The spectacle of more than 3,500 people dressed from head to toe in nothing but white strolling through a city core for one joyous evening a year has become de rigueur in more than 70 cities around the world. The descent of the chic set in Vancouver took place Thursday night in George Wainborn Park, with False Creek, the Granville Bridge, the Yaletown skyline and the Coastal Mountains providing a backdrop as stunning as the elegant flash mob of white.
Dîner en Blanc is an epic picnic that manages to balance haute couture with DIY inventiveness. Participants must bring their own tables, chairs, linens and decorations — which must all be white — as well as their food and drink. The setting up and tearing down of the picnic manifests a sense of community and, like many artsy festivals, encourages competition among the participants to provide jaw-dropping creations and costumes.
In Vancouver, there was a sparkling Eiffel Tower as a decoration as well as tables with canopies of flowers and others with bouquets filled with prodigious white roses. Hawksworth Catering provided food for purchase and JP Chenet was among the sponsors pouring sparkling wine. Performance art and jazzy music added an entertainment component to a tidy evening that wrapped up by 10 pm, limiting any disturbance for residents in the neighbourhood.
In Canada, Dîner en Blanc celebrations have taken place in 19 communities, ranging from big cities like Montreal and Toronto to smaller destinations such as Collingwood, Ontario and Victoriaville, Quebec. The Vancouver event is particularly notable because it is a metropolis often criticized for lacking cultural showcases.
Bringing more fun and culture to the west coast was an impetus for launching Dîner en Blanc in Vancouver, the event organizers said.
“We started this because Vancouver, 10 to 15 years ago, didn’t have as much excitement as we thought it could. We wanted to try and bring some things here that we had seen in places like New York and Toronto and elsewhere, and Dîner en Blanc was one of those,” says Jordan Kallman of the Social Concierge, an event promotions and marketing company.
The 2019 edition marked the eighth Dîner en Blanc fête in Vancouver. The process of selecting a location — which is kept secret until 6 pm on the night of the event — is complicated and bureaucratic, and made all the more challenging because the venue changes each year. Yet, Kallman and his business partners have been successful, and a big reason for that success has to do with the Vancouverites who have embraced the event.
“It is a lot of work to attend. You need to gather your tablemate, or tablemates, prepare your table, have your own chairs and linens and settings. It always surprises me that people are so willing to go through the hurdles you need to go through to get here and be part of this,” Kallman says. “In the end, I think it creates this emotional connection to Dîner en Blanc because of the kind of adversity they had to go through to be here.”
Founded in 1988 by François Pasquier, Dîner en Blanc aims to export French joie de vivre around the globe, mixing fashion, food, wine and art together with a sense of whimsy. Like other themed festivals, Dîner en Blanc wants you to incorporate your own style and personality to its event, which is one reason it stands out on the social calendar — along with all that white, of course.
MORE ABOUT DINER EN BLANC IN CANADA
Upcoming Events in 2019: August 10 in South Georgian Bay, Ontario; August 22 in Montreal; August 23 in Victoriaville, Quebec and Edmundston, New Brunswick.
Cost: The price for registration varies slightly by city. In Vancouver, the registration fee for the head of the participating table was $43 and $10 for each additional guest. Group transportation to the event grounds was also $43 for the first passenger and $10 for each additional guest.