Speakeasy Meets Old Hollywood Glam featuring Danialle Karmanos

With Danialle Karmanos and Peter Karmanos Jr. hosting the CCS Detroit International Wine Auction at the Downtown Boxing Gym, it is sure to knock your socks off. 

By Julie Yolles
Photography by Boswell Hardwick

Just two days after Danialle and Peter Karmanos Jr. enthusiastically agreed to chair this year’s 36th Annual Detroit International Wine Auction Gala, they took their four sons to Walt Disney World for vacation.

“We’re waiting in line for the rides and I start having these crazy, big ideas,” says Danialle, a College for Creative Studies (CCS) trustee for nearly a decade. She began googling and doing online research, grabbing screen shots and texting pictures to Nina Holden, CCS vice president of institutional advancement, showing her the look and feel she was going for.

Danialle Karmanos CCS Detroit International Wine Auction
Danialle Karmanos is ready to knock this event out of the ring.

That feel, Karmanos describes, will be ultra-glam, retro, art deco and gritty. A fitting theme indeed for the No. 1 charitable wine auction in the Midwest to be held on Oct. 21 at the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit.

“Danialle’s level of creativity blows me away,” Holden says. “She’s 24-hours-a-day coming up with ideas and bringing them to life. She’s making sure that this event will be over-the-top, including bringing in surprise elements that have never been seen before in Detroit. And her love for CCS’ Fashion Accessories Design (FAD) program and [FAD Chair] Aki Choklat is unsurpassed.”

In August, Danialle and Peter Karmanos Jr. donated $1 million to CCS to support a Fashion Accessories Design endowment and aid in student scholarships. Their gift is a match to sponsorship dollars raised for the Detroit International Wine Auction that will feature, this year, vintner Bodegas Torres. In 2013, the couple also donated $1 million to CCS to establish the Danialle and Peter Karmanos Jr. Communication Design Studio.

“I am extremely humbled that Danialle and Peter support our vision at CCS and that they find value in our creating a new handbags, footwear and small leather goods accessories industry in Detroit,” Choklat says.“This is a very exciting and brave thing for CCS to do. We’re going to put Detroit on the global fashion map.”

Choklat says that the first time he met Danialle, they instantly hit it off.

“Once in a blue moon, you’re lucky enough to come across someone with so much talent and vision that they stop you in your tracks. That’s how Pete and I feel about Aki’s passion and what he brings to Detroit. We’re very excited to be investing in his work and the students,” Danialle says.

In a phone interview from Italy, Choklat laughs about the first time Danialle invited him over to her house for lunch and jet skiing, a sport that the Finland-born Choklat had never even heard of.

“To be honest, the first thing I thought about was ‘What am I going to wear? And am I going to survive?” the internationally renowned men’s footwear and fashion accessories designer jokingly recalls.

And while bathing suits are not a part of his collection, he did bring a tropical print, mid-thigh pair of trunks from Italy and wore a pair of Sperry boat shoes. Choklat admits he’s “a sucker for American-style shoes.”

On his recent European vacation, Choklat brought Peter back an embroidered peacock-print pair of tuxedo suspenders from Choklat’s collection with England-based Design House Albert Thurston that he hopes Peter will wear to the black-tie International Wine Auction.

CREATING AN EXPERIENCE

“I am stalking ideas till we make them happen,” Danialle says. “We’re trying to create a mind-blowing immersion experience; and our goal for our guests is to walk into the Downtown Boxing Gym and say, ‘Holy shit.’” 

Danialle, a rapid-fire texter, explains, “I am happily sending 25-50 texts a day. What I love about texting and technology is that it feels like we have this perpetual, virtual brainstorm that keeps the energy moving forward.”

There were texts to Choklat in Italy — from Vegas where Danialle and Peter were catching a boxing match and scoping out entertainment. Texts to her glam squad that includes former Detroiter and now Hollywood designer Christos Garkinos, (aka The Robin Hood of Fashion) and co-owner of the go-to luxury L.A. consignment store Decades, to be on the hunt for a spectacular, authentic vintage outfit for her. Texts to hair stylist and makeup artist Katrina Malota of Luigi Bruni Salon in Birmingham.

“I want everyone who’s involved in the planning of this event to feel super-creative and special,” Danialle says. 

Danialle Karmanos CCS Detroit International Wine Auction
Danialle Karmanos and Peter Karmanos Jr.

Team CCS is out to throw a fun, fantastic, unforgettable evening a la “speakeasy meets post-war Hollywood glam,” Choklat describes. With just a few weeks left until party time, Choklat is in search of a new tuxedo, which he says is the one wardrobe item in which he’s a real traditionalist, including wearing a crisp, white starched shirt. After that, anything goes.

“I like to clash things. The great part about men’s accessories is that they’re perfect for adding a pop of color. But you don’t want to match a pocket square with suspenders,” he cautions.

On Oct. 21, the one thing that Choklat knows for sure is that he’ll be wearing a pair of shoes from his own collection. As for Event Chair Peter Karmanos, his wife says he has spectacular style and will make his own wardrobe choice for the gala.

“My money will be on Pete wearing a gorgeous James Bond-esque tuxedo with some really kick-ass shoes,” Danialle says. “We want our guests to bring their ‘A’ game — break out all the jewels and tiaras but, perhaps, add an unexpected twist like gym shoes. After all, I think fashion should be fun.” NS

Shop Danialle’s Hollywood Glam Looks: 

SHOP: Talbot Runhof Lobata Metallic Cloqué Cape-Back Gown $1,695, Neiman Marcus Somerset – Troy

SHOP: Balmain Striped Metallic Mini Dress $2,795, Neiman Marcus Somerset – Troy

SHOP: Rubin Singer Sequined Plunging V Column Gown $3,900,Gorski Fox Fur Boa $2,500, Prada Embellished Velvet Pumps $990, all from Neiman Marcus Somerset – Troy

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