When the Fairmont Royal York opened its doors in 1929, it instantly became the place to see and be seen, a stomping ground for celebrities, politicians, and influential elite. With a history that includes hosting some of the most glamorous moments in fashion, it was only fitting that the storied hotel hosted the first edition of a special fashion show on 07SEP, presented by Canadian fashion icon and journalist, Jeanne Beker.
In partnership with the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA), the inaugural 'Grandest Night of Fashion' celebrated six of the city's emerging and established fashion designers with a fashion show in the lobby of the Royal York.
In her opening address, Beker reminisced about the mark the Fairmont Royal York has made on her life. It was in this renowned hotel that, as a young journalist, she interviewed big names like Ella Fitzgerald, Tina Turner, and Jim Carey. Here, where she won and celebrated her first CAFA Vanguard Award and where she was presented with her star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
"This hotel means a whole lot to me, in many different ways," she said.
The media personality and fashion entrepreneur has been candidly sharing her breast cancer battle on Instagram since being diagnosed this summer. She had a stirring, heartwarming message for the audience.
"I'm on a particular journey, a journey that has given me a new insight into human nature and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I've never felt better because I've learned so much about life and what it takes to really turn it on. I wish you all really understand one day—a lot of you probably do already—what it's like to walk in the light and live in the light and see light in the most optimistic way possible, because none of us have that long here on the planet," she said.
"It's time to kick up our heels and celebrate all of life's good things and I can't think of a better place to do it than at the Royal York, here, with all of you."
On that uplifting note, the fashion show kicked off and the runway came alive with models flaunting fashion statements from the glitzy and glamorous to the frilly and fabulous.
Celebrating the Return of TIFF and Restart of Travel
"We thought, what better way to kick off the return of the film festival than to have an event that's inaugural, something we've never done before, which is to have an incredible Canadian designer fashion show in the lobby of the Royal York?" Edwin Frizzell, Vice President Accor Central Canada and General Manager, Fairmont Royal York, told Open Jaw at the event.
"It's an incredible experience not just because it's the Royal York or because it's the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, but more so just because it's a return to this sense of glamour and experiences and feeling good again, about coming together and celebrating."
The fashion show ties in to Fairmont's current "Experience the Grandest of Feelings" campaign, which has marked a new chapter in the brand's long history.
"The idea of the Grandest of Feelings is that the Fairmont brand is not just about historic locations or a moment in time. It really is about this feeling you get when you connect with Fairmont in whatever way is personal to you. That could be through the interactions you have with our staff, through your emotional connection to the architecture, whether historic or brand new, the environment that you're in, or any other way you connect with the brand," Frizzell said.
"Having a fashion show in the lobby of this iconic, historic hotel, that's the epitome of creating the Grandest of Feelings."
Fairmont Royal York rings in highest-revenue month on record
When Open Jaw spoke with Frizzell in NOV 2021 at the grand reopening of Royal York's redesigned Library Bar, the Fairmont leader was optimistic for a strong 2022. That didn't quite go as planned, with COVID-19 variants causing more travel restrictions—but once restrictions eased and the world fervently resumed travel, the Fairmont once again became a hub for visitors from around the world.
"Q1 was difficult, but we managed through it. We didn't expect Omicron, which, I mean, who did? But the great thing about hospitality and certainly hotels like the Royal York is that we've been here for 93 years, and she's been through 9/11, SARS, so many things, and a global pandemic is not going to bring her down. The team is incredible and just keeps going," he said.
Once Q2 came along, travel and tourism ramped up. The return was so robust, that Frizzell said June was the Royal York's highest-revenue month in the hotel's history.
For Frizzell, after two years of forced closures and uncertainty due to the pandemic, the Grandest Night of Fashion was a symbol of Fairmont's resilience, character, and long-term success.
"We've brought the Royal York back to a life that it should be," he said.
"I feel like I've done it twice because transforming this hotel over five years of renovation and opening on 29JUN 2019 was a monumental experience, then having to shut it down for COVID, and now it feels a bit tonight like we were bringing the hotel back to life one more time. It feels incredibly rewarding, like it's just right for this moment in Toronto's history."