It's immediately evident to anybody who has ever met me that I am fashion-challenged. So naturally my first reaction, upon receiving the invitation to the press reception for the grand opening of Fashion Central, was panic. I had absolutely nothing appropriate to wear and suspected that jeans and a Radiohead tee shirt were not quite appropriate.
Ultimately curiosity bested my wardrobe deficiencies, and that is how I found myself swanning about Calgary's long-awaited high-end fashion hub at noon yesterday with a press package tucked under my arm and a glass of champagne in my hand.
Located right smack in the heart of downtown (corner of Stephen Avenue and First St SW), Fashion Central is comprised of three painstakingly renovated heritage buildings, which contain high end boutiques and cornerstone fashion-forward stores like Betsey Johnson and Murale beauty store, as well as the fabulously decadent deVille coffee shop.
I am definitely planning another excursion when several more of the stores open over the next few months, because this place is spectacular. Bear in mind that this statement comes from someone who is allergic to shopping, so you know that Fashion Central has got to be pretty special. The architecture is stunning - exposed brick and sandstone walls, hardwood floors through all three levels, and all-glass storefronts facing into a skylit atrium with a fabulous red staircase.
Upon arrival, I received my stylish little press package, filled with goodies like a 4GB nerd stick (black and purple), the requisite background information, a button (which I supplemented with a few more swiped from the basket at the reception table), and the most adorable pocket mirror crafted to look just like one of the Fashion Central buttons - lime green with white polka dots. I am such a sucker for that sort of thing.
I chatted a bit, then headed up the feature staircase, taking care not to pop any of the 17,000 helium-filled pink balloons, which had been tied to the newell post on the landing, as I ducked underneath them. I wandered into the stores, marvelling at the architecture, which granted each store a distinct shape and size, and chatted to a few of the shop owners who were obviously very pleased and proud to be setting up shop in such a premium location. I have to admit I found myself fantasizing about leasing one of the remaining vacant spaces, just to be able to immerse myself in beautiful surroundings every day. I could set up a desk there, very spare and chic with maybe just a really fabulous blue bowl at one end, where people could leave donations for the privilege of watching me peck away at my laptop. Or they could take me to deVille and buy me a cup of coffee.
The reception was catered by deVille, whom I was pleased to see have opened a sister location to the divine coffee shop housed a couple of blocks down in Arts Central. Not trusting myself to juggle a slurpy raw thing in addition to the glass of champagne that I helped myself to, I stayed clear of the oyster bar, and I gazed longingly at the vast array of hand-dipped chocolates on offer, telling myself they were simply too beautiful to eat. But I did accept a little sandwich, which I munched on while poking through the rest of the shops, leaving a trail of crumbs on the gleaming hardwood.
The ribbon cutting was saved for the actual grand opening, but the press types in attendance were treated to a few words by the area Alderman, a Downtown Association representative, and by David Neill, the man behind this and many more downtown revitalization projects, about the scale of this project.
After the polite clapping, I poked my head into Murale where I was greeted enthusiastically and ultimately introduced to an esthetician who offered to give me a mini make-over. Defences obliterated by the champagne, I agreed to let her powder and lipstick me. She complimented my lip shape, so we are now best friends. I even scored an eye cream sample and managed to escape without purchasing anything.
I can see Fashion Central as being a fun place for the Marthas to descend upon during the next Womanly Weekend. We could treat ourselves to some libations at deVille, get outfitted in some rock n' roll haberdashery at Betsey Johnson, perk up the girls with some new lingerie from Nu Form, and get fitted with some false eyelashes at Murale.
And then the Marthas would hit the town.