In 2014, Toronto was blessed with a more elevated version of everyone’s favourite red-suited guy with Yorkdale’s Fashion Santa. Paul Mason, who has been modeling for more than 30 years, took on that role for the mall, and the internet blew up with pics of the classically handsome and super stylish Santa. But when Yorkdale launched this year’s holiday campaign, Instagram noticed one glaring difference: Mason was not the star. We chatted with him this morning to find out what the elf is going on.
What made you part ways with Yorkdale this year? During the campaign last year, when it went viral, both Yorkdale and myself filed for a copyright and trademark for the rights of the ownership of [Fashion Santa]. And that caused a fallout.
Yorkdale is claiming that they reached out to you over the summer to continue with the relationship this year. Is that not the case? From what I’ve been hearing and from what people have been posting, that’s their story. I’ve been in the business for 30 years. I don’t think you can last with not replying to phone calls or e-mails.
Had you received a phone call, would you have been willing to reprise your role? Based on the copyright and trademark and intellectual property protection, there were certain requests made that I would not comply with.
Via Instagram, you’ve hinted that you have big plans for the holiday season. Can you tell us more about that? There are a couple things—but it’s a little premature to say. The real Christmas season doesn’t hit until after Black Friday, so there are a couple dates and couple of ideas that are going around. The problem is this kind of stuff [the dispute with Yorkdale] is overshadowing the real purpose of the character, a character that I developed and pitched to retailers.
You mentioned that you pitched it to a variety of retailers—is that correct? Yes. With what is going on now, one of the retailers I pitched just offered up the original [pitch] letter. She didn’t have to do that. But it was amazing to get that email saying “listen, if you need this, this is the original pitch you sent us.”
Are you looking at creating a relationship with another retailer? I mean, I’m open to anything. Never say never. I love relationship building and our success last year was amazing—it was really, truly amazing.
How did you feel when you saw the #bringbackfashionsanta outcry on the internet after Yorkdale launched its campaign? It was surreal. What if my character was the start of a new Christmas tradition? What if it was, “every year we go take photos with Fashion Santa as our Christmas memory?” And I think what you’re seeing is the amount of joy that it brought. I think Canadians and Torontonians were so proud of it and proud of how it went viral. It touched the world.
How has Fashion Santa impacted your modelling career? Well, you know, I didn’t think it would take off like it did—I really didn’t. I thought maybe one year I’ll put out some Christmas cards, next year maybe I’ll put out a book. You know that fashion is fickle and trends come and go. So I kind of thought, if this works out, it’ll take on a life of its own and the modelling can almost stop. I have been working, but not as much as I used to because of the association with Fashion Santa.
Are you going to go by Yorkdale this season to check out the new Fashion Santa? I will not. I had a bad experience so I think I’ll stay clear of that and concentrate on my own stuff. I just did a blitz of morning shows today. I had to say thanks to the supporters. But, I also have to start setting things straight in my own way.