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Canada's best dressed 2016

Don't call them fashionistas. Or influencers for that matter. The 10 Canadians selected for Globe Style's first-ever best-dressed list are, first and foremost, artists, actors, philanthropists and other innovators who happen to have a knack for pulling together a killer look. Their wardrobes range from eclectic to minimal and trend-obsessed to timeless, but what they have in common is an understanding of the power, confidence and creative satisfaction that comes from finding their own ambitious sense of style

Photography by: Kamil Bialous/Vancouver, Rodrigo Daguerre/Toronto, Richmond Lam/Montreal, Matthew Tammaro/New York, Christopher Morris/Sydney


Shameless Maximalist: Stella Alexandru

A quick scan of the 30-year-old Romanian-born, Toronto-based Stella Alexandru's Instagram account shows a character who is fearless when it comes to dressing. A great mixer of clothes, she composes looks that consist of au-courant labels like Delpozo and Thom Browne with outlandish works of fashion art by Comme des Garçons, and most interestingly, vintage embroidered blouses, vests and headscarves from her native Romania. Though she's heard her outfits described as "weird" on occasion, like any great style icon, the remarks don't faze her. "It always starts a conversation," she says. An eye for shape and proportion is the big take away from Alexandru's looks, a skill she has honed over the years. Fashion mistakes in the past were instrumental in helping her explore and "chisel my style," she says. Alexandru's surroundings play a role in her look, too; she compares Toronto to Vivaldi's La Stravaganza (she listens to the classical composer every morning as she composes her own look). "It's an explosion of beauty! It's growing so fast in all the cultural aspects – fashion, art, music, ballet, opera. Toronto is full of young, beautiful, talented artists," she says. – N.B.

Stella is wearing a dress and blouse by Romanian designer Iulia Ghenea and boots by Azzedine Alaïa.

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CHRISTOPHER MORRIS for The Globe and Mail

Chef's Choice: David Zilber

Currently on tour in Sydney, Australia, David Zilber – who is the sous-chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Noma – spends most of his time in kitchen whites. Off-duty, the 30-year-old is partial to more avant-garde lines like Vetements and Issey Miyake. "Sure, people might call me fashionable, or cool, or well dressed. Of course it puffs you up," he says. "There are a lot of people who think I dress ridiculously and that's fine." Zilber is also a photographer, and his eye catches not only the nuances of his surroundings but the finer details of fashion as well. "If normcore was fashion for those who see themselves as one in 7 billion, then my style is also a fashion for one in 7 billion. But reverse the logic. You can take it as watershed mark in the history of ubiquity and anonymity, or see it as a reason to carve a style out of the cacophony and be distinct." As outstanding as Zilber's dress sense is, you won't see him flaunting it on social media. "Give the people what they want," he says of our present obsession with personal style posts. "But with me, that's food. Is there an #OOTD? That's a bit much. It's enough to exist I think." – O.P.P

David is wearing a suit by Etudes, Maison Margiela sneakers, and Thom Browne glasses.

Richmond Lam for The Globe and Mail

Localista: Debbie Zakaib

Debbie Zakaib is the executive director of mmode, an organization that aims to reassert Montreal's place in the world of fashion. Zakaib, 46, has a strong belief in supporting local products and their creators, and her wardrobe is stocked with Quebecois designers that are on the rise. Her favourites right now include the Montreal-based label UNTTLD, which she commissioned to make her ensemble for the recent Ball du MAC, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's annual fundraiser. Zakaib has a philosophical approach to fashion, noting that clothes are often an "expression of our spirit, and may change selfperception." This understanding of the power of style came for Zakaib at a young age through her parents, who taught her that "how we dress is a reflection of what our values are, what we consider beautiful, and how we wish to be known," she says. Of her personal fashion evolution, Zakaib says that keeping her closet simple has led to a better understanding of her own style. "I know what suits me and I stick to what makes me feel good," she says, adding that "confidence is everyone's most precious accessory." – N.B.

Debbie is wearing a shirt, skirt and handmade boots by designer Rad Hourani. The gold ring worn on her right hand is by Quebec-based jeweller Walter Schluep.

Richmond Lam for The Globe and Mail

Cultural Chameleon: Lolitta Dandoy

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"People often say that I'm a chameleon. I actually like that because I've never believed that we should have one specific style," says Lolitta Dandoy, a Montreal-based blogger and fashion writer. "I've also heard that I can be a little too much…but that's fine, too!" Dandoy, who was born in Lima, Peru, doesn't shy away from sartorial experimentation, and the 35-year-old is seen on the city's event circuit in looks that combine elements from various cultures, design aesthetics and decades. Thrift shop treasures, fast-fashion finds and even the occasional bindi are paired with her signature cropped coif, which is ever changing shades. "I like to think that I bring my readers into my journey," she says of her blog Fashion is Everywhere. The city in which she lives has greatly influenced her look as well; Dandoy has documented style on the streets of Montreal for seven years. She says that Montrealers are "very open-minded" when it comes to their own style as well as appreciating hers. "I think people here are not judgmental, and it has allowed me to feel confident in expressing myself." – N.B.

Lolitta is wearing a top and pants from Zara, an embroidered kimono from H&M and a vintage necklace from India.

Matthew Tammaro for The Globe and Mail

Artful Rebel: Curtis Santiago (a.k.a. TALWST)

Alberta-raised artist Curtis Santiago, 37, recalls a crystalizing moment in his journey toward self-expression. "A strong memory I have starts with getting ready to go to church one morning when I was six or seven," he recalls. "I put on my rubber boots, gym shorts, a bunch of my mom's rings and was ready to leave the house. My mom stopped me and said 'You can wear whatever you want to wear. Just know that when you step outside of the normal, people may say things negative or positive and you have to deal with them – not come running to me about it. If you can handle that you can wear what you want. That began my love for individuality." Santiago, who loves the Italian label Sunnei – "They are capturing my energy at this moment in time," he says – counts David Bowie as the only person who's style he admires. "His look matured so gracefully," Santiago says. Similarly, he sees his own look as something honed with age: "Yes, I believe style is innate but like anything, it needs to be cultivated and refined over time." – O.P.P.

Curtis is wearing Acne jeans with a T-shirt from Maison Marchand Moustafa, turtleneck from Mark's Work Warehouse, and jacket from a Montreal theatre house costume sale. His glasses are vintage Cazal and his beret is from a market in Paris.

Richmond Lam for The Globe and Mail

Buzzworthy: Maria Varvarikos Peart

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A mother of two young girls, Maria Varvarikos Peart runs Zoï Agency, a public relations firm that she founded 15 years ago. The 39-year-old splits her time between offices in Montreal and New York, yet in contrast to the bustling life she lives, Varvarikos Peart dresses with a sense of ease and elegance. "When I first opened my agency, I didn't feel I could fully express my personal style because as a young businesswoman it was important that I be taken seriously," she says of her early years on the PR scene. "I did not allow myself to be as creative or experimental as I would have liked to be." Times have changed, and Varvarikos Peart has flourished. "I tend to gravitate to items that have a strong yet effortless expression," she says of her wardrobe, which features labels like Erdem, Renata Morales, Stella Jean and Junya Watanabe. Style is key to Varvarikos Peart's work, noting that she relies "on the same compass of style when planning a special event, hosting a dinner, designing press material. Every detail is well considered and creatively presented." – N.B.

Maria is wearing a dress by Erdem.

KAMIL BIALOUS for The Globe and Mail

Conversation Starter: JJ Lee

Though some on our list undoubtedly relish the accolade of being qualified "best dressed," author JJ Lee – who is based in New Westminister, Vancouver – admits the title can also be daunting. "It makes me anxious," he says. "Self-expression isn't a competition except during fashion week." (Lee has been deemed a style savant in realms ranging from radio to literature.) Known for an eccentric approach that he deems "old man chic," Lee, 46, attributes his affinity for this look to apprenticing at Modernize Tailors in Vancouver, which opened in 1913. "I like coats to be small and neat. My fedoras are getting bigger and bigger, and my pants get wider and wider," he notes. Although his daily routine when working involves pyjamas and coffee – "jeans and a T-shirt" if he's stepping out of the house, Lee is keenly aware of how his mix of timehonoured tailored pieces and quirky denim "does bring a sense of occasion to proceedings. The way I dress can stir conversation," he says. "I feel I dress to draw people to me, and I don't mind getting the party started." – O.P.P.

JJ is wearing a hat by Montreal hatmakers Magill. His jacket is vintage Issey Miyake, his shirt is from Old Navy (he removed the collar, took in the sleeves and sides, and shortened the sleeves). His denim is BDG jeans from Urban Outfitters (he re-did the legs to be skinnier, and swapped in a button-fly). His shoes are by Johnston & Murphy.

KAMIL BIALOUS for The Globe and Mail

Scene Stealer: Moya O'Connell

Actress Moya O'Connell, who will star in the Shaw Festival's productions of Alice In Wonderland and Uncle Vanya, got a surprising lesson in style from some non-attired neighbours. "I grew up on a farm in the Kootenays in the 1970s," the 41-year-old says. "For a few years the neighbouring property was inhabited by a nudist hippie commune. I learned from an early age that a good medallion and a sturdy pair of boots were all one needs to carry off an afternoon." Now, though, O'Connell relishes the opportunity to put on the ritz. "I love to dress up for special events – or for any event, really. Why wait?" she says. "It gives me great pleasure to inject a little glamour into my life whenever I can." Her current care-free attitude can be traced back to another memory of her youth. "I had a high-school teacher once say to me, 'Where I come from, boys are boys and girls are girls, and Moya…I don't know what you are,'" she recalls. "I received it as the highest of compliments, although I am pretty sure that was not the intended effect." – O.P.P.

Moya is wearing a camisole and kaftan from Zara, vintage trousers, and bangles she has collected over the years.

RODRIGO DAGUERRE for The Globe and Mail

Courting Attention: Liam Randhawa

"As a naturally introverted person, I started to use clothing and accessories as a means of expressing myself and exuding more confidence as a young child," says Liam Randhawa, the 25-year-old Toronto-based law student who wears buzzy brands like KTZ with as much aplomb as when he dons a piece from luxury heavyweights such as Givenchy. And though he's young, Randhawa is already thinking ahead in terms of where his place in fashion history lies. "My biggest style splurge is a gorgeous midnightblue military dinner jacket, custom-designed by Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. It was made in 2009 in London. I rarely ever wear it as it is now in my archives." Despite his devotion to some of fashion's more outré labels (Moschino, for example), Randhawa treads carefully when it comes to career considerations, and offers this advice to any men wondering how to take a risk when working in a corporate environment: "As much as I love fashion, it is particularly difficult to translate that passion within the legal corporate arena. You can push boundaries with unusual suit colours like forest green or metallic silver, but pocket squares and ties tend to be the best way to make a unique splash." – O.P.P.

Liam is wearing a jacket by Pendleton for Opening Ceremony over a tweed jacket by Burberry. His shirt is from H&M, shorts are by Comme des Garçons, leggins by KTZ and shoes by Yeezy.

RODRIGO DAGUERRE for The Globe and Mail

Mix Master: Maxine Granovsky Gluskin

Born and raised "in a Toronto that would be unrecognizable today," it was early school years that marked the beginning of a lifetime of style setting for Maxine Granovsky Gluskin. The addition of shockingly colourful stockings to her private school uniform ignited her fashion fever, and her penchant for the bold continues today. Granovsky Gluskin fuses her love of art and design with fashion, creating looks that are wonderfully personal (think show stopping numbers from Belgian designer Dries Van Noten mixed with New York label Proenza Schouler, and bold necklaces that have become a sort of trademark for the president of the board of trustees at the Art Gallery of Ontario). "I don't take myself too seriously, so my clothes, I think, reflect a sense of fun," she says of her style philosophy. Her most prized fashion items are two of her father's jackets that, after his death, she had tailored to fit her – "I feel close to him when I wear them," she says – and an Yves Saint Laurent tunic (bought on sale after months of admiration), that is still in her wardrobe. "It reminds me of being a very young mom who loved glamour!" – N.B.

Maxine is wearing a vest, blouse, pants, shoes and necklace by Dries Van Noten. One of her rings is by Attillio Codognato, and the other is by her son, Ezra Satok–Wolman of Atelier HG. She bought the earrings at a Parisian flea market.

How we did it

To compile this list, a group of Globe Style editors and contributors (Andrew Sardone, Odessa Paloma Parker, Nathalie Atkinson and Nolan Bryant) reached out to their networks of wardrobe watchers and dug deep into their Instagram feeds to create a long list of best-dressed candidates from across the country. After narrowing the nominees down to 10, photographers in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, New York City and Sydney, Australia, were commissioned to capture the subjects' signature style. Think we missed the mark and have a bestdressed suggestion of your own for next year's lineup? Post a photo of your fashionable contender to Instagram and tag the picture @globestyle and #GlobeStyleBestDressed. – A.S.

Globe Style chronicles the history of best-dressed lists

1900s: For decades, England's Tailor & Cutter magazine, the now-defunct weekly authority of the Savile Row trade, offers a top 10 of the year's best-dressed men. The who's who includes Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire and T.S. Eliot and, through its closure in the late 1960s, Prince Charles and Mao Tse-tung.

1904: Charles Wilbur de Lyon Nichols "Dress and American Beauties," appearing in the society almanac The Ultra-Fashionable Peerage of America, is among the modern west's earliest best-dressed list. More often than not, these lists are reflective of aristocrats and those on the social register or, as set out by English dandy Beau Brummell, those who can most afford good tailoring.

1922: The original Best-Dressed Women's List is set up in Paris, originally issued by an ad hoc group of the city's couturiers and fashion houses.

1940: New York City doyenne Eleanor Lambert, one of the first fashion publicists, appropriates the 1922 Paris list and renames it the International Best-Dressed List (IBDL). It is determined by an organized polling of 2,000 fashion designers, social and theatrical personalities and the fashion press. The jet-set list "of prominent people who most vividly and influentially represented the current fashion year" is propaganda to promote the American garment industry.

1947: Recognizing the unfair advance that style insiders had even over the few deep-pocketed socialites and heiresses, the IBDL adds Fashion Professionals subcategory, subsequently adding others such as Great Fashion Classicists and Most Imaginative Women in Current Fashion (1968), plus specific sui generis shoutouts and citations, such as Outstanding Examples of Elegance Without Ostentation (1973) or Impact Personalities Influencing Adolescent Dress (1984).

1950s: In mid-century Upper Canada, the Toronto Telegram's best-dressed list often includes socialites Ethel Harris, Ruth Frankel and Signy Eaton, fashion model Dorothy Fleming and women's magazine editor Rosemary Boxer, as well as philanthropists Rose Torno and Grace Gooderham (whose daughter Susan will make the list in the late 1950s).

1958: Lambert avoids repetition by amending the rules so that three-time winners of the IBDL are elevated to a permanent Hall of Fame list. But by the late 1950s such is Lambert's stranglehold on promoting PR contracts and friends, that the American designer Charles James (whose clients were often snubbed) sniffily dismisses the IBDL it as "Miss Lambert's income."

1960: Richard Blackwell, the one-time agent and designer (Nancy Reagan and Jane Russell were clients), becomes a syndicated fashion columnist with corrosively entertaining wit when he launches his infamous Worst-Dressed List. There are bests on it too, but taking a self-promotional tactic that even Lambert would begrudgingly approve of, Blackwell opts to focus on the negative because, as he's said, "Who's going to print anything sweet?" His bitchy snark is a precursor to Joan Rivers and E's Fashion Police.

1966: Lambert decides that men – such as Gianni Agnelli – are now to be included on the International Best-Dressed List, by no coincidence around the time that Esquire magazine makes its own annual list of men of style a going concern (Pope Francis makes the 2013 Esquire list).

1970s: The National Fashion Academy in the U.S. proposes its list in the early 1970s, with subcategories. Matronly Mamie Eisenhower is dubbed "Best Dressed Hostess." Regional publications get in on the action. As Cincinnati magazine reported in 1978, Walter Cronkite appeared on one, "to the amazement of his staff who lovingly (but privately) called him 'old baggy pants.' The people who made the choices… had never had a look at the newscaster except from the waist up on the evening news."

1980s: People magazine, the human-interest offshoot of Time magazine and purveyor of the Sexiest Man Alive title, begins publishing an annual Best & Worst Dressed special issue (traditionally in September) that mixes boldface names and headline grabbers with stars and athletes. In 1995, prosecutor Marcia Clark made the grade, alongside Cindy Crawford.

2002: Eleanor Lambert bequeaths her beloved International Best Dressed List and all its archives to Amy Fine Collins and Reinaldo Herrera, to be managed by them and published by Vanity Fair. She dies the following year at the age of 100.

2006: After nearly five decades of annual lists, Richard Blackwell dies, and the notorious list ceases publication under his name. It's revived in spirit by American political pundit Roger Stone of the StoneZone, who continues to publish a Best & Worst Dressed List.

2010s: Now, there are daily lists, made after every event, awards show and red carpet occasion. Even the illustrious Financial Times is not immune, with the publication printing annual recaps of notable dressers. The most recent included Xin Li, deputy chairman of Christie's, J.J. Abrams and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – N.A.

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