F-Listed: Candice & Alison Events Group

Candice & Alison photo by George Pimentel

Candice & Alison photo by George Pimentel

As a marketing professional and now a college professor of marketing, the number of diverse career paths one can take fascinates me. Take the event planning business – there are wedding planners, meeting planners, corporate event planners and then, there’s Candice & Alison.

Alison Slight and Candice Chan combined talents in 2009 to create the Candice & Alison Events Group. After pursuing careers separately in event planning, fashion design and marketing, these two Ryerson University grads reunited with a mission to do their own thing. Starting a new business in the midst of a major recession is bold, but starting a luxury events business? Some would call it crazy.

But it worked. Within a few years BizBash Magazine named Candice & Alison one of North America’s most innovative event designers. Of all the events they’ve done – luxury weddings, corporate events like Sharp’s Book for Men party, gala fundraisers like the Right to Play Ball, Power Ball and most recently, the Bata Shoe Museum 20th anniversary – it is the party they planned in honour of their own 5th year anniversary that takes the cake.

“I’m most proud of that event,” gushes Chan. The glitzy party, dubbed #CversusA, showcased Candice & Alison’s level of creativity and high standards of execution. And if their individual work ethic is the same – driven, highly professional – their personal styles are anything but. Slight, the managing director, is a prim and polished morning person. Edgier Chan, the creative director, is a night owl. Their yin and yang became the design inspiration for the event. Festivities kicked off in an elegant all-white theme created by Slight, followed by a dark and sexy rooftop patio party designed by Chan.

#CversusA 5th anniversary bash

#CversusA 5th anniversary bash

candicealison2

#CversusA 5th anniversary bash

“We make every detail a priority from the level of decoration to hospitality. It is always important for guests to be impressed and to feel special.”

Event planning always starts with the client, who has some kind of vision and a purpose for their event. Is it to showcase a new product? To sell? To celebrate? “We have to turn that into something feasible for the event, and manage expectations and priorities along the way,” says Chan. For the Bata Shoe Museum’s 20th anniversary party, the client’s vision was an unexpected discovery through the museum. Candice and Alison brought that vision to life from start to finish – entrance, decor, food, entertainment and most importantly – at least as far as social media is concerned — opportunities for the guests to engage live with the event. “We make every detail a priority from the level of decoration to hospitality. It is always important for guests to be impressed and to feel special.”

Bata Shoe Museum 20th anniversary | photo by Ryan Emberley

Bata Shoe Museum 20th anniversary | photo by Ryan Emberley

What’s rule number one of event planning? Speak the same language as your client. If they want the colour pink, for example, know the precise shade down to the Pantone number. If a client wants Art Deco-inspired décor, make sure everyone is in agreement on exact Art Deco elements. This is why mood boards, renderings and floor plans are the tools of every event planner’s trade – as are comfortable shoes! Here’s more from Candice and Alison:

F-List: What are three ingredients that make a party great?

A: Good food & beverage, the guests.
C: Agreed, it’s the same basic rules as any great house party. The ingredients never change, only the scale and occasion do.

What’s a big event no-no?

C: Line-ups! Ensure there are enough staff at the event for registration or coat check, or invite only a guest count that is manageable.
A: Bright lighting. Lighting makes a big difference in people’s mood and in the way they interact. It should be dim but just bright enough to capture the environment and adjusted over the course of the evening as the party evolves.

What would be your dream event to plan?

A: It would definitely be a wedding or high end gala as they offer a much bigger opportunity for decorative elements. I love the idea of doing something really over the top and romantic in a countryside French Chateau.
C: The Met Gala!

My F-Listed profile series gets up close with leaders across retail, marketing and technology. Know a good candidate? Contact me leesa at divinelab dot com.

A Foot Fetish for the Ages

Bata exterior

The Bata Shoe Museum

“I want you all to close your eyes.” Sonja Bata, the 88-year-old founder of The Bata Shoe Museum is addressing a roomful of press. Canada’s fairy godmother of shoes wants us to imagine what stood on the very site of the Museum’s Bloor Street location over 20 years ago. “A gas station.” Hardly the state-of-the-art artifact storage and exhibit space here today.

Since its opening on May 6, 1995, The Bata Shoe Museum has become North America’s foremost shoe museum with one of the world’s finest collections. If what we put on our feet suggests our attitudes on life, then consider the history of shoes a fascinating sociological exploration. Footwear illustrates entire ways of life, providing insight on climate, religions, professions and attitudes to gender and social status of different cultures through the ages.

Yes, you can tell a lot about someone from their shoes. Over the past 20 years the Bata’s collection has grown to over 13,000 shoes and related items spanning 4,500 years of history.

And I thought I had a shoe fetish.

The Bata kicks off (shoe pun!) a yearlong anniversary celebration this week with a fundraising gala, a public celebration and a new exhibit Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels.

You read that right. Men. In. Heels. Used to be the boys loved wearing heels and no one minded. It’s only in the last few decades that Western culture has been unable to find masculinity in shoe height.

Persian, 17th century riding shoes

Persian, 17th century riding shoes © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator, explains how the research for this exhibit has been a remarkable exploration. “For me personally, it has been unraveling a long history of the high heel and proving that heels were first worn by men in the Near East for horseback riding, and that European men happily wore heels for the first 130 years of their use in Western fashion.”

Photographer

American, 20th Century Justin and Tony Lama boots
© 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

The Bata also features a number of permanent and rotating exhibits such as Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century. Turns out the phrase “fashion victim” was not the result of some red carpet accident. People actually died in the 1800’s as a result of wearing shoes made with poison-laced dyes and highly flammable materials.

Those blisters from your new Jimmy Choos pale in comparison now, huh?

American, early 1970s © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

American, early 1970s
© 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Ron Wood)

Expect plenty more to come this year including an appearance by distinguished guest lecturer Dr. Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London at this year’s Founder’s Lecture on November 12th. The Museum’s second anniversary exhibition, True North: Traditions and Technologies of Arctic Survival, will open in February 2016.

I wonder where our relationship with shoes is going, now that sites like Shoes of Prey, which allows customers to design their own shoe, are in vogue again.

“Historically shoes were, to some degree, a collaboration between customer and shoemaker.”

“I am actually fascinated by this trend,” remarked Elizabeth. “Historically shoes were, to some degree, a collaboration between customer and shoemaker. Industrialization erased the presence of the indiviual maker, and customers were required to find footwear that suited them from the range of ready-made shoes. It is interesting to me that the trend towards shoe customization is in many ways reviving age old practice.”

For more on the Museum’s ongoing celebrations including a public event Saturday, May 9th, visit batashoemuseum.com. Stay tuned for pics and stories from the Bata’s Twentieth Anniversary Gala event in an upcoming profile on luxury event planners Candice & Alison.

Exterior shot of The Bata Shoe Museum courtesy of @izsarah.

Bagged out in Amsterdam

While in Amsterdam this month – where I spent a relaxing week cavorting like a local with a BF who now lives there – I hit the Tassenmuseum, also known as the Museum of Bags and Purses. You could say it’s like Mecca for fashionable women.

The museum catalogues the history of the Western purse back to the days when it served both men and women. (That’s right, the ‘murse’ goes much further back than Seinfeld.) Hard to imagine the days when you needed a purse for your embroidery tools and not your iPhone, but these are the things you’ll enjoy discovering.

The collection spans 500 years, all the way up to the modern day Birkin. The museum is housed in a stunning canalhouse that dates back to the 1600’s and used to house the city’s mayor. If you have time, go for high tea, like we did. Thankfully I don’t have to travel far for the shoe museum, located in my own backyard. Perhaps it’s time for high tea with my local BF’s and a trip to the Bata.

Side note — if you find yourself in Paris instead, check out Colette’s window display celebrating 15 years of Fendi’s baguette bag

High tea at Amsterdam’s Tassenmuseum
Luxury or shock value?
Judith Leiber’s Socks, made famous on Sex and the City 
Why the face?!

STORY UPDATE: Love this!

Heels, Hemlines & High Spirits

It’s fitting that the Bata Shoe Museum opened its latest exhibit weeks before a general election in Canada. After all, the new exhibit The Roaring Twenties: Heels, Hemlines & High Spirits highlights shoes from one of the most important historical eras for women. By the start of the decade women around the world had finally achieved the right to vote. Soon their right to choose extended to their bodies too, as an initiative that would become Planned Parenthood legally opened in 1921.
The story of the Bata Shoe Museum is a fascinating one (you can check it out here). In total there are over 13,000 items filling the museum’s permanent collection. Founding chairman, Sonja Bata, welcomed the crowds and worked the room at the exhibit’s opening night cocktail reception. Her wit was on full display too, noting she was born in the 20’s but doesn’t remember anything.
 
Bata Shoe Museum curator, Elizabeth Semmelhack, pointed out the stark difference between a woman’s dress in the ‘teens and the 1920s. Essentially, with freedom, women’s fashion was born. Menswear and sportswear trends quickly followed. So did couture. It would be another decade before shoes with peep toes would appear. Oh, if they could see us now.
Special thanks to FASHION magazine for co-hosting the lovely reception.
With freedom came fashion
Menswear influenced ladies’ “sporting togs”
Women’s summer wear shoes wouldn’t show toe for another decade
The cloche hat was as popular as the new bobbed hairstyle
If only our shoes could travel this way now