Discovering the LEXUS IS with Toronto’s Experiential Masters

When it comes to luxury, it is all about experience — an area that Lexus has mastered, as a brand culturally routed by Omotenashi, the Japanese art of providing exceptional hospitality. This notion of Omotenashi is present in all aspects of Lexus, from design and performance, to luxury and technology, and of course, service(which includes anticipating and addressing needs before they even arise).

To discover the new IS sport sedan, Lexus created a unique Master Class drive route around Toronto with stops to visit some of the city’s masters of experiences in their respective industries.

The drive began at Le Germain, Canada’s first boutique hotel and a master of hospitality. Justine, myself and our creative assistant, Vyvian met up here with the Lexus team and a small group of fellow Toronto-based tastemakers. After enjoying a delicious, hearty breakfast, we hopped into a fleet of Lexus IS sport sedans and headed off on our drive!

The F Sport model was especially fun to drive, with Sport and Sport+ settings that enhanced the vehicle’s performance and power.

Our first stop was a visit with our friend and designer of Triarchy Denim, Ania Taubenfligel, to talk about Brave Design, one of the core values of Lexus. Triarchy recently went through a rebranding and transformation to become a fully sustainable, luxury denim brand. Denim production is typically a very wasteful process that requires immense amounts of water and energy. Taking a brave leap forward, Ania and her brother Adam made the decision to completely change how their denim is manufactured. Triarchy denim is now made using Tencel, a processed wood fibre made from eucalyptus trees, which require 85% less water than cotton to grow and can be produced and manufactured with 100% renewable energy. Triarchy also now works with a factory that uses 85% recycled water in the manufacturing process and saves on average 1,419 gallons of water per pair of Triarchy jeans, while still delivering high quality denim and design.

Here’s Justine and me with our friend Ania. I’m wearing one of Triarchy’s Atelier denim jackets:

On the move to our next stop! Our drive got a little wet with a passing summer thunderstorm.

We arrived in Etobicoke to meet with Maître Fromager (Cheese Master) and owner of Cheese Boutique, Afrim Pristine. This was definitely one of the more delicious stops, with plenty of caviar, charcuterie, rare cheeses and gelato to be enjoyed. Our visit to Cheese Boutique was also about mastery and craftsmanship. Afrim is a true expert and master of cheese. He is the youngest recipient among a small group of Canadians to receive a distinction of “Chevalier” from the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France in 2007 and in 2013, he was inducted as the world’s youngest Maître Fromager by the France-based Guilde Internationale des Fromagers. The Cheese Boutique offers an incredible selection of one of a kind cheeses and we got to have an exclusive tour of the cheese cellars.

It was a true demonstration of Takumi Craftsmanship, another pillar of Lexus core values. Takumi is an ancient Japanese concept that holds the essence of absolute mastery of an art or craft. The Takumi craftspeople at Lexus spend years training to perfect their crafts, much like how Afrim has done in the world of Cheese.

While the 2017 Lexus IS features an updated, daring design, comfort and safety, the IS 350 F Sport AWD that we drove also boasts 306 HP at 277 lb.-ft of torque. In Sport+ mode, I felt a lot of power behind the wheel, making for an exciting ride that was also comfortable for everyone else as passengers in the vehicle too.

For the driver, the Lexus IS includes all of the luxury and technology features one could want, from Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist to Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic System (to improve driver awareness of adjacent traffic and approaching vehicles when backing out of parking spots).

One design element that I love is the line that runs across the body of the IS from the front doors to the taillights. An intentional detail to make the sport sedan look like it’s always in motion, even when it’s at a stand still.

Our third stop of the day was at renowned celebrity photographer, George Pimentel‘s studio. George is a fixture in Toronto’s media and entertainment scene and red carpets around the world. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him and even be photographed by him over the past few years, so it was very exciting to be able to visit his studio and see some of his archives. George is a true master of moments, having captured every A-List star, such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman and more. This stop in our journey was focused on the fourth pillar of Lexus values: exhilarating performance and imaginative technology. In every moment that George Pimentel captures, there’s a feeling of anticipation that comes right before. It’s that same rush of adrenaline that Lexus considers when developing the performance of their vehicles. And through innovative applications of technology, they are able to create exciting experiences. Similar to photography’s shift from film to digital and continued evolution beyond.

While at his studio, we each got to have a quick portrait session with George as well. What a fun treat! Here’s one of my shots:

As the weather began to clear up again, we made our way across town to the Spirit of York Distillery Co. in the iconic Distillery District. Here, we met with Master of Mixology, Simon Ho, a notable Toronto mixologist and visionary behind Spirit of York’s Bitters Library. And we learned all about the art of mixology, as well as how the complex distilling process is done. Another fine demonstration of Takumi craftsmanship paralleling the passion and precision of Lexus’s ethos.

Our last and final stop was at the newly opened Café Cancan. Brought to life by Chef-Owner, Victor Barry, Café Cancan comes following the success of Victor’s other popular Toronto restaurant, Piano Piano. A true Master of Cuisine, Victor prepared an absolutely divine menu for the group that evening, which included lobster and duck. An explosion of flavors and gorgeous fresh ingredients. At this point, we had come full circle, returning to the first Lexus core value: Omotenashi. Victor and his team went above and beyond just cooking fantastic food. They made us feel at home with their warm and personal service, and not a single detail went unnoticed.

The decor at Café Cancan is also something to write home about. Not to mention that I miraculously and very coincidentally matched with the color scheme!

By the end, we were all ready for a good night’s sleep. Full with delicious food, great conversations and an amazing Master Class experience. It was so much fun to experience each of the stops in our journey and what better than the Lexus IS to get us around town!

Photos by Vyvian To

*This post was sponsored by Lexus Canada. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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