in a large, hipster fish bowl.
Lined along the printed walls and seated atop the red, luxurious couches were people dressed to the nines in the trendiest possible attire. Silver suits, floral gowns, and even a shirt bearing the faces of literary greats (Hunter S. Thompson caught my attention immediately) brushed by me, often without a second glance.
Canada’s finest were gathered in the lobby and on the rooftop of the Thompson to celebrate Canadian designers. The aim of the night was to push fashion forward by raising funds that would allow designers to better focus on their artistry. Proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction – which featured tickets to the ROM, a $500 dinner at Fring’s, a definitely statement-worthy necklace, and various pieces from the designers’ collections – would be donated to the Canadian Fashion Industry.
As guests perused the auction and sipped Grey Goose/Grand Marnier cocktails, the fashion flowed seamlessly around them. Models clad in evening gowns and tuxes interacted with the crowd and slipped between invitees for an up-close-and-personal look at the pieces. A room full of desserts and sweets was also lined with purses from Koda Nivoli.
Passing back and forth close enough to have me star-struck was Canadian model and activist Yasmin Warsame. She was conversing with fashion power couple Joe Mimran and Kimberley Newport-Mimran of Joe Fresh and Pink Tartan fame. At one point, I stood staring for what was probably too long, casually nestled beside lingerie designer Mary Young, whose recent splash onto the Canadian fashion scene has caught the attention of national media.
I left Yasmin and the Mimrans on the main floor and made my way to the rooftop lounge, which saw another bar full of free Grey Goose drinks (yes, please), a mini photoshoot where guests felt like models even for a short time, various performers with light shows attached to them and being twirled around effortlessly, and a patio with a bubble machine, a perfect view of the Toronto skyline, and groups of people waiting for photo ops.
The patio bearing the infinity pool was dotted with blow up swans keeping watch, a real-life photoshoot in action, and city councillor/Drake’s bestie, Norm Kelly, hanging from a wire and taking a photo with the CN Tower while the Narcos theme song played in the background. I had absolutely no idea where to look.
I carted my way through various cliques of industry people huddled together in conversation I was not privy to, sampled some more wine, and headed back downstairs to have a look at some of the clothes on display, courtesy of the Peggy Sue collection. Nuzzling my way to the naturally-created pieces full of neutral colours and homey, comfortable vibes, I recognized that this must be what those in the know wear while not attending galas.
As the desserts were packaged up, Julie West Events crews began to clean up, and the crowd began to thin out, I made my way to the gift bag station/exit. Tons of goodies – snacks, hair and beauty products and discount codes for exhibitioner designs – weighed my bag down. From my view, Escape The Runway was a success – fashionistas continued to be fashionable, Canadian designs were front and centre, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves in the name of funding Canadian art. Not too shabby for a Wednesday night.