TIFF 2019 behind the scenes: Who styles the stars? The Stylist Box

The red carpets, the press conferences, and the parties are all part of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the celebrities that come into town need to be camera ready. It’s no secret that most celebrities have someone styling them and help pull their “looks” together for occasions such as this. But where do they go? During TIFF, The Stylist Box with founders Gail McInnes and Christian Dare, has become a go-to on the circuit for many. With over 100 notables expected during this time of year (by the way, it’s also Toronto Fashion Week) we wanted to know what’s happening behind the doors and how this styling suite works.

The Stylist Box
Gail McInnes and Christian Dare. Photo credit: Ryan Emberley Photography

We had a chance to chat with Gail recently to learn more…

Your styling suite is a go-to for celebrities attending TIFF, what’s the process of dressing them?

GM: Every year we reach out to publicists, managers, agents, stylists as well as the wonderful group of actors we’ve dressed over the years to let them know which dates are available for appointments. Once we book them in, we chat about how many special appearances they have and which ones are more formal versus casual. Then the fun begins and we help them try on outfits. You can always tell when it’s the one when you see them come out of the fitting room and they light up while looking at themselves in the mirror.

Your focus is on Canadian designers and there are some that have been on your roster for a few years now. Can you tell us about some of them?

GM: Hilary MacMillan is certainly one of our most well-known names – she’s been with us since we launched. Her FEMINIST varsity capsule has been such a success – I’m sure you’ve seen one of her jackets around by now, if not already own one. She’s now a fully vegan brand and recently just extended her sizes to go up to 28 – which, for an independent designer to do production on such a wide range of sizes is such a big deal. I cannot wait for everyone to be able to wear her designs come Spring 2020. (Hot tip: her SS20 presale is happening online right now at www.hilarymacmillan.com to ensure your size will be in stock!)

Huntington is another long-time client. She’s a TV favourite, appearing on The Marilyn Denis Show, ET Canada, we all, and The Social on numerous occasions. She’s originally from England and studied at Central St. Martins; her London influence is apparent through her 60s mod-inspired designs. She’s also an abstract artist which inspires each of her collections. Her latest collection is colourful and bright, inspired by a recognized and beloved British candy.

And of course, indigenous designer Lesley Hampton who has catapulted over the past couple of years as a designer to watch. We’ve loved watching her and helping her label grow in such a short time.

Photo credit: Ryan Emberley Photography

You’re also known for introducing some incredible new designers to the red carpet. Who would be some of the most requested?

GM: This year expect to see Naeela Design‘s handmade purses all over the festival. Her clutches have been so incredibly popular with our celebrity guests especially as she donates partial proceed to charities which support women who are survivors of sexual violence.

Not new to the industry, but it is both label’s first time in Stylist Box are Catherine Curtis and Ross Mayer, both long-time celebrated designers who create classic and beautiful evening wear. Our guests have been gushing over their dresses and separates this year.

Dressing celebrities for red carpet and other events is pretty common around the world. What do you want people to know?

GM: Dressing for the red carpet is not just about putting on a pretty dress, it’s about fine-tuning an image and relaying a persona which is in line with each individual’s personality. It takes confidence to walk a red carpet and have all eyes on you – if the outfit makes you feel great, that confidence will shine through naturally.

Tamara Duarte (Departure) at The Stylist Box. Photo credit: Ryan Emberley Photography

Can you tell us who has come through your styling suite?

GM: We’ve had Laura Vandervoort (Rabid), Dani Kind (Workin’ Moms), Jess Salgueiro (The Boys, Pretty Young Things), Tamara Duarte (Departure), Anastasia Phillips (Tammy’s Always Dying) already come through, with many more notable names expected to pop by including Stacey MacKenzie, Rebecca Liddiard, Tiio Horn, and more!

If you could dress anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you love to see in them?

GM: I would love to dress Lizzo. I think she’d look so good in Hilary MacMillan’s new collection for Spring 2020; as well, I can totally see her rocking one of Hilary’s feminist varsity jackets – maybe the “Bad Girls Club” one?


By the way, celebrities not only have access to this by-invitation-only dream closet showroom but they will also have the opportunity to show their support for Free Them, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds to fight human trafficking in Canada and abroad.


About Sonya Davidson 928 Articles
Covering events, openings and all the deliciousness in Toronto.