F-Listed: Milliner David Dunkley is the Tops

I have always believed in the power of the hat as an expression of personality and style. I attribute this to the endless selection of outfit-matching bonnets my mother tied to my head, a clever distraction from the little hair I had as a toddler. Last month I was invited to indulge my grown up hat passion as a judge for the RBC Woman to Woman event at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. This annual fundraiser brings together florals and fashion with ladies who lunch. It’s a gorgeous spread of food, flowers and femininity with women turning up in stunning hats and fascinators hoping to win bragging rights of Best in Show.

Who do I call for a proper head topper in Toronto? The one and only David Dunkley.

Couture Millinery DDFM show

After studying millinery in Toronto, David Dunkley headed to England for training by the former Royal Milliner to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Since then his designs have been sported by members of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s royal entourage and guests of the Royal Wedding. He’s outfitted racegoers from Kentucky to Ascot – including the Royal Enclosure. His celebrated Diamond Jubilee collection millinery has been inducted into the Fashion History Museum.

And this year David was named the official milliner of the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most famous horse race.

“Hats have always been a fashion statement for both men and women at the races,” said Ann Scott Director of Events & Sponsorships for Woodbine Entertainment Group. “We expect the nearing Queen’s Plate to be no different. It’s our pleasure to name David the first ever official milliner of the race.”

The Queen’s Plate is the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. This iconic sporting event celebrates its 156th edition this Sunday, July 5th at Woodbine. In addition to the action on the track, there’s a Hats and Horseshoes party for the ultimate in pomp and pageantry. The yellow feather pillbox hat I wore at the Toronto Botanical Gardens event was created for the 2014 Queen’s Plate, but he typically collaborates with clients to develop custom pieces for weddings, special events or real life runway.

This Sunday David will host a pop-up shop in the Hats and Horseshoe arena. He’ll also appear as a judge for the George Brown Millinery contest with hosts from CTV’s The Social .

David Dunkley Fine Millinery is located at 974 Bathurst Street in Toronto.

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.

F-List’s 5 Year Celebration

Get ready to celebrate a milestone with the F-list – on October 6th the F-list celebrates its five year anniversary with F-listed, an online auction of fashionable goods in support of Dress for Success Toronto. 
Over the past few months I have amassed quite a collection of amazing goodies from my friends in the fashion business. And from October 6 – 16 the F-list will auction off items from designers, retailers and fashionable tastemakers and celebrities in Canada. Stay tuned to f-list.ca for details. Bidding goes live at midnight on October 6th and is open to Canada and the United States.