TIFF 2013: Inside TIFF Gifting Lounges

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Toronto International Film Festival is a tricky time for those who cover the festivities. On the one hand it’s incredibly thrilling to have so many talented people descend upon our hometown, but on the other…running around from film to film, from one interview to another, having to submit articles, and then having the energy to attend late-night parties is not for the faint of heart. But then again…some people would kill for the opportunity to experience it all. So instead of complaining, both media and industry types buck up and survive it all. What definitely helps year after year are the amazing TIFF Gifting Lounges, which offer both celebs and industry insiders a chance to pop in for much-needed hair and make-up touch-ups, mini manis, mini massages, delectable bites and of course, freebies!

Each year, it seems like more and more lounges pop up in Toronto, so even hopping from one to another in an attempt to cover them all may seem like a gruelling task all on its own…but hey, someone’s gotta do it! Below are the highlights from the lounges I got to visit during this year’s TIFF!

1. Esther Garnick PR’s Essentials Lounge

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Essentials Lounge is a much-needed media haven year after year. Its sole existence is to arm the press with the essentials necessary to “survive” TIFF and “recover” once the festival is over. At this year’s lounge, we were gifted with face-savers like Elizabeth Grant’s Essence of Torricelumn treatment to repair and renew tired skin, and Collagen Re-Inforce Rejuvenating Gel Eye Pads to practically erase any evidence of sleepless nights and fatigue. Both worked their magic on my skin all week long! Magic, I’m telling you.

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Our amazing Essentials gift bags also contained hair products from Aveda (smells so good!), makeup from Hard Candy Cosmetics (fun colours to play with), Calvin Klein underwear, Centrum Vitamins (TIFF flu is a thing, people!), Ethical Bean Coffee (for that extra boost of energy), Nike+ Fuelband (to count how many calories one can burn running from one premiere to another), HP Slate 7 tablet (because it’s much easier to carry than a laptop, and just as useful for blogging on the go), and lots more. Needless to say, with thoughtful gift bag contents that are actually helpful during TIFF, Essentials Lounge was a lifesaver for many bloggers and media types covering the festival this year.

2. Variety Studio

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While Variety Studio, hosted by Holt Renfrew and sponsored by brands like MoroccanOil and British Airways isn’t a gifting lounge per se, it was definitely a place to be during the festival. Where else could you watch Susan Sarandon get an intense MoroccanOil hand massage (smells and feels amazing) while holding her dog Penny in her lap, Michael Fassbender (whom I actually missed AGAIN!) getting his flirt on, Jude Law eating brownies on the couch, Matthew McConaughey storming into the room and greeting everyone in his thick Texan drawl, Abigail Breslin talking about her “guy” and looking all grown up while also enjoying a MoroccanOil treatment…I mean, the room was swimming with celebs for days, and I was super lucky to have been able to get a glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes. Plus, Jared Leto smiled at me and I chatted with Demian Bichir, so there’s that.

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More after the jump!

3. NKPR IT Lounge

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Last year, NKPR IT Lounge made headlines by inviting world-renowned photographer Patrick Demarchelier to take photos of celebs passing through the gifting lounge. This year, Canadian photog Caitlin Cronenberg took over the portrait studio duties. As usual, IT Lounge had many fun stations to visit – from delicious Barilla pasta station (which inspired me to actually cook something at home), to just as delicious Cold Stone Creamery ice-cream station, to AVON makeup and Tweezerman brow touch-ups, to a mini Roots boutique with their signature sweats (the comfiest EVER!) and quality leather bags on display, there was lots to see and do at this year’s lounge. The drinks were also flowing, courtesy of SKYY VodkaDavidsTea, Aqua Hydrate, and my favourite – Bottle Green!

This year, NKPR IT Lounge and Portrait Studio’s star-studded guest list included Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Taylor Kitsch, Felicity Jones, Michael C. Hall, Adrien Brody, Eli Roth, Maria Bello, Paul Haggis, George Stromboulopoulous, and many more.

4. Tastemakers Lounge

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Launched in 2005 by Leesa Butler and rock-it promotions’ Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, Tastemakers Lounge is one of Toronto’s longest-running TIFF gifting suites, now in its ninth year at the film festival. This year, celebrity guests like Wes Bentley, Anton Yelchin, Colin Mochrie and Ron James stopped by to browse a selection of “Need it Now” goodies with a Canadiana twist.

Tastemakers Lounge was chock-full of great Canadian products like the beautiful Jessica Jensen handbags, delicious AWAKE Chocolate Bars with as much caffeine in one bar as in a cup of coffee, Penguin Canada books written by Toronto writers (1982 by Jian Ghomeshi, The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and Bait by J. Kent Messum), ultra-nourishing hand cream from Cake Beauty, and my absolute favourite – Wendell Honey - all natural, unheated, raw, creamed, and super tasty; products that celebs can bring home as lovely Canadian mementos.

5. The Suite

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Speaking of kick-ass Canadian products, The Suite, presented by Kelly Claman Company and Stylist Box, was a showcase of what Canadian designers have to offer. I’ve always been in awe of Lucian Matis’ otherwordly designs, and during this year’s TIFF, celebs had exclusive access to his and other Canadian designers’ pieces. Labels at The Suite included Andrew MajtenyiLucian MatisMashaMoose&Beaver, WrenHilary MacMillan, Kain Label, Kova & TLove ZooeyMe to We StyleI’MONIQ AccessoriesKara Ross, and more.

At the lounge, guests were able to purchase a special “Don’t You Know Who I think I am?” Stylist Box tee, with proceeds going to CANFAR. So TIFF appropriate!

6. Shoppers Drug Mart TIFF Suite 2013

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Another media-focused lounge in the city was hosted by Shoppers Drug Mart and Sally Hershberger. Services offered included hair styling by Sally Hershberger’s New York and Los Angeles stylists, makeup applications by Stila Cosmetics and Shoppers Drug Mart beautyBOUTIQUE beauty advisors, DUO eyelash applications, St. Tropez Custom Skin Finishing Treatments, and manicures by Ceramic Glaze - everything needed to glamify the tired media members for the red carpet and late-night parties.

The talented hairstylist Paul Perez from the LA salon helped me get festival ready by giving me an amazing braided up-do, while Stila’s makeup artist took care of my haggard mug. The result was pretty awesome and made me feel like a VIP. If I could have my hair and makeup done professionally every day, I would love it so much. Damn those celebs, they have it so good!

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So, this was my experience at TIFF 2013 Gifting Lounges. I got pampered, was able to try amazing new products, and got a glimpse into the fascinating world of celebrities. I didn’t get to talk to Michael Fassbender, but I guess if I did, I’d be the most spoiled person in the world. Next year, I’m coming for you, Michael!

Photo Credits: 1, 4, 5 – WireImage for The Variety Studio Presented By Moroccanoil At Holt Renfrew; 2, 3 – Esther Garnick PR; 6 – NKPR; 7 – Central Imaging; 8 – Becca Lemire 


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