As Jane Silverstone-Segal tells it, the movie After the Ball is a
love letter to her mother, the late Anne Silverstone, queen of vintage
in Montreal for generations of costumers, decorators and fashion fans.
An emotional Silverstone-Segal, an executive producer of the film and
CEO of Le Château, read a tribute to her mother scribbled on paper
placemats and greeting cards to start off an interview at Château
headquarters on Décarie Blvd. last week.
“It’s about the passing of the torch from one generation to another.
It’s a mother-daughter story and it’s a father-daughter story,” said
Silverstone-Segal, wife of Herschel Segal, who founded Le Château in
The film is also a charming fashion fairy tale, a reflection of the garment trade, and a love letter to Montreal.
The story centres around young Kate (Portia Doubleday), fresh out of
fashion design school, whose father Lee Kassell (Chris Noth), runs a
retail business called Kassell – say it aloud; it’s a wink to Château –
with his evil blue-claw manicured second wife (Lauren Holly) and her two
hilariously wicked daughters.
Of course, there’s a Prince Charming in Marc-André Grondin as the
Kassell cobbler who fits a lost crystal-encrusted stiletto on Kate.
The business is not unlike Le Château, which, naturally, outfitted
the cast and created a ballgown-prom-wedding collection for the
impeccable runway finale – and for sale in stores – orchestrated by
Montreal’s Hans Koechling with a bevy of Montreal models, including the
leggy Ève Tremblay, who towered above the crowd at a première party last
The ball of the title is filmed in the gloriously restored ballrooms
of the former Royal Bank of Canada headquarters on St-Jacques St.,
giving the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Ball a run for its
And there’s a scene is which Kate brings clothing production back to
the in-house cutting and sewing room, filmed at Château’s actual factory
floor. The retail chain proudly trumpets its domestic production.
But Silverstone-Segal insists the only true parallel in the film is
her mother’s store, the Little Shop, on Ogilvy Ave. in Park Extension,
and now run by her sister, Jill Moroz. “This is not a documentary,” she
After the Ball is also the name of the vintage shop in the film, set
on Bonsecours St. in Old Montreal, where Kate seeks solace from her
godmother as well as marvellously nerdy costumes for her girl-as-boy
Indeed, the Little Shop was and is a place of solace and inspiration,
where octogenarians from the neighbourhood serve tea amid the jumble of
lace, quilts, knicknacks, hats, jewelry, clothing and
paintings. Through her pickings for the shop, Silverstone-Segal said,
her mother knew fashion, could predict the trends.
“She had the eye. She was haute couture. She was the ultimate stylist,” she said. “She handed down this knowledge to me.”
And she nurtured people, with tea and gifts, but also “spiritually, with unconditional support for their ideas, their projects.”
She also took photos of every person who came into the shop
(Catherine Deneuve was one, among many luminaries). A collage of the
real photos went into the set design of the movie shop. In fact,
production designer Patricia Christie and costume designer Mario
Davignon were customers of the shop, Silverstone-Segal pointed out.
And many original pieces came from Silverstone-Segal’s closets.
“Every piece told a story – how she hunted it, collected it, labelled it and sold it – twice.”
Asked whether the nefarious spy-takeover sub-plot of the film is
anything like the garment business, Silverstone-Segal remained steadfast
in her reluctance to talk about business parallels: she told of how her
mother would get up at 5 in the morning to hit the estate sales and get
the best pieces. “It’s about human nature,” she said.
Silverstone-Segal started to write the story 12 years ago, about
personal growth through fashion. The germ of the idea was adapted into a
screenplay by Jason Sherman and Kate Melville, she said. Her original
work will be released in a book later.
The movie world is difficult, she said. “It’s a very difficult thing
to get a movie, an idea, a feeling on screen. I wrote a feeling – about
the striving and the drive of a young person to get things done and be
She said she asked at least 10 people over the years and called on
contacts from her mother, who died in 2008, to get the film made.
Finally, she showed her work to Gabriella Martinelli, who made Romeo and
Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio. Martinelli took the project on with her
son, Robin Crumley. Don Carmody and Kirk D’Amico are also producers.
On the marketing tie-in with her company, Silverstone-Segal said
everyone at the table agreed the costumes should be created by Château.
The costumes – everyday wear as well as the fancy dresses – are a
collaboration between the retailer and the costume designer.
“Wasn’t it correct that an iconic fashion house should do the first fashion comedy movie in Canada?” she asked.
The fancy dress collection is now in select stores. Pressed,
Silverstone-Segal showed off the elaborately beaded, lace and tulle
creations in a showroom. “Hollywood came to Le Château and Hollywood
made us raise the bar. They’re haute-couture dresses at Château,” she
After the Ball opens in theatres across Canada Friday.