Beauty and the Best of Toronto: Homegrown Fashion at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Oscar Party

By John-Paul Ricchio

The Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards viewing party is one of the most prestigious events in Hollywood, and attending it is a dream come true for any fashion lover. As a leading figure in Toronto’s fashion industry, Harry Rosen represents fashion at its finest. When President and COO Ian Rosen told me about his brand new custom bespoke line HAROLD at Harry Rosen and asked me if I would create something, I knew this would be the beginning of my Oscars fashion journey this year. The new HAROLD line lets you create any design you want, any colour, any button, any cut, so after multiple visits I created a beautiful blue suit with pearl buttons with a gorgeous tapered structure and shoulder. This suit was the most luxurious, glamourous suit I have ever worn in my entire life. When I put it on, I was just in shock at how perfect it was. It has my initials embroidered on it, and the accompanying shirt is custom-made as well, with French cuffs and the biggest collar. I’m so pleased with the beautiful work that the Harry Rosen team put into the garment, and the entire team especially Stephanie… the whole experience was incredible, and my HAROLD suit was phenomenally beautiful, and entirely me.

HAROLD Bespoke Suit by Harry Rosen

During my fitting sessions, I also visited Birks, a renowned jeweller that has been in business since 1879. I have been a loyal customer of theirs for about five years now, exclusively choosing Maison Birks pieces for all of my A-list events and daily wear. I selected the stunning Bijoux Birks line for my red carpet outfit, adorning myself with six delicate chains, diamonds, and sapphires. The combination of these exquisite pieces made me feel like royalty, elevating my look to a whole new level.

To continue with my royalty theme, I designed a brocade gown to wear over my suit and engaged Toronto designer Holly Seymour to create the piece. Here in her own words is how she brought my vision to life:

John-Paul reached out to me expressing interest in having an overskirt made for his Oscar suit. Inspiration pictures included lots of volume through pleats and structured fabrics. The fabric John Paul had chosen was a beautiful blue and silver brocade.

With limited quantities of the blue we also chose another brocade in a different colour way; gold and silver. The original plan was to only use blue but I personally think the gold added more depth to the skirt. More fabric also allowed me to add a longer train and more volume. 

I started by cutting circles out of the fabric and added pleats to create the cascades. The brocade had this beautiful springiness when I started pleating the cascades. Both sides of the fabric were beautiful in their own right so I didn’t need to line the skirt. The cascades were the jumping off point and the rest of the skirt I draped on my dress form and started playing around figuring out how to add more drama. 

I used my partner as a fit model to see how the skirt would fall on a natural waist. This was also a great way to document my progress to John-Paul. At this point we had decided to make the skirt sit underneath of the blazer. We both felt that the blue needed to be at the front of the piece to match the blue in suit and the gold would alternate. My focus was to utilize the fabric to the best of my ability so that I had enough blue left over to create a waistband for the skirt and a bow that could be worn with the shirt. As I started constructing the skirt we realized it needed more structure so horsehair was added into the hem and the back portions of the skirt. I had enough fabric left over to create two gold cascades and one blue cascade for the back. I wasn’t sure of the placement so at our final fitting we determined the cascades would look visually appealing if placed asymmetrically in the back. This was also a great opportunity to see how the skirt fit with the blazer. We also made the bow smaller so that if would fit better underneath the shirt collar.

It was a pleasure to be part of the creative process, and I’m happy that I was able to be a part of John-Paul’s Oscar look!

Holly Seymour

I needed to have my mother with me that night, and I wore her vintage beaded black purse. I also wore her aquamarine gold ring, and her other aquamarine gold ring so she could be with me. It matched perfectly with the Birks jewellery and I want to say thank you to my friend Yasmine who helped me choose which pieces to wear to honour her memory.

For my skin, a couple of weeks before heading to L.A. I went to the incredible Dr. Neel Bector, known in Toronto as The Lip Doctor. A renowned expert in non surgical cosmetic procedures, he advised me to do a series of treatments to get my skin glowing so I did a C02 laser treatment and a PRP facial which helped get my skin absolutely flawless for the red carpet. It was an impeccable canvas for the incomparable Vivian Baker, renowned makeup artist to the stars. I was so blessed to have a Hollywood legend, who is an Oscar, BAFTA, and Emmy award winning makeup artist, prepare my look for the night. I arrived at her home, this little glamorous studio, at 9am. She treated me like she does all of her stars. Currently her major stars are Ryan Reynolds, Chris Pratt and Tom Hanks and now ME! (Stay tuned for a full interview with Vivian coming to The Scoop soon). I prepped my skin with my VIVIER Pharma C E peptides and she then prepared my skin with Sonia Roselli beauty. She used the sublime Givenchy Beauty for my full look, Lashify lashes that were chocolate brown, and contoured with blue lashes. It was literally a dream come true. She contoured my face with an amazing technique- building rather than layering- it was incredible! She also added a “kiss of blue” to my face contour and I was in heaven. Vivian’s make up light company illuminated the studio and I took a jet light to the red carpet to use. Vivian helped me get ready and put the whole ensemble together for me, and I felt like a goddess. I love you, Vivian Baker. Her artistry brought out the best version of myself and preparing me to shine like never before. With Vivian’s magic, I was ready to step onto the red carpet with confidence and grace.

I have been actively involved with the Elton John AIDS Foundation for several years now, having established a connection with David Furnish many years ago. Our bond grew stronger as we shared our personal experiences related to the cause, including the loss of my aunt, Valery Ferguson, due to HIV/AIDS. She was infected with the virus in the 1980s through an untested blood transfusion. My beloved mother Marianne instilled in me a passion for helping those in need with all my heart, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s mission of ending AIDS by 2030 resonates with me deeply. I am committed to using my platform, resources, and passion to support David, Elton, and the foundation’s goal of fighting AIDS on a global scale, not just in one particular location.

During my red carpet interviews, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Furnish, who exhibits remarkable drive and passion in the fight against AIDS. He is a truly inspiring individual, a cherished friend and an outstanding human being. I believe that the world needs more people like him.

John-Paul Ricchio Live From The Red Carpet

I also had the opportunity to interview Tiffany Haddish and ask her about her expectations for the night. She hilariously mentioned that she was looking forward to some food since she was hungry. I also asked about her outfit and she jokingly invited me to check the tag because she knew it was expensive.

Tiffany Haddish

I was also fortunate to interview Charlotte Tilbury, a mogul in the makeup industry. We had a great time discussing various beauty products and their potential impact in changing the world, one step at a time. We even twirled and laughed while spinning each other’s gowns.

Charlotte Tilbury

As a tribute to my beloved mother who recently passed away, I requested to speak with Smokey Robinson, one of her favorite musicians from the Motown era. When I finally met him, I couldn’t contain my emotions and burst into tears while telling him about my mother’s love for him. He hugged me and spoke gently about the importance of love and acceptance for one another. My mother was a long-time supporter and friend of EJAF and I know she would have been happy. Smokey’s kind words and support were truly inspiring, and I couldn’t help but cry like a baby.

Smokey Robinson

The amount raised during Sunday’s event for the fight against AIDS surpassed an astonishing US$9 million, which is truly remarkable. I am immensely proud of the foundation, publicists, production crew, lighting team, performers, wait staff, and everyone else who contributed to making the event such a resounding success. It was a truly unforgettable evening, with several highlights that stood out for me. Watching Elton John perform with his husband David Furnish and passionately championing the 31-year-old charity he co-founded was particularly moving and brought tears to my eyes. It’s inspiring to witness the impact that the foundation has had since its inception. Supporting the cause is a lifelong commitment for me.

The night spent supporting the Elton John AIDS foundation was truly magical. From the red carpet interviews with celebrities, to the stunning fashion, to the powerful speeches about the foundation’s mission to end AIDS by 2030, every moment was an inspiration. The kindness and generosity of those around me, the support of friends and loved ones, and the incredible energy of the evening made me feel like a star. But more than that, it reminded me of the power we all have to make a difference in the world, to help those in need, and to spread love and kindness wherever we go. I left the event feeling inspired to do more, be more, and to use my platform and resources to support this important cause. And with the Elton John AIDS Foundation leading the charge, I know that together we can make a real difference in the fight against AIDS.

About EJAF

The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) is a non-profit organization established by Elton John in 1992 to support innovative and effective programs to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. The foundation’s mission is to achieve an AIDS-free world by working towards the goals of ending new HIV infections, ensuring that people living with HIV/AIDS have access to the care and treatment they need, and eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. EJAF provides grants to community-based organizations and other non-profit groups in over 30 countries around the world, with a focus on supporting programs that reach the most vulnerable populations. The foundation also engages in advocacy and public awareness efforts to mobilize resources and support for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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