champagne, canapés and clothes

the apartmentOnce upon a time, about four weeks ago, I sat next to a stranger at dinner. Lucky me. Ryan was charming, interested and had a great idea. Friends were coming to Vancouver. I had a hike planned, ditto whale watching and beachcombing. But I wanted something different, special, unique.

the clothesHe whispered ‘come with me’.  We stood up; snuck away. To The Apartment. Sorry.  Nothing clandestine. The dinner was at the café in Holt Renfrew.  The Apartment is a personal shopping space.

Holt’s is Canada’s luxury high-end fashion store. It is part of the Selfridge’s group which includes, no surprise, Selfridge’s in the UK, Brown Thomas in Ireland and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands. I am not a regular customer. I don’t shop much. And I certainly don’t personal shop.

the jeansHolt’s began life in 1837 Quebec City as a hat and fur shop. Sir John A. MacDonald bought his coat from the company when he became Canada’s first Prime Minister. His previous garment deemed too shabby for his new position! Queen Victoria appointed G.R. Renfrew & Co., as it was then known, the first of several royal warrants in 1886. By the 30’s, Holts was the place to go for haute couture from Europe and high fashion from New York.

the shoesThey were the only store in Canada to sell Christian Dior. The great man himself presided over an exclusive fashion show of his designs at the then new and oh so modern stainless-steel building on Toronto’s Mink Mile. In 1962 Holt’s secured the exclusive representation of Yves Saint Laurent. It is still the place to find top designers and the latest in fashion. And where better to see what’s what than in The Apartment.

The Apartment is a mouthwatering 1200 square foot private space complete with comfy couches, wrap around balcony, private loo and lots of space to hang and try on clothes. Love at first sight. Ryan suggested I invite 6 friends for cocktails, canapes and clothes as their guests. A lustful yes sprang from me.

the jumpsuitThen the morning after regret. Had I just committed my friends to spending a fortune and a hard sell.

A shameful email to Ryan. Not to worry he reassured me. Holts does not charge for personal shopping.  He connected me with Diane Gagne, personal shopper extraordinaire.

Diane and I must have been friends in a previous life, we hit it off instantly. “Bring your friends, have fun; this is not a shopping opportunity”. Who am I to argue. She met us at the door and the entertainment began. Friends, champagne and fashion. About as good as life gets.

What does a personal shopper do? Well, the icky part, it seems. They go through all the racks and racks of stuff so you don’t have to. Part shrink, Diane’s job is to figure what the store has that meets your specific needs. She listens. A lot.

As a surprise, she held a fashion show for us. I had warned her that my friends like practical, pretty clothes. Fashionable, not trendy.  We don’t want to dress like our daughters or our grandmothers. I want clothes I can travel in. She laughed! The presented ensembles were perfect. I didn’t want everything. But I did covet most of the things she showed us.

the sleeveBetter than just showing nice clothes worn by beautiful young women she explained, educated and gave tips. A fur collar is an easy way to add night glamour and keep your neck warm, a simple coat with great detail on the sleeve will last forever, the boning in a jumpsuit offers support and the seaming in a dress helps flatter most figures. She had additional ideas for each piece presented…a white shirt as a jacket for the jump suit, a long black sweater and tights with the dress. Yippee, stuff I already had in my closet. The value of personal shopping quickly became obvious.

But most importantly Diane made it fun. I’m going to give her a try. Can she find me an affordable dress I can use for black tie events, will fit in my carry on and I can wear the next time I am invited to sit next to a stranger? I’ll keep you posted.

Diane can be reached at Diane.gagne@holtrenfrew.com

the apartment

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