Putting on the Finnishing Touches
The illumination from the building caught my eye.
You can see a fireplace burning in a window and the modern lighting makes it look like it's right out of a movie. What a neat office building. I recognize the giant Nygård sign as that of the famous fashion designer.
From the outside it looks like five floors of fun. But I can see inside there is some serious work going on up there as well. I just had to know. So now I'm standing at the corner of Portland and Niagara St. Knocking on their door. The security guy introduces me to Tiina Tulikorpi, a gregarious marketing manager who gives me a tour. You should see this place. It's so unique it's hard to describe.
The first thing I see is a waterfall, surrounded by what looks like the rain forest. It's an open-concept design, yet has all kinds of different levels and a retractable roof.
Anyway, she takes me up this glass elevator where we pass by a parrot named Buyer. They say he talks, but he didn't say anything to me. So I'm telling Tiina how blown away I am when she says Peter Nygård, the biggest fashion guru in Canada, designed it himself. I've got to meet this guy. The fashion tycoon spends a lot of his time in the Bahamas, but last night was in that meeting. It turns out they are planning the April 25th launch of their new Web site magazine and catalog www.nygard.com and are working late.
Seconds later I'm in his office, "I love your hat," he teases. "Welcome, please sit down." I put my notepad on the table and I'm thinking what's this? It's like a slab of concrete with graffiti on it.
"It's a piece of the Berlin Wall," he says of the table. Cool. You don't see that every day.
He goes on to explain, as a man born in Finland, how symbolic that wall is for him. "We were almost on the other side of that wall," he says of his home country. "Had we ended up there, we would never have enjoyed any of this. There were 500 million people under house arrest."
I love that quote because I know, as a reporter, how hard it is to get personal stuff like that. Had I tried to set this up as a regular interview, I'm willing to bet we wouldn't be sitting around a piece of the Berlin Wall.
He continues: "When I see the table, I think of those guys who fought (the communists) in the winter of 1939," he says.
This guy's got flare, but he's also got, some heart and soul. When he came to Canada as a child, his parents had $50. Today, his company brings in $300 million annually.
And yet there he is, late last night, working with his team.
"Well, I enjoy it," he says, starting to laugh. "And I have to hold it all together every day. I do more now than I ever did."
We are hitting it off pretty well so I decide to ask him about his famous 150,000 squarefoot house in the Bahamas which, although still under construction, is three times bigger than Bill Gates' mansion. He's answers freely, saying he's having a ball with it. "Architecture is my hobby," he says. "In this world you have to learn how to make money, you have to learn how to keep it and you have to learn how to spend it."
The house in the Bahamas is his effort to do the spending part, since he seems to have a pretty good handle on the other two. Now, this is my idea of a party guy.