BMW Cabriolet Charity Launch Gala 2014

Images by Ed Ng
I was privileged this year to receive a media invitation to Brian Jessel BMW's Cabriolet Charity Launch Gala 2014.  Having attended many fashion and charity events over the years, my expectations were it would be something in line with other events.  I couldn't have been more wrong!

Let's start with arrival time.  Vancouver patrons are notorious for arriving late. Imagine my surprise to arrive 5 minutes after the door opened and find an enormous number of people already there - walking, standing in line, in cars waiting for valet parking and more. I quickly and wisely chose the valet parking. Next came the long line-up to get inside which moved extremely quickly and efficiently. Then it was onto the red carpet and in the door to find the venue already 1/3 full.  WOW!  Unheard of. Most people were dressed to the nines, so thankfully I had chosen to wear my beautiful Patricia Fieldwalker silk caftan!  I was, however, with a few lovely exceptions, definitely a colourful oasis in a sea dominated by black/white/gray.

Images by Neil Pelman

First it's important to take a moment to mention how amazing all the support people I dealt with were - the uber friendly valets who treated me like VIP, the lovely Amanda Eaton of Laura Ballance Media who checked in media, the handsome James Bond styled men in tuxes welcoming guests on the red carpet, the beautiful women in black dresses circulating through the crowd taking away empty glasses and answering any questions, the always smiling Irena DeMarco who escorted me backstage to meet the designer, the talented Neil Pelman of Pelman Photography at the photo op wall who graciously took my picture as well as photographers Ed Ng, Norm Lee and Garry K who wandered through the crowd and backstage snapping candids.  I was treated like royalty every step of the way. My personal thanks to each of you.

Images by Neil Pelman

Once inside there was an incredible number of booths with offerings from local restaurants, bakeries, caterers and beverage companies - canapes, appetizers, sweet treats, beer, wine, cocktails and coffee. I can't even begin to describe all the wonderful culinary experiences, so I'll settle for my top 2. My hands down favourite savory was a risotto ball stuffed with beef short rib offered by Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar. I dragged at least three friends over and we all agreed!  For sweets it was a push-up pop created by WCompany filled with white chocolate, custard and more. They had tons of choices at their booth, but this one was truly DIVINE!

Images by Ed Ng

On display in the showroom was a 24-Carat Gold Leaf overlay Fazioli piano worth $525,000. It was used for live performances and if one of the guests stepped forward to purchase it, 10% would be donated to the evening's charity - Pancreatic Cancer Canada. The night also included a live auction run by Tyler Olsen as well as a silent auction full of great donations. MC's Tammy Moyer of News 1130 and Dawn Chubai of Breakfast Television guided us with ease through the evening's program. (On a side note - I have heard Dawn Chubai sing jazz and would loved to have heard her perform a number this night. She is amazing! Dawn, if you're reading this, I love your voice.).

Images by Ed Ng

Early in the evening, live music was performed by the amazing Max Zipursky Jazz Trio. Their music was a wonderful addition to the ambiance. Then later in the evening we were treated to a virtuoso piano medley by prodigy Daniel Chow. Closing the night's entertainment was a couture fashion show by internationally renown designer Gianni Maanaki. Included was a $12,000 dress inspired by the new BMW i3 that was auctioned off as a part of the fundraising. $20 charity wristbands were sold throughout the evening that entered you in a heads/tails competition to win a 6 month lease of the new BMW i3. Unfortunately I left before the winner was announced.

Impressed? You should be. This was the classiest and best attended event I have been at in quite a long time. Want to know a little of the history? Check out the great Q and A with Brian Jessel below.

Images by Norm Lee


How did this very successful charity event come about?

The first Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala was held in 2005. It originally started out as a way for Brian Jessel to give an experience back to his customers. Brian built his brand around the Brian Jessel experience, which revolves around giving exceptional customer service. This charity event was another way for Brian Jessel to give his customers another luxurious and unique experience. Now in its ninth year, it is one of the most influential charity events of the year with the proceeds supporting a very worthy cause – Pancreatic Cancer Canada.

Images by Ed Ng

What the first ever charity event was like?

The first Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala was as luxurious as the most recent ones have been, but the event has grown in scale and notoriety throughout the years. A large component of the first one was a fashion show and we have gone back to our roots this year by featuring an exclusive fashion show once again.

How has this charity evening changed and evolved over the last 8 years?

It is an extremely elegant event and is an extension of the overall Brian Jessel experience, so the event is consistent with our brand. In subsequent years, it became more of an entertainment event as we have had notable guests and stars attend, which ultimately became the main attraction of the show. This year’s event has gone back to its roots by giving a luxurious Brian Jessel experience back to our customers. This year’s focus is on the new Brian Jessel BMW dealership and the BMW i Launch.

Images by Ed Ng
What charities have been recipients over the last 8 years?

The Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala has supported several charities since the gala was first introduced, which range from medical charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society and Pancreatic Cancer Canada, to arts and society recipients such as the Arts Umbrella and Canucks Autism Network. In the past, some years have raised as much as $250,000, like the 5th Annual Brian Jessel BMW Cabriolet Charity Gala that had Jay Leno as a special guest.

Can you share just a little bit about why Pancreatic Cancer was chosen this year?

Someone very close to Brian Jessel recently passed away of pancreatic cancer, which is why this charity has become dear to his heart. The proceeds from this event support vital pancreatic cancer research. Pancreatic Cancer Canada is committed to improving pancreatic cancer survival and creating hope through awareness, education, patient support and research, and Brian Jessel BMW is honored to have them as a charity recipient this year.

Images by Ed Ng

There have been some big name entertainers at previous galas. Can you name a few?

There have been international musical acts, such as CeeLo Green, the Barenaked Ladies, Colin James and Rosette, and also comedy acts, such as Jay Leno.

Who is set to appear for your 9th gala?

This year, the star of the show is the new Brian Jessel BMW dealership itself and the BMW i series (i3 and i8). This year’s reveal of the new dealership and the BMW i series shows how the future of mobility has arrived at what’s likely to be Canada’s largest BMW i Launch event.

Images by Ed Ng
A first class fashion show has also been part of each season. What designers have graced the runway in the past?

The fashion show has only been part of the first few seasons, which is why this year is so special because we are going back to our roots by bringing the fashion show back. In past years, we have partnered with Holt Renfrew and a number of labels, including Hugo Boss and Max Mara. This year is the first year that only one designer has been highlighted – Gianni Maanaki.

Can you share a little about what drew you to showcase Gianni Maanaki?

Gianni Maanaki is one of the world’s hottest rising haute couture designers. He is an esteemed designer who creates one-of-a-kind haute couture fashions for his impressive clientele list and we couldn’t think of anyone better to highlight for the fashion show this year. Plus, he is now right in our own backyard since settling in Vancouver in 2012.

Images by Ed Ng
The evening is also a launch for the exciting, new 2015 BMW i8. Readers would love to hear a bit about this car and what makes it truly special.

The BMW i8 is a revolutionary platform for automobiles as it is the first sports car with the consumption and emission values of a compact car. It is the first electric entry from BMW and also is the first full production carbon fibre vehicle ever. The strength of the plug-in hybrid lies, among other factors, in the perfect synchronization of electric motor and combustion engine, which makes itself apparent in maximum efficiency and dynamics on the road.

Designer Gianni Maanaki, Irena DeMarco and Gianni's son backstage.
Image by Garry K.