Hollywood Executive Style: Toronto Film Festival Chief Upgrades and Elevates

Exec Style - Joana?Vicente -Photographed by Saty + Pratha- H- 2019
Photographed by Saty + Pratha

Joana Vicente, the fest's new co-head, reveals why she reconsidered how she "wanted to be perceived."

A few months before Joana Vicente moved into her sleek office within the Toronto International Film Festival’s state-of-the-art Lightbox headquarters, she implemented a Marie Kondo-style wardrobe purge. Having assumed her role as TIFF’s co-head and executive director in November 2018, she jettisoned the J.Crew staples upon which she had long relied through her previous decade as executive director of the Independent Film Project. Vicente then "invested a little bit more" on her everyday pieces, acquiring staples from Helmut Lang and Theory, which she now wears to work.

"TIFF is a bit more of a corporate environment than IFP," reasons this high/low dresser whose wardrobe also includes red carpet-worthy investment pieces of the Balenciaga, Chanel, Gucci and Saint Laurent ?variety.

Other forces that prompted Vicente to reconsider how she "wanted to be perceived" included the task of replacing Piers Handling (the charming cinephile under whose 24-year tenure TIFF became a world-class festival), as well as serving as the first woman to helm TIFF since 1994.

And then there’s working alongside co-head Cameron Bailey. "Cameron is very stylish," says Vicente of the dapper onetime film critic who has been TIFF’s artistic director since 2012. Bailey’s preference for sharp suits — not to mention cashmere blazers provided to him by TIFF’s wardrobe sponsor, Hugo Boss — has positioned him atop Toronto’s best dressed lists for several years ?running.

That’s no easy feat. Toronto may not rank as an international fashion capital, but the metropolis is the most status-conscious of all Canadian cities. Its midtown luxury boutique-lined thoroughfare, Bloor Street, is known as the "mink mile" to locals.

Nearby is Vicente’s pied-a-terre apartment. Home base is New York, to which she commutes to be with her husband, Jason Kliot, with whom she has long produced films including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Back in 2007, when the Alex Gibney-directed documentary received an Oscar nomination, Vicente wore a pink Christian Dior gown to the? ceremony.

Today though, her red carpet wardrobe aim is to project a fashion-forward edge with a measured formality signifying her rank. "Joana’s style conveys calm authority, strong leadership and an attention to detail," says? Bailey.

"Spontaneous," is how Vicente describes her style.

Indeed, last year, on the spur of the moment, she went directly from a family holiday on the remote Caribbean island of Mustique to the Golden Globes, where Capernaum, which she and Kliot executive produced, was nominated for best foreign ?language film. She was wearing the "only dress in her suitcase,"  recalls Vicente, who adorned that Dries Van Noten frock with a Marni necklace she had borrowed from a friend at the eleventh hour. "I got a lot of compliments, actually," she notes.

Yet the genuine source of this exec’s refined glamour is planning of the meticulous kind to which Bailey alludes.

During her decade-long IFP term, for example, as Vicente shepherded its annual Gotham Independent Film Awards from a "high school reunion" of New York’s indie filmmaking scene to lead the series of red carpet ceremonies that culminates with the Oscars, she also staged the Women in Film gala at successive Cannes Film Festivals and landed Calvin Klein as a sponsor of both events. All the while, Vicente —who grew up in Portugal and who early on worked as a radio news producer for the United Nations — sought not just funds from the apparel behemoth to support these initiatives but also, wisely, counsel from Francisco Costa, then the women’s creative director of Calvin Klein.

Over the years, Costa has personally conducted numerous fitting sessions with Vicente, which blossomed into a lasting friendship. The exec emerged to be a "minimalist, but a minimalist with sparkle," Costa explains."She is a very warm person and that always translates, no matter what she wears."

Costa also helped Vicente train the eye for design that she absorbed from her father, the Portuguese architect Manuel Vicente, on her own special-event aesthetic. "I worked with Francisco and his team to find the perfect fit for each event," she remembers. "They got to know my taste and what worked best with my body shape and were great at suggesting options that pushed me out of my comfort? zone."

On the ground in Toronto, Vicente often consults with Nicholas Mellamphy, who styled her for THR’s shoot. He operates ?as a personal style director for private clients via his by-appointment boutique, Cabine. Just prior to the 2019 festival, he ?helped Vicente plot her TIFF look to be in step with the fest’s higher profile in the fashion ?world.

Once an afterthought on the festival circuit, TIFF has become a style arena to rival Cannes and Venice since Lupita Nyong’o launched her Oscar campaign at the 2013 premiere of 12 Years a Slave. Luxury brands now debut pieces from their resort and cruise collections on the Toronto red carpet. To lend a youthful edge to the designer glamour Vicente exuded during TIFF — she wore mostly Boss and Chanel — Mellamphy added in dresses by Brandon Maxwell, Roland Mouret and Simone Rocha.

Of Vicente’s professional fashion objective, Mellamphy offers: "Joana wants to make her mark, yet do so subtly."

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How I Do 31 Public Events in 10 Days 

The wardrobe staples and beauty secrets that Vicente relied upon to see her through her first TIFF in September included:

LITTLE BLACK DRESS

"It's classic and can look sophisticated yet edgy," explains Vicente, whose go-tos at gala premieres included a crystal embellished Chanel and one with feminine, fluted cuffs from Toronto brand Greta Constantin (first worn to the 2019 Oscars).

FEST FOOTWEAR

Shoes offering both comfort and style are a must for Vicente, especially during TIFF when her 5 a.m.-to-midnight schedule of 31-plus public appearances kept her on her feet and in the spotlight. "I have two pairs of Gucci loafers that I love, in white and in black," she says of her fringed, mid-heel Marmont pumps. "Those are my everyday shoes." Saint Laurent black leather sandals with supportive platform soles are her evening footwear favorites "if I need a bit of height."

TEMPERANCE

"I didn't drink anything during the festival," says Vicente of how she maintained her characteristic effervescence despite TIFF's grueling pace.

LOW-KEY ACCESSORIES

She keeps adornments spare. "I don't even have my ears pierced." She usually carries a vintage black Chanel handbag. "It's always with me."

HAIR & MAKEUP

"I don't wear a lot of makeup during the day: a little mascara, lipstick and concealer." But during the fest, she kept a groomer on call for sessions "sometimes twice a day, plus touchups."

This story first appeared in the 2019 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.