Ania Basak is president and CEO of Fashion Calgary.
Calgary’s Business: Tell me how, when and why you started Fashion Calgary?
Basak: I moved to Calgary straight from Poland almost 11 years ago. Coming to a new city, being surrounded by new people and experiencing new culture, I was feeling the inner need of creating a platform to promote areas that shape our culture, which are fashion, art and design, travel, cuisine and lifestyle in general. That is how Fashion Calgary was born 10 years ago.
Together with my husband, Rafal Wegiel, we wanted to promote Calgary to the community but also highlight what this city has to offer to people who are coming for a visit.
CB: What exactly is Fashion Calgary?
Basak: Fashion Calgary is a Canadian-based company with extensive national and international reach in the fashion, beauty, food, design, photography, art and media industries. Our goal was to combine the social and cultural needs of residents and tourists by providing them with a wide range of exciting offerings from Calgary’s top four social entertainment areas, and leading cosmopolitan businesses in fashion, beauty, art and design and cuisine.
Our enthusiastic attitude and savvy business sense have enabled us to build strong relationships with influencers and representatives from those areas of interest, locally, nationally and internationally.
We try to work in a very visual way, with local designers, style makers, foodies and other cultural enthusiasts as part of our efforts to integrate their expertise and networking ability with other consulting companies who wish to join us and become a part of Fashion Calgary’s promotional and marketing initiatives.
One of our most important missions was always promoting local businesses to achieve high-end exposure and bring locals and visitors to our city, offering the best that Calgary has to offer. We’ve always put the commitment of trying to make the arts accessible and inclusive to all. Through awareness campaigns, promotional events, grassroots community outreach and our international connections, it is our goal to expand Calgary’s cultural collateral and showcase it to the world over. That’s how our annual Fashion Calgary Portrait Campaign was born in 2012 when Calgary was chosen as the Cultural Capital of Canada. It’s been an initiative that highlights Calgary’s unique cultural scene by celebrating the innovators, creators and influencers who are building a thriving community of artists, designers and patrons of the arts.
For the last six years, the campaign celebrated the annual ambassadors through high art photos representing those individuals’ perspective on culture, which were then unveiled at our annual gala event. For those last six years, this project became part of me, my baby before my actual son, Olivier, was born over three years ago. But having him created an even bigger need in my heart to give back through this project called passion and support local charitable organizations that are helping children, in memory of my brother who passed away at age of 15 because of a brain tumour.
CB: How would you compare the fashion sense of Calgarians to other major cosmopolitan centres in the world?
Basak: Calgary’s fashion scene is not as vibrant as in other major cosmopolitan centres. It is surely way more conservative and practical. However, over the years I’ve been seeing changes in people’s approach to fashion and how they express themselves through the way they dress. It makes me happy seeing more colourful and vibrant fashions on the street.
One of the areas I think should receive more attention would be elevating the importance of dress code, especially in the business environment. And it can be done through knowledge achieved from seminars and image workshops.
CB: From a retail perspective, how does Calgary compare with other centres for the quality and number of fashion stores it has?
Basak: I think Calgary’s grown over the years when it comes to the number of retailers – bigger and smaller ones. As much as I see Calgarians being happy seeing openings of the new, big fashion retailers, personally, I love noticing growth of local businesses and one of my goals is to support them and showcase them to the public through my every day work.
CB: What one fashion retailer would you like to see in Calgary that’s not here now and why?
Basak: It is quite a tough question. I think I would love to see a street of small boutiques that would give Calgarians a chance to experience a little bit of everything including mens/women fashions of different kinds and price points, restaurants, local grocery shops focusing on locally-grown produce, art galleries, spas and wellness centres. That would surely become Calgary’s go-to destination.
– Mario Toneguzzi
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