Friday, October 19, 2007

CK Underwear Models "Steel" the Limelight

Twenty-five male models in hardhats and skivvies helped the designer celebrate a quarter century of underwear sales and launch its new Steel line of undergarments.

The Calvin Klein Underwear 25th Anniversary Party at Brant House was more than a celebration of 25 years of business success. The event, organized by Traffic Group with production by theideashop, was also an occasion marking the Canadian launch of the company’s new Steel line of designer undergarments. That explained the 25 men wearing little more than hardhats and skivvies posed on a truck with steel scaffolding outside the main entrance. They were models auditioning to be named the event’s Man of Steel.

Inside the venue, four steel-inspired live installation pieces by Meghan Watson entertained guests prior to the fashion show. The installations featured models sporting the Steel line posed near stark, futuristic objects and sculptures. Bright florescent lights projected the Calvin Klein logo behind the models, creating a silver glow that contrasted with the warmer tones of the natural wood floors and exposed skin. The overall aesthetic was clean, strong, hip, and urban. Felipe Martinez of Metal Works staged the evocative scenes; he also provided the steel runway and staging used in the fashion show. As part of the proceedings, the audience chose a winner in the Man of Steel competition.

After the voting, the venue was opened to the public. DJ Mark Holmes of the Mod Club provided the musical entertainment, while DYMEX supplied the sound and lighting.

Published BizBash.T.O., October 19, 2007

Seven Questions for Anna Porter

Anna Porter is the author of seven books including the recently released Kastner’s Train: The True Story of Rezso Kasztner, Unknown Hero of the Holocaust. It is the story of a Hungarian lawyer who negotiated with Nazi officials to aid in the forced emigration of Jewish citizens, thereby saving over fifty thousand lives from certain death. She began her career in New Zealand, working in a book store owned by a publishing company. Eventually Anna became the co-founder and CEO of Key Porter Books, a mid-sized publishing house based in Toronto. She is the mother of two journalists, and continues to serve on the boards of several national organizations including PEN Canada and SoulPepper Theatre. In 1991 Anna was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her efforts to promote Canadian literary talent abroad. She holds honourary doctorates from Ryerson University, St. Mary’s University and the University of Toronto. She will be appearing at public literary events across Canada between October and December 2007.

TDR: Your childhood years were spent in the midst of the Hungarian Revolution; what was that like and how did these early experiences inform your career?

Growing up I saw a lot of bad and morally abhorrent behaviour, and I’ve always been interested in it. I grew up in a time when betrayals were everyday events. You never knew who you were talking to. People grew up much faster in those times. You couldn’t trust anyone. Also, where I grew up the Holocaust was not taught in school so when I found out about it, I was fascinated. I mean, what does a moral person do in that situation? What does on do when there are is a time of complete moral uncertainty? What do we now about Darfour? [Katsztner’s Train] is specific to its time, but the issue is timeless.

TDR: When, why, and how did you begin to write?

We tried to escape from Hungary on foot when I was six years old and we were caught. I spent eight months in jail with my mother, and she tried to be light-hearted about it all. I always wrote stories and poetry. It was either very funny or very dark, or both. When we arrived in New Zealand, I could not speak English. There was a convent boarding school which accepted one refugee per year, and they chose me. The nuns were kind enough to take me in, and they taught me to speak English; that’s about all I can really say for them. You can imagine, not having any religion and coming from a Communist country, that it was not easy. On the other hand, after escaping the revolution, learning English from nuns, and scrubbing toilets in a mental institution to pay for schooling afterwards, I’d say I was somewhat prepared for publishing; I was tough enough by that point.

I loved stories, and had always written poetry. At an early age my poems were published in Hungary. W.H. Auden always appealed to me … I did my Bachelors of Arts and Masters of Arts in English Literature at the University of Cantebury; my thesis explored issues of light and dark in American literature. Then I worked in a bookstore which was owned by a small press. I became a proofreader, and learned that it is a very detailed job. Then after graduation I went to England, which was the thing that people from New Zealand did. I slept in a hostel and stayed with a step-sister for a while. Just as I was becoming a little desperate I got a job in book sales, and then on the editorial staff at Cassell’s.

I wrote The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies for my children, to explain who my family was and what we had lived through. Then when I was fully working in publishing and my kids were growing up I wrote three more novels which were murder mysteries. They were dark, but they were meant to be amusing. They were also a great relief – there is nothing more satisfying than killing someone in a book when you are frustrated with them in real life.

TDR: Why decide to stay in Canada? How did your role in publishing evolve and what were some of the highlights and difficulties?

I decided to stay in Toronto because of the people I met here, including Jack McClelland and my husband. Jimmy Porter (he’s a lawyer) saw my picture in Toronto Life Magazine and called me at my office. The picture was taken at a launch party for a book by Pierre Burton. Anyway, he called me and asked me to go for coffee and I said no. He called and called and provided references of friends and so forth, and so I finally said yes. We have two children and they’re great. I can’t say anything more about them; they are wonderful.

I became a managing editor at McClelland & Stewart and then finally launched Key Porter Books. It was the only thing I could do; I knew everything about publishing by that time. Like any other trade, you learn it a bit at a time. We started with a few books and it grew and grew. I am proud of publishing Jean Chretien’s book, and doing the publicity tour. That was a highlight and it was a top seller in both languages.

TDR: Is there a style of publishing or writing that is uniquely Canadian?

There are many styles in Canadian literature, not a single style. It's hard to see what Mordecai Richler's and Margaret Laurence's styles have in common - except, perhaps, clarity.

For the head of a publishing house to have a personal relationship with the authors is quite unusual, and I am proud that I became good friends with many of them. That’s something I learned from Jack McClelland. Leaving it was the most difficult thing.

TDR: Why did you decide to write it at this point in your life and career?

AP: It is difficult to focus on something when you have a full time job. So first of all, I had the time required to dedicate to this project. My kids are grown up and I have resigned completely from Key Porter Books. It is now in the hands of a brilliant young man who is thirty years old, the perfect age to be running a publishing house.

These things kind of grow on you. I’ve always been interested in how the Holocuast could have happened, and what people chose to do in their individual lives when faced with the overwhelming moral problems. When I learned about this story, from my friend Peter Munk whose parents were saved by Kasztner, I was totally taken by it. I was beginning to attract this kind of story. There were so many contradicting accounts; the more I learned about this man the more I wanted to learn. Finally, I had to write the story all in one piece.

TDR: What distracts you and/or encourages you as a writer?

I am distracted by my past lives as a publisher - by people with manuscripts who would like help, who need to find a publisher, who do not know how to package their own work so it will be looked at by an agent, etc. All those years in the business have
accustomed me to being helpful when and where I can be. I am inspired by people's stories; written and spoken.

TDR: What was the process like in writing this book and how does it differ from your past experiences?

AP: I have tried really hard with this book. I don’t think I have ever tried so hard with anything in my whole life. I read more than 300 books in 3 languages, and traveled around the world to interview dozens of people for this book. It’s still not over; the American version requires one hundred additional footnotes which I am finishing now. The weight of this book has not yet lifted.

The story is also very controversial – even today people have a lot of problems with what he did and how he did it. I am sometimes invited to speak about him just so that the audience can yell at me. I expect some survivors whose families were murdered in Auschwitz will continue to attack Kasztner for not doing more. In Israel, after the war, he was sentenced to death for his actions and then the ruling was overturned years later.

I believe that I know more about him and what happened than anyone in the world, including his friends and family. He is a hero, and his actions can teach us something very valuable. I am very passionate about this, and it will be a great relief to have the book out in the world. The Canadian publication will give me a good idea of what to expect and then next year it will be published in Hungary, Germany and the United States. And the film rights have just been bought by the same man who did Shake Hands with the Devil. So I will be very happy to have it done. This is my seventh book, but it is my most important work, and may be my last.

Published Danforth Review, October 29 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fashion Takes Action Green Fundraiser

The couture show was eco-friendly in everything from its shuttle service to its runway design.

Fashion Takes Action was the latest Toronto event to play hard but leave a light footprint. The earth-friendly benefit attracted a strong lineup of environmentally-aware Toronto designers, including Thien Le, Pat McDonagh, Farley Chatto, and Ula Zukowska, and profit from the event went to the national not-for-profit group Environmental Defense. However, this eco-conscious gala was about more than green name dropping or feel-good fund-raising. Event promoters and planners Kelly Drennan, president of Third Eye Media, and Katie Lister, president of Katie Inc., covered all the bases in their efforts to create a major party that hardly had an impact on the environment.

To begin, the website encouraged media and invited guests to travel by subway to a station close to the venue, where eco-friendly Toyota Prius cars would be on hand to provide complementary shuttle service to the party site. Unfortunately, the number of guests overwhelmed the shuttle capacity, forcing some guests to take cabs to the party site.

The non-profit, reclaimed Evergreen Brick Works building provided a partially open-air setting for the event. The venue is essentially a concrete floor with one crumbling brick wall, strategically placed beams, and a corrugated iron roof. EnWise Power Solutions attached miniature green-and-white plastic wind turbines in a vertical line on the iron beams that serve as dividers between the venue’s interior and exterior spaces.

To reduce the gala’s hydro footprint, EuroLite installed energy-efficient lighting throughout, and Bullfrog provided electricity obtained from clean, renewable sources such as windmills and water power. As well, Green Shift supplied eco-friendly disposable cutlery, cups, and napkins; Eco Flora provided ecologically grown flowers; and the City of Toronto poured free tap water from an HTO to a Go mobile water tank.

For dinner, organic caterers En Ville served hot goat cheese and mushroom risotto, while Toronto Sprouts had guests lining up for an organic seven-sprout salad with poppy-seed dressing. Locally grown organic vegetables with dip, cheese, and crackers covered two large, round tables in the middle of the space. No dinner seating was provided for the reception, encouraging guests to mingle around the silent auction area. Corporate sponsors donated eco-friendly auction items such as gift baskets filled with environmentally friendly products and a one-year membership to auto-sharing company ZipCar.

EuroLite, EnWise Power, Bullfrog Power, Aesthetic Earthworks, Banrock Station, and Carbon Zero were all major sponsors. Each donated products or services to the fund-raiser and were rewarded with a logo on the event Web site and signage on tripods at the venue.

For the fashion show, Aesthetic Earthworks designed a 20- by 80-foot sod runway, complete with plants and trees. A number of guests were unaware that some chairs flanking the runway were reserved. This led to the awkward situation of volunteers asking them to vacate their seats shortly before the lights dimmed. The show included performers from Silhouettes Modern Dance Company dancing to recorded music. The clothing models walked barefoot along the sod runway, around live potted plants, and under the energy-efficient lights. Most tickets were confirmed electronically, and signage was printed by CJ Graphics on earth-friendly FSC paper.

Published BizBash.T.O., October 19 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Style at Home Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The style-conscious magazine filled with decorating ideas used room vignettes to recreate their popular editorial section.

Style at Home looked inside itself for inspiration in creating an event to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The publication’s staff designed the affair, held at Festival Tower Presentation Centre, to resemble the pages of the magazine. Various editorial sections were re-created, including the popular High/Low column that compares the high-end and affordable versions of popular design trends. To bring High/Low to life, the staff assembled room vignettes and ran a contest in which guests tried to guess which items in the rooms were high and which were low—those who guessed correctly won the items and detailing in the room scene.

Associate design editor Tamara Robbins chose and arranged the flowers, including arrangements for the room vignettes. Amazing Food Service provided event production, additional staffing, and catering. Transcontinental Media, publisher of Style at Home, supplied the invitations, organized the public relations, and hired the Printing House to produce large cardboard blowups of pages from the magazine.

Bombay Sapphire provided a pairing menu, while Starbucks chipped in tasty treats. Amazing Food Service’s menu included small soup servings that guests helped prepare by pouring hot water into tiny white cups.

Published BizBash.T.O., October 19 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Irshad Manji: Faith without Fear

When Irshad Manji wants you to understand something, which she does quite often, the colour of her arresting brown eyes seems to intensify. Their shade at once deepens and shines. Her posture remains perfectly upright, while her whole body leans in and lengthens itself to one finger pointing directly at your heart while she speaks.

“I do not live with fear;” she says clearly and slowly, “Not because I have nothing to be afraid of, nor do I invite violence or hate. I refuse to live with fear. It is not part of my life.”

Courage is often required for Irshad to speak publicly, but she feels the importance of her work outweighs personal risk. After all, she little more reason to be afraid today than she did as a young girl, abused by her father and threatened by her educators at a private religious school. She has also taken great risks in her career; first in following her elected member of parliament to Ottawa, and later as the openly gay anchor of a national television show. Irshad is driven, insatiably curious, passionate about her cause, and fearless.

She is also defiantly loyal to a faith that provokes conscience-shaking acts. Irshad believes that the Muslim faith is an important and inherently good one, which can and will adapt to modern human rights and multicultural values. She prays every day and follows Ramadan. For her insistence on Western liberal values aligning to her faith, she is charged with disrespect and self-hate. She insists that the faithful must embrace and survive modern challenges to survive; that is the criteria for legitimacy that a global generation requires.

But since publishing and speaking about Islam’s relationship to the Western world (and vice versa), the nature of that risk has changed. Her home includes a top-notch security system and bullet proof windows. Death threats come in regularly - though mundanely by e-mail - from around the world and from within her own city.

“A book is worth more than a life,” Salman Rushdie once told her, providing the final push to write her controversial bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today.

She speaks freely and often, with engagements in over a dozen countries per year. A new documentary, Faith without Fear, follows Irshad at home with her Mom and in dialogue with Muslims around the world. In Canada, she mentors students in human rights and public policy at the Pierre Trudeau Foundation in Montreal. Last year she lectured at Yale University; and this year she is creating a curriculum with NYU at the Wagner School of Public Leadership. Her foundation, Project Ijtihad, encourages young Muslims to engage in thoughtful debate about Islam, and to lead a global reformation of the faith.

While North American militaries are fully engaged in Islamic nations of the Middle East, Irshad’s talk is serious, her work is serious and there are, of course, serious reactions. So it is lucky for all of us that she’s got a wicked sense of humour. Her new documentary, for example, shows Irshad trying on a full burqa with the help of an Afghan tailor. “You know, I have always wanted someone to dress me,” she remarks dryly. Her comment escapes him and he removes her glasses in order to cover her face with a black veil. “Talk about blind faith,” she says, giving him a friendly nudge. He smiles and nods, though it’s hard to know if he understands.

Born in Uganda, Irshad Manji and her family were among thousands forced into exile by the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin after 1970. She was four years old when the Manji family landed in the mildest part of Canada, Richmond British Columbia. Irshad attended public school along with the traditional Islamic madrassah, where an inherent gender bias and a few anti-Semitic teachers did not sit well with the girl from upscale and ethnically diverse Richmond.

Two very strong personality traits developed in those early years – a love of liberal democracy, and an insatiable desire to question the world around her. She quit her formal Islamic studies at the age of fourteen. Her mother, a guiding force and mentor throughout her life, was horrified by supportive.

At 22 years old, Irshad completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts, majoring in intellectual history, at the University of British Columbia. She worked for her local Member of Parliament, following her to Ottawa as a legislative assistant. She was a speechwriter for the New Democratic Party and then a national affairs columnist at the Ottawa Citizen – “the youngest member of an editorial board for any Canadian daily” at the age of 24. Two years later she published her first book, Risking Utopia. She made the shift from publishing to television, hosting several programs and engaging in public debate with well-known conservative figures like Michael Coren. Between 1997 and 2001, Irshad co-produced the Gemini-nominated series QT: QueerTelevision with media giant Moses Znaimer, among others. It was Znaimer who re-opened her personal challenge to the Muslim faith by demanding to know how she as a Muslim could condone practices of stoning. After leaving the program she embarked on a quest for knowledge, eventually coming up with Trouble, subtitled A Muslim’s Call for Reform in her Faith.

Her role models, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, have taught her to be unafraid of ruffling feathers within her own community, a message she passes on in her public engagements and on her blog, She is connected to an international network of academics and activists, and delivers free online translations if her work within censored nations. The feedback from young Muslims has been encouraging.

“You know,” she says suddenly, as we stroll down a quiet Toronto street, “Not every little event or article seems important, but when you do have the chance to reach a large audience, it is an amazing feeling. It is a really incredible thing.” With that thought her energy returns and we say goodbye. She is already thinking of the next talk, the next chance, and the next audience she hopes to inspire.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Model Behaviour: Toronto's Eco-Couture Inspires Natural Beauty

Without a burlap sack or hemp sandal in sight, Toronto managed to produce a totally green runway show this month called Fashion Takes Action. Ten Canadian designers unveiled mini-collections of eco-couture, featuring sustainable fabrics, low-impact dye, and cruelty-free methods of production. The designs were showcased during a runway show and gala which boasted the "lightest eco-footprint possible" and benefited Environmental Defense.

The collections ranged from avant-garde to entirely accessible; three designs were sold at live auction from the runway immediately following the show. Models walked barefoot on a sod runway under LED lights; an open wall behind them displayed the sunset over the lush green belt, and allowed guests to enjoy fresh air. Farley Chatto, Annie Thomson, Thien Lee, Damzels in this Dress, Thieves and Juma were only a few of the designers involved. Each was forced to abide by strict criteria in creating their designs.

It began with Annie Thomson's recycled, almost gothic collection set to grinding, bass-heavy music. Trademark green and black stripes marked this collection, which seemed to play off the apathy and strength of a mainstream green movement. Damzels in this Dress and Thieves offered a more upbeat picture of eco-awareness. Set to remixed hip hop and pop music, the shapes were longer and more playful. The fabric of choice for all of the designers was bamboo; whether brightly coloured in stunning ballgowns from Thien Lee, or in a sleek, stylish
suit from Farley Chatto, the material was immensely versatile in shape, colour, and texture.

The final display of eco-fashion was a soulful, sensual operatic score behind Pat McDonagh's classic white designs. Her pieces featured wide skirts, empire waist lines, and a simple, repeated penguin design. All of the clothing was hand-made, but hers also featured a water-based
design was individually printed with low-impact dyes. The particular care and time that is required for such work makes the collection particularly unique. The signature piece, a white high-waisted, wide skirt with penguins dancing around the hem and load of crinoline
underneath, was sold at auction and will be re-made to size for the highest bidder.

Great care was taken at every stage of the event to ensure its green-ness, including offsetting the entire event with BullFrog Power and CarbonZero. The food was locally grown and organic, served with recyclable plates and cutlery. No electricity was used to style the model's hair, and the stylists chose organic make-up from Aveda. Like the green movement itself, there are aspects of eco-couture that remain far from reach for the general public; a Thien Lee gown sold at the gala for $900 but has a retail value of $6000. And of course, like the flirty designs from League of Lovers and Thieves (already available online) or the LED lights - there are many options already at our fingertips.

Published Green Living Online, October 15 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Canadian Bargain-Hunting Experts Hit the Green Market

Online shoppers are about to find a better deal for the planet and their pocketbooks

October 11, 2007, Toronto, ON. - Canada’s largest online bargain-hunting community has launched a “Green Deals” section. now offers a unique resource for those looking to save money on eco-friendly products and services. Bargain hunters can go directly to the “Green Section” at

The new section is different not only in content, but in style. The signature red page design has been given a green makeover both literally and figuratively. In the Green Deals section, the usual information on sales, discounts and coupons has been supplemented with eco-friendly tips. is also “walking-the-walk” and plans to purchase carbon credits to offset the energy used to run the web servers that host the site.

The founder and President of, Derek Szeto, says the new section will remain true to the focus of the rest of the site. “There are many Canadians who would prefer to buy eco-friendly products, but find them too expensive. This section will help make it easier and more affordable for consumers to go green.”

Vice-President of Operations and Community, Ryan McKegney, agrees. “The Green Deals section was created in response to what our audience is interested in. We have over one hundred thousand registered community members whom we interact with and poll regularly,” he says, “That audience has grown to include people looking for organic baby clothes, LED lights, recycled paper, and other green products. is and always will be about saving money, but now our readers can do so in a way that lessens their impact on the environment.”

Launched in November 2000, uses the power of community to alert bargain-hunting consumers to Canadian deals via the Internet. The site currently boasts over 1.1 monthly unique visitors and over 20 million page views every month. According to, is one of the 100 most popular websites in Canada. In recognition of his achievement and innovations as an entrepreneur, the founder of and president of Clear Sky Media, Derek Szeto, has been nominated for the Ernest & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Visit at

Published by Clear Sky Media, October 11 2007