Rare couture dresses get showroom at Shangri-La

Bob Mackie dress worn by Sharon Stone among gowns on display as hotel moves to turn lobby into art and fashion space.

From University Avenue, it looks like a very fancy dress party is taking place at the Shangri-La hotel: you catch a glimpse of fiery red and pink flamenco ruffles, a glint of gold beading, the glow of a giant yellow cape through the glass. Look more closely however and the partiers are very still indeed. Lit from within, a trio of glass vitrines house mannequins comprising the hotel’s new vintage couture collection, on permanent display in the lobby.

The unusual collection is part of Shangri-La owner Ian Gillespie’s desire to turn the lobby into “Toronto’s living room.” With its location, he says, “between the financial district and the entertainment district, and between Momofuku and Soho House, it is at the centre of the action.” He recently renovated the lobby in a more opulent style, featuring “tones of amethyst and jade punctuated by elegant black marble,” executed by Zara Sangha of James KM Cheng Architects.

The launch is part of an effort to associate the hotel with the local fashion community as the cancellation of Toronto’s fashion week has left an opportunity. The unveiling coincided with the luncheon launch Wednesday of Kimberley Newport-Mimran’s Spring-Summer 2017 Pink Tartan collection. Eschewing a traditional runway, she sent a selection of what Newport-Mimran calls local “cool girls” down the sidewalk and into the lobby, a wink at the importance of street style today in the fashion ecosystem. And the modern fashion activity makes a nice juxtaposition to couture-under-glass.