It all started because it was -25°C for a week straight. While such spells aren’t exactly unknown in Edmonton, with two young boys chomping at the bit to be outdoors and the weather prohibiting more than about three minutes of that, we were all starting to feel a little cooped up.i
So on a day’s notice, we booked a short, sweet 36-hour trip to Vancouver to stay at the one, the only, the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Having heard nothing but glowing reviews from several friends who’d stayed there since it opened in 2010, but never having been able to justify its posh experience as a business expense on my work trips, we finally jumped at the chance to book a proper suite at this 5-star destination,ii one that ended up being eminently affordable given the lateness of the booking, the perishable nature of the goods, and the extreme offness of the season.iii
After an excited sleep and only four hours door-to-door, we’d arrived. Not like that, at least not yet, so maybe “check-in” is more apt, but regardless, we hopped out of a blacked-out chauffeured Suburbaniv and made our way into the lush lobby of the hotel. Unsurprisingly given his admirable track record of artistic patronage, and furthermore given that the PacRim (as the “cool kids” call it)v is an Ian Gillespie/Westbank project, of course it has curated elements of his private collection on display in the super-florally-scented space.
And what was showing on this particular go-around, you ask ? In addition to the usual collection of paintings and sculptures, there were vitrines and birdcages featuring early 90’s Versace couture dresses.vi Here are the four dresses with their explanatory blurbs quoted :
Versace and Warhol : The Hollywood Legend
Versace’s Spring Summer 1991 collection defined modern glamour while also being an evocative, romantic rendering of 20th century popular culture. A lover of fashion photography and admirer of mid-century haute couture, Versace was also an admirer of Andy Warhol’s acerbic wit, his ability to fuse pop with commerce and his development of “the factory.” In blending the photographic language of Irving Penn and the Vogue shoots of the 1950s alongside Warhol’s rendering of Hollywood legends Monroe and Dean, Versace created a dynamic and colourful language that expressed luxury without piety and glamour without subterfuge. The collection included one of Versace’s most iconic dresses modelled by Linda Evangelista, a couture silk sheath set with jewel-toned crystal featuring the now legendary silk print of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
Versace and the Cowboy
The Wild West Harnessed
For his Autumn Winter 1992 collection, Versace took two wildly opposing inspirations and made them one cohesive whole. Romanticising the western movies of his youth and the language of the Great American Cowboy, Versace took leathers, chaps, buckles, collar tips and fringing of the West and the clothing of the cowhand and enhanced their hard eroticism by layering them with the most shocking of all fetishes ; the darker language of S&M.
Versace and Couture : The Past Reinvented
Often overlooked within Versace’s opulent, joyous, and colourful creations was a searing sense of proportion and understanding of fabric. Greatly inspired by vintage couture and by fashion from previous decades, Versace always saw the modernity within the past. A recurring theme in all the tailoring of his stellar career, in the Spring Summer 1991 collection, his love affair for the A-line dresses, three-quarter sleeves, raised hems, and matching ensembles dominated the runway. Versace’s aim was not to recreate the 1960s but to identify that same woman ; the free thinking, empowered woman who could dress as she wished.
The polka-dotted dress with Mondrian-inspired cuffs was definitely my favourite. And since we’re on the topic of fashion, since the intersection between streetwear and traditional luxury is now in full flight, it’s also worth sharing a few photos from the four-day-old Virgil Ablohviii collection for Louis Vuitton, as seen just a few blocks away at the best Holt Renfrew in western Canada :
According to the hiply dressed Asian salesman,ix this new LV menswear collection set in-store sales records for the brand and several items were sold-out and awaiting restocking.x My one criticism of the instantly iconic, or at least challengingly avant-garde, leather monogram cut-away vests is that the singular pocket is too small to fit an iPhone. You could fit an old skool RAZR and some cash in there, but that’s about it. I still love the vibrant colours and calculated casualness of these pieces though.
Back to the hotel. Checking into our suite, it was time for the now three-and-a-half-year-old Niko to make us some coffee, entirely of his own mechanically-inclined volition, of course.xi The Nespresso machine in the room provided ample opportunity for him to test his mettle as a “barista,”xii a word he was eager to learn as his vocabulary expands to include everything from “seaplane” to “ibis“ and he begins to identify about half of written numbers and letters. He’s seen here carrying the Nespresso water jug from the (smaller) bathroom to the coffee machine in the bedroom. What a good little helper, making sure mom and dad are well-caffeinated!xiii
He was sure to ask “Do you want brack ?” for the order, keen to ensure that mom had purple-capsuled coffee and dad had the black, and that never the twain should meet. Other questions, however, remained.
Venturing out from the hotel on an outing, we were asked everything from “do you ‘nember when rast time…?” and “how does dis work?” in reference to the door stops at the Vancouver Aquarium, which were unsurpassed in their entertainment value,xiv even compared to Douglas Coupland’sxv VORTEX exhibit, which, although more of a running loop for this active and energetic young family, was the most thought-provoking and optimistic part of the whole place, at least for these adult eyes.
Did you pick out the life-sized Warhol here too ? He represents the past. The present is represented by an African migrant. The future ? That’s Plastic Boy and Plastic Girl. They represent change, but change for the better. Change can be for the better. It might as well be. Change is going to happen anyways.
Why shouldn’t it be for the better ? It’s worth asking the question.
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- “What should we do this afternoon ?” the girl asked on Saturday, clearly fatigued by something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. “We could go to the airport. The planes are leaving anyways,” I replied, only half-joking. An hour later, it was no joke and our bags were packed for Sunday morning. We spent the afternoon playing “couch fort” with the boys, unable to hide the blissfully romantic looks in our eyes, both a bit gobsmacked by our entirely uncharacteristic spontaneity.
I mean, if you can, shouldn’t you ? [↩]
- Talk about a room with a view, even on a partly-cloudy middle-of-winter morning :
- December-March in Vancouver are almost exclusively cool, overcast, and rainy, so it’s hardly a tourist hotspot this time of year, yet somehow we lucked into the only two sunny days Vancouver had seen in the past month. Huzzah! [↩]
- “Hey Pete, I thought you said you didn’t arrive like that ?!” Well, little Timmy, if you’d seen the motley crew I jumped out of the Sub with, complete with pukey bibs, ruffled Paw Patrol t-shirts, sweatpants with holes worn in the knees, homemade scarves (if really rather beautiful ones), and hand-me-down clothes of all assortments and varieties, you wouldn’t have thought much of us. And rightly so. [↩]
- As evidence that the cool kids call a hotel anything other than its given name, parked out front of the lobby entrance next to the 458s, G-Wagens, and 740i courtesy cars was this rather well preserved “Saddam” complete with collector plates. The plastic fantastic white girl in her late 20’s with her little pooch under-arm was not at all whom I expected to unlock the debadged, long-wheelbase Merc and drive away, but that’ll teach me to assume shit!
In any event, almost four years to the day after Saddam entered my modest fleet, it looks like these old SELs are gaining currency in the big city. As usual, I was just early to the party, if also woefully attached to my provincial periphery… [↩]
- Whereas even just a few months ago, I had absolutely no understanding, appreciation, nor even much respect for Ian’s evident obsession with couture, particularly women’s runway fashion from the 1940’s onwards, the place that fashion, and particularly haute couture, occupy in the artistic sphere is finally starting to congeal in my mind’s eye. The intersections are suddenly revealing themselves and I have to say that I’m now far less judgemental and far more receptive to such expressions of taste and culture.
- I… couldn’t find the placard. But I still found the cute black ball gown to be worth sharing. Sue me. [↩]
- You may or may not be surprised to learn that Virgil is yet another product of none other than King Tastemaker Ye. [↩]
- All the salesmen in Holt’s (and most other luxury boutiques in Vancouver) are almost exclusively Asian to cater to the overseas clientele representing probably 80%+ of each store’s volume. No surprise! [↩]
- In a game of “guess the price”, the girl guessed $800 for the cut-away vests and I guessed $3k. The actual retail price ? $3`150. I guess that means I should try my hat at The The Price Is Right: Dubai Edition or something. [↩]
- Niko comes from a long line of mechanical engineers and architects, so it’s only natural. [↩]
- What, you think Starbucks “baristas” do more than push buttons nowadays ? At the elite “Reserve” locations, perhaps, but not at 99% of the rest of them. Those days are over. [↩]
- Niko’s manners are coming along too. He now replaces “huh?” with “pardon me?,” at least when speaking to his father, and he quite consistently says “please” when asking me for things because I’ve come to “not understand what he’s talking about” unless that particular social lubricant is used in a question. He’s also very sweet about asking us if he can give us kisses and hugs before we leave for work, an evening out, or as we put him to bed. Ah, the blissfully innocent years!
Speaking of which, we’re also in heaven with little Ari at the moment, who hasn’t yet teethed and also isn’t fully crawling at 9 months of age. We’re counting down the days where we can sit him down and not worry that he’s going to run away when we turn our backs for a minute.
- Exhibit A : Sheer Glee
- Who is Douglas Coupland ? Nothing less than the mixed media visual artist tasked by Ian/Westbank with turning Calgary’s upcoming Telus SKY into a 60-storey, man-made, VR-enhanced rendition of the Aurora Borealis. [↩]