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Inside TIFF 2014: Model Behaviour

Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Gere, Jessica Chastain, Denzel Washington.

The brows have landed. Lending some much needed catwalk chic to the Toronto International Film Festival’s opening weekend, Cara Delevingne arrived at Grey Goose Soho House for the Topshop at Hudson’s Bay Party to celebrate the world premiere of The Face of an Angel. In Michael Winterbottom’s new film, a drama inspired by Amanda Knox, Daniel Brühl stars as a filmmaker who travels to Italy to research a film adaptation of the sensational case, striking up a relationship with a British student, played by Delevingne.

At Soho House, Delevingne and co-star Kate Beckinsale shared a conspiratorial giggle, heads bowed and bottom lips curled upward. Beckinsale has worked with auteurs like Whit Stillman and anchored an action franchise with Underworld; Delevingne could do with a worse mentor.

If there was ever a time for Delevingne to work the room, this festival weekend would be it. Models are not typically required to say much, but when trying to make the leap from the pages of Vogue to private casting lunches with likes of Spike Jonze or Alfonso Cuarón, one must kick it up a notch. After all, the road to Bond girl contracts has to start somewhere.

With a costume change between the red carpet and Topshop at Hudson’s Bay after party, Delevingne went from jade green floor length gown to tomboy-tough in a black strapless mini-dress, cropped leather jacket, and gold accessories. The British supermodel greeted co-star Brühl warmly, wrapping her lithe arms around his wool-clad shoulders.

As this party’s coveted guest list is as tight as Fort Knox, the cast seemed remarkably relaxed, as if it were a crew reunion of sorts. Observing Delevingne’s unmistakable body language and facial cues, I was struck by her raw, unscripted stance. It’s more coquettish than coy, more in the realm of a young Jane Birkin than Twiggy on a bender. The 22-year-old embodies our current zeitgeist, the kind of spirit and optimism that inspires Paul McCartney lyrics. This is not the branded happiness of a supermodel’s strategically-curated social media, full of hearts, handbags, and hero worship. This girl’s Instagram feed is all about activism, candied bacon, and Brooklyn bar stools.

From the fashion world’s most famous furry arches to Britain’s most beautiful male pout, breakout star Douglas Booth attended the Hugo Boss party for the world premiere of The Riot Club. Kicking off at close to midnight, the most hotly anticipated party of opening weekend—from an admiring point of view—was underway. Colette, Toronto’s new of-the-moment bistro at the Thompson Toronto, was awash with dashing British actors equipped with posh accents. In addition to Booth, Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, and Jessica Brown Findlay were all gathered together, ready for their proverbial close up.

Giving new dimension to classic Boss tailoring, Booth cut a striking figure. The 22-year-old Brit, who made a name for himself in Noah and Romeo and Juliet, has clearly established a rapport with co-stars Irons (son of Jeremy Irons) and Claflin (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). The trio was lit up; emotions of the cast running from Irons’ spirited hedonism to Claflin’s unabashed glee.

Director Lone Scherfig came to international attention at TIFF with An Education a few years back. In this new scathing dissection of the British class system, a privileged young man is inducted into the debaucherous, often brutal company of Oxford’s elite “Riot Club”. Rather ripe terrain for this cast of thespians.

As Hugo Boss is an official sponsor of TIFF, dressing both festival director and CEO Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey, the pressure to deliver a memorable party was huge. And deliver they did.

Earlier in the evening, I experienced not one but two festival firsts at the bigger-than-big Giorgio Armani bash. First, I passed a trace explosives detection portal to attend the sky high party, held atop the CN Tower. Second, I encountered the American Gigolo himself, Richard Gere in the flesh. The temperature in one half of the party was positively sweltering during DJ Mark Ronson’s set. Fanning my face, I told Gere the heat wave from the dance floor was melting sequins off dresses. He grinned and tossed, “Guess I better take my jacket off,” before sauntering away. The moment was made more poignant as American Gigolo is the classic film that launched Giorgio Armani’s deconstructed jackets to an international audience.

Seeking refuge from the heat, I sat with Jessica Chastain and Chloë Grace Moretz for a few minutes in their more climate-controlled booth. Chastain and I caught up on our mutual love of travel and rescue dogs, and her new film Miss Julie, premiering this week at TIFF. “The period costumes inspired the performance, the emotion,” she shared. “It’s fascinating, how much the connection between fashion and cinema affects our imagination.” On that note, she said she’s looking forward to her annual couture session at the Room at Hudson’s Bay this coming week. “It’s a shame Nicholas won’t be there,” she mused of buying director Nicholas Mellamphy, who has visited Chastain in her dressing room on Broadway. “But he’s assures me I’ll be pleased at his choices.”

Meeting Roberta Armani was a highlight, and as I extended my hand in greeting, she clasped it and drew me in for an Italia familia-style embrace. “I know NUVO, it’s beautiful; it’s by Italians,” she exclaimed. She was warm and wonderful, one of the most robust personalities in fashion (she’s godmother to both Suri Cruise and Brooklyn Beckham after all). From clubbing with Leonardo DiCaprio to yachting with the Beckhams, the voluptuous siren has star power all on her own.

The A-list party turned into an A-crowd party. The affair literally had celebrities running in circles—a carousel of revelry that included Academy Award winners Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, and Holly Hunter. Also in attendance wearing Armani were Laura Dern, Josh Charles, Elisha Cuthbert, and Quvenzhane Wallis. Wallis chose to rock a pair of tiny tuxedo pants, melting a dozen hardened fashionista hearts in the process. Ciao amica mia!

Watch this space for more from the Toronto International Film Festival.