Who are you wearing? Why Chanel, dahling

The very glamorous idea struck about five years ago when Anny Kazanjian, Chanel's ED of PR and fashion promotion, was invited to the Toronto International Film Festival's

The very glamorous idea struck about five years ago when Anny Kazanjian, Chanel’s ED of PR and fashion promotion, was invited to the Toronto International Film Festival’s

opening gala at Royal Thompson Hall.

Milling about with Hollywood hot shots and the who’s who of the Toronto acting scene, Kazanjian noticed the string of big name banking, car and credit card company sponsors – but not one cosmetics brand. ‘I thought: ‘Okay, I’m not a brain surgeon, but those [brands] are here,” she laughs, telling the story from the tearoom at the Four Seasons on day eight of TIFF. ‘I thought: ‘It’s an amazing opportunity in our very own Canadian backyard.”

It was. Now in its fourth year, Chanel, one of the world’s premier prestige brands, is the only official beauty and health sponsor of TIFF, one of the world’s top festivals. It’s a coveted union that, as TIFF’s standing on the international movie scene swells, has the

obvious effect of driving sales of Chanel

product in Canada during the film festival.

But the real advantage, says Kazanjian, is the edge it gives Chanel in the beauty biz where image is the only thing. ‘There’s a lot of

competition in our business, so if we can do something that differentiates our brand I think, hallelujah to us.’

The global reach and positive PR have pleasantly surprised the folks at the Paris-based company, so much so that there are rumblings of expanding the idea to other markets.

As in previous years, Chanel’s big draw was its beauty suite, located on the 5th floor of the Four Seasons. Three rooms saw the likes of Sandra Bullock, Andy Garcia, Kelly Preston and Orlando Bloom waft through as Chanel treated the stars to cosmetics and clothes by the line’s makeup artists and stylists.

Then there were the parties, with the most lush being held at the boutique’s Bloor Street location. This year, about 400 people attended, mixing clients with celebrities and ‘influential hipsters,’ says Kazanjian. While Chanel hardly struggles for brand awareness, the effect of a partnership with the festival is subtle, she says. ‘It helps to create buzz.’

And with today’s beauty buzz generated by the stars, celebrity endorsement has far more impact than a simple ad campaign. ‘We are a celebrity-obsessed culture right now, and it’s not only in North America – it’s global. We have to keep feeding that big machine.’ So a star sporting a Chanel suit or a new lipstick is snapped at the festival. That photo is printed in a newspaper or magazine, which eventually winds up on the 76 Chanel counters across the country, in such stores as Holt Renfrew and the Bay, to reach teens and women who pine for the brand. ‘Chanel is an aspirational brand,’ she says. ‘This speaks to the 16-year-old who is fashion conscious, but does not yet have the means to acquire prestige products.’

After 14 years at Chanel, the fortysomething Kazanjian has an innate feel for what works best for the brand. With a journalism degree from Montreal’s Concordia University, she dabbled in radio, print and TV for about three years until making the move into PR, as director of advertising and PR at beauty products

purveyor Paul Mitchell.

With all of Chanel’s creative coming from France, Kazanjian says her main role is to suss out opportunities for the brand and to ‘think globally but act locally.’ To that end, along with the festival, Chanel hosts in-store fashion shows and fundraisers throughout the year and is aligned with Canada’s Walk of Fame, hosting the annual pre-gala party and primping the inductees.

But TIFF, which accounts for about 25%

to 30% of its annual marketing budget, is

certainly the brand’s most luxe undertaking, this year only slightly overshadowed by the reported US$12 million two-minute movie featuring Nicole Kidman and helmed by Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann for Chanel No. 5, the legendary scent first launched in 1921. The spot, which hits TV screens in 30- and 60-second incarnations in mid-November has been ‘a huge undertaking on a global scale,’ says Kazanjian. ‘It is the most brilliant thing.’

Maybe so, but does it top getting celebs to strut your stuff for free?