Holt Renfrew Previews Vignettes at First-Ever Off-Site TIFF Party

Holt Renfrew premiered two short films showcasing fall fashions with a party at the Burroughes Building during the Toronto International Film Festival's opening weekend—the first time the retailer has held a TIFF event outside its flagship Bloor Street store.

The Stills at Holt Renfrew's TIFF event

Photo: Alison Whittington for BizBash

Luxury retailer Holt Renfrew premiered Vignettes, two short films of its own, at a Toronto International Film Festival party for more than 1,000 people at the Burroughes Building Saturday. “To have a party during the film festival is great. There's such a buzz in the air,” said Gwen Gibson, director of special events, who noted that the videos—featuring fall fashions and starring the Montreal band the Stills and supermodels Coco Rocha and Behati Prinsloo—served as the inspiration for this year's party.

The films, shot in a street-like setting, included images of Rocha and Prinsloo at the Gladstone Hotel and shots of the entrance to the Burroughes Building in the men's video. “We thought we should really try to incorporate that idea into the look [of the party], which is more downtown and more eclectic,” Gibson said. “We went to several different venues and this one really caught us because of the size and where it's located, that was important. We didn't want to be too far off the beaten track. We are so used to having the parties in the store.”

This is the first time the retailer has hosted a TIFF party off site. “It has its own different requirements,” Gibson said. “We're lucky in the fact that the space was not occupied [on Friday], so we had the luxury of actually setting up and starting to load in. Whereas when it's in the store, we have to wait until the store closes.”

Holt Renfrew also moved the event, traditionally held on the first Friday of TIFF, to Saturday night. “There have been so many parties on Friday night, so we thought, well, maybe it would be nice to try the Saturday and it wouldn't be quite so hectic for our guests and celebrities and the press to get from one to the other,” Gibson said.

Gibson and her team chose to play up the raw feel of the space, which has exposed brick walls and wood floors. Servers offered cocktails with names like the Paparazzi and Red Carpet at two custom bars topped with plywood. Refurbished black chairs and sofas provided seating for guests. “As far as lighting is concerned we've done strings of lights, just bulbs. It's quite old-fashioned looking, but they go with the building,” Gibson said, noting that the retailer's visual team, headed by Tracey Peters, coordinated the decor and lighting design.

Rocha introduced the two short films, which organizers projected onto a kabuki drop curtain situated in front of the stage. When the videos ended, the curtain fell to the floor and the Stills launched into their set. Alexa Chung, host of MTV's It's On, spun tunes for guests, and the videos played on a loop on walls throughout the sixth-floor space.

Holt Renfrew executive chef Corbin Tomaszeski catered the event. “At that time in the evening we know people have had something to eat, but we still wanted to have fun things," Gibson said. That meant comfort food like mini burgers with grilled mushrooms, a mini shepherd's pie, bacon-wrapped shrimp, cheddar baskets with macaroni and cheese, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, and mini crab cakes with tartar sauce. For dessert Tomaszeski served lollipop brownies, candied popcorn, mini profiteroles, mini caramel apples (with toppings in small paper bags), and mini carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting.

Beverage sponsors included Smart Water, VitaminWater, Stella Artois, and Grey Goose.

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