TORONTO – Paul Mason has devoted three decades to modelling, but the worldwide attention he’s received for his stylish take on Santa Claus is a fashionable first.
Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre enlisted Mason as its resident Fashion Santa and the face of the mall’s holiday campaign.
During the festive season, he is also posing for selfies with shoppers in support of Sick Kids Foundation, which raises funds on behalf of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
But beyond his own white beard and a penchant for red and white, Mason shares little else in common with the jolly old elf — and that’s part of what’s made him an overnight sensation.
The 6-foot-1 Toronto model has made a splash posing in sleek designer wear and striking poses in and around the mall showcasing his modern twist on St. Nick.
The images have gone viral, garnering attention from magazines like Time, Fortune and Harper’s Bazaar, and press from across the pond from the Telegraph newspaper and BBC.
“It’s just the most unexpected thing,” said Mason, 51.
“Of course, I’ve had a long career — 30 years as a model prior to social media — and this is something else. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“Through working all over the world, I have friends in all the major cities, and collectively they’ve come together and just supported what’s going on. But they’re equally as shocked as anyone else.”
Mason collaborated with Yorkdale last year, but the shopping centre embarked on a larger promotional push with this year’s campaign, said marketing director Lucia Connor.
Connor said she believes part of the intense interest stems from the ability of adults to reconnect with a part of their childhood.
“When we speak to some of the customers that come through to see Santa, the adults get so excited and they say: ‘The last time I took a photo with Santa I was young, I was little,'” she said.
“I think now what people are able to do is now proudly display their own photo of adult Fashion Santa, and instead of the mantel, they’re displaying it on their social media feeds.”
Mason is slated to take on Fashion Santa duty at the mall this weekend, as well as on Dec. 18, 19, 20 and 23.
For every selfie taken and posted on social media and accompanied by the hashtag “YorkdaleFashionSanta,” Yorkdale will donate $1 to Sick Kids Foundation, up to $10,000.
— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.