Todd Hawkwood's Stylish Roots

Todd Hawkwood talks about ranch life, dressing for the theatre and how to talk to strangers

As project manager at Bottom Line Productions, Todd Hawkwood works on marketing, event planning and public relations, but his speciality is media relations. Some of his clients include Broadway Across Canada, Cavalia, Cirque du Soleil and Vertigo Theatre, and he’s passionate about the theatre, dance and music performers he represents. Having spent half a decade gracing Calgary’s theatre stages himself as a professional actor, he has an affinity for the performers with whom he works.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Hawkwood also has roots in Calgary’s ranching community. His grandfather owned the land that is now Arbour Lake, Tuscany, Crowfoot and Ranchlands — and the community of Hawkwood is named for the family. 

Hawkwood’s style is a unique blend of international Edwardian-chic with western influences and a punk edge — a polished display in his very social career. He’s the friendly fellow at opening nights — the one in the perfectly tailored Zegna suit, vintage bow tie and cowboy boots — welcoming audiences and putting performers at ease.

What is your job in a nutshell?

I try to understand the great reasons why people should leave their homes, drive downtown and buy a ticket to see a show so that, when I sell it to the media, they’ll be telling a great story. 

So you try and find a hook?

Yes, and that can be a challenge. To say, “A theatre company is doing a play,” is not news or interesting. I work on shows that have huge budgets, like Cirque du Soleil and Cavalia, and people think that’s an easy ticket to sell, but it’s not. You have to make people feel confident about spending that much money for each ticket. 

Is it important for you to be excited about all the shows you work on?

I definitely try to be. In the arts and culture world — I’m guilty of it, too — we can get really insular and talk about how amazing something is, but someone who isn’t part of that world can be scared by that.

Like the High Performance Rodeo?

It terrifies people, but there’s nothing terrifying about it. Sure, it has a reputation of being a little edgy sometimes and a little wild, but that’s half the fun. It’s just incredibly entertaining.

Canali jacket, Hugo Boss pants, Hugo Boss shirt and Etro tie, all from Henry Singer; Luca del Forte shoes from Browns Shoes; Timex watch and tie bar, both from J.Crew; pocket square from Paul Smith store in London.

Tell us about your acting days.

I graduated from Mount Royal College in 1993 with a theatre diploma. I acted professionally for about five or six years. I did shows at Pleiades [now Vertigo Theatre], Theatre Junction and Alberta Theatre Projects.

How does your acting experience help you with your job?

I understand the artists’ viewpoints. I can also understand what’s interesting in a play for both the general public and what would appeal to a theatre geek. 

You spent seven years working in media relations at Alberta Ballet. What was that like?

It was pretty amazing and great training. I’ve always liked dance, but now I’m a real dance fan. It allowed me to work within the city, but also nationally. I got to think about how Alberta Ballet fits into the larger arts and culture world of Canada.

Is that where you learned to dress the part?

I learned that from my family. I grew up in a ranching family near Cochrane and I remember the idea of going into town being a big deal. Every Friday, my mom would go and get her hair done and my dad would go with her and meet with the other ranchers. I remember all these old guys would be wearing a jacket or a sweater, a tie or a bolo tie and their best boots. You always got dressed up to go into town because you never knew who you’d run into.

Hugo Boss jacket from Henry Singer; Paul Smith shirt and tie, both from Holt Renfrew; Naked & Famous jeans from Kicks; cowboy hat from Smithbilt Hats; vintage horse hair belt, Baume & Mercier watch.

Are you still connected to your western roots?

I still live on a 43-acre piece of land near Arbour Lake, and I work in the arts. Ranch life and the arts aren’t that different. They’re both about community. I’m also on the Stampede Committee and I really love the Stampede. My other favourite event is the High Performance Rodeo. Both events bring community together and make the city a better place to live.

How would you describe your style?

I guess I’d describe my style as classic. I keep on top of trends, but I try not to take it too seriously. I love the whole street-style movement that’s happening online. The bloggers, especially in Paris, London and New York, are way more informative and inspiring than the fashion in something like GQ.

How do you dress for events?

I don’t pre-plan outfits, but I do have go-to suits. Quite often, I go to the gym in the morning and I often work until late that night, so I need outfits that will stand up to my day. Often, I think the night before that I should pre-plan, but I always wait until the morning. I often have an, “Oh my God, what I’m going to wear?” moment.

(On Todd facing backward) Paul Smith shirt from Holt Renfrew; pants and belt, both from J.Crew. (On Todd facing forward) Hugo Boss jacket, Paul Smith shorts, Drake’s pocket square and Ray-Ban sunglasses, all from Holt Renfrew; Les Miserables T-shirt from the original Canadian cast tour, purchased in the early 1990s. 

What are your go-to outfits?

I have a made-to-measure grey, soft-blue plaid Zegna suit from Harry Rosen. I can make it fashion-forward or really conservative. It’s so comfortable.

How do you keep your outfit looking good all day?

I like to invest in really good suits, so I know they can handle a little abuse. The key is to get a suit that fits really well, is well made and is comfortable. That’s how you wear a suit all day.

What are some of your favourite places to shop?

In no particular order, Harry Rosen, Henry Singer, Club Monaco and Hudson’s Bay. I love the Bay. It has great shoes and great cashmere. 

Let’s talk about your beard.

Last year, during the High Performance Rodeo, I stopped shaving because it was one less step in my day. When I was in London and Edinburgh in November 2012, there were all these guys with amazing big beards, really precision haircuts and hyper-tailored clothing. They were dressed like they were in an Edwardian soap opera.
It was such a cool look. After that I was like, “I’m going to grow a beard.”

Liberty of London shirt from Henry Singer; pants from Zegna store in Las Vegas; shoes from New Balance; tie from Indochino; watch is vintage Gucci.

How many opening nights do you go to a year?

Between 30 and 40 a year. I spend a lot of evenings out. That’s why it’s so important for me to have clothes that will look good all day.

What’s the key to having genuine opening-night conversations?

That’s the hard part. I’m not always good at it. The key is to stay focused and interested in whomever you’re talking to, but sometimes I know I have to be across the room in five minutes to talk to someone else. Hopefully, I know enough about the person so I can ask them questions that actually relate to their lives. It’s good to have context. There are a few media people I know who I always talk about Coronation Street with. We’re all fans. 

Do you have facts filed away about people in your brain?

Yeah, I do. But I always worry that people will see me at a party and be like, “Oh no, here comes Todd. He’s going to want to talk about Coronation Street again.”

Canali jacket, Hugo Boss pants, Hugo Boss shirt and Etro tie, all from Henry Singer; Luca del Forte shoes from Browns Shoes; Timex watch and tie bar, both from J.Crew; pocket square from Paul Smith store in London.

Who’s your fashion icon?

I always look at Cary Grant as the epitome of “getting it.” He was always perfectly turned out and appropriate. His look was so simple, confident and classic, but also not afraid to be a bit of a peacock, in a quiet way.

You’re not afraid to be a little bit of a peacock?

I think that’s where my love of accessories comes from. I’ll throw a classic suit on, but my accessories will step it up, whether it’s a bow tie, a pocket square or bracelets.

Having been at so many opening nights, do you have any advice for how to dress for the occasion?

The most important thing is to get clothes that fit, because you’ll feel more confident and that shows. It could be a sports jacket or great sweater or great jeans. Shoes — wear great shoes. Make an effort. It doesn’t have to be a traditional look. It can be a crazy vintage outfit, but you can tell there was effort involved. There’s a polish to it. You need to think about what you’re representing and what you want to say about yourself. Especially on an opening night, it’s easier to schmooze when you’re dressed for the part. We need to get people to stop with the ball caps and sports jerseys, unless you’re at a game. That’s a pet peeve. 

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