Nathalie Dubois-Sissoko + Gifting Suites
= High-class Global Venues
by Beth Zerilli
East Coast Correspondent
Nathalie Dubois-Sissoko (seen above with Emmy-winner and Nurse Jackie star Edie Falco), president and CEO of Dubois, Pelin and Associates (DPA) officially debuted her gifting suites at the 2005 Golden Globe Awards. With French –style and products, in 2010, DPA has produced six major suites making Nathalie and DPA an intricate part of almost every major award show or film festival worldwide. Born in France, Nathalie travels throughout the world and draws on the diversity of cultures and designs she discovers to make her suites unique and unforgettable.
BeansTalk grabbed a few moments with Nathalie during last week’s T.I.F.F (Toronto’s International Film Festival) to discover more about this Global Gifting Suite company.
BT: How does this year’s suite compare with the suite two years ago?
ND:This year’s suite is a bit different. There are less familiar faces this year.
BT: And the overall success of this year?
ND: If you look at the overall seven days it had been a good event. We are actually closing earlier since we are running out of products. So, I guess it has been a successful week.
BT: How do you get started in this business (Gifting Lounges)?
ND: It’s a long story. I was producing special events for 10 years: anywhere from fashion shows like Donna Karan all the way to unknown designers. I worked for the Royal Family of Japan and for the [Michael] Jackson family.
I was traveling one day to Bora Bora, and I met this jewelry company that was amazing and they pressured me to do their public relations, which I didn’t do at the time. And finally, I decided to put this (the jewelry line) on the red carpet of the Golden Globes. We had so many presents around the necklace we were [displaying] for the celebrity (gifting) that we decided to take a suite and put all the products in it. It was a concept that was already done – we didn’t invent anything.
BT: How long have you been doing Gifting Lounges?
ND: We started in Januray 2005 with Golden Globes and we basically took it world wide.
BT: How are you different from the other gifting suites?
ND: We decided to do it (our gifting suites) the French way, putting it upscale. We do it very differently than anybody else. We don’t let people loose in the suite. We escort them. We carry their bags. We print invites and deliver them. All the little pluses. We are also the only company doing (gifting suites) world-wide. We partner with the biggest film festivals in the world: The Dubai Film Festival for four years, Hong Kong Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival for three years. We were in Cannes for four years. That’s what also brought us to a different level. We are very international and very upscale.
BT: How do you decide the products to be gifted?
ND: In every event we have a big name brand and new brands. For this event (Toronto International Film Festival), we decided to go full blast in Canadian brands. So, we approached many Canadian companies.
BT: How do you decide on which vendors to use?
ND: It’s basically everything I like. A lot of times, I just go shopping and find products. Then I pursue the products. We have a lot of companies that approach us. We screen a lot of products. I have to say that I am proud of everything I have this suite. I will either use or wear or recommend to people and I think that also what makes a difference. I am friends with so many celebrities in Hollywood and I go to their house. I see a lot of the gifts (from other company suites) recycled as Christmas gifts (for example). And I know that a lot of my gifts are worn by the celebrities. They get shot (by photographers) in the streets with bracelets (etc) and I guess it’s pretty much coming from my taste. Things I like. I don’t compromise for money. I just choose things that I will love.
BT: Have you ever had an experience where you invited a vendor and they were not what you expected?
ND: Yes! It happened in Venice. And it was so embarrassing! It was a plate with Swarovski crystals and it just looked cheap and so 15-years-old. And that year we had Charlize Theron and Richard Gere and there was no way I could have gone to them (with these), so I hid the plates and sent them back.
BT: Have you noticed that the vendors, particularly those that are new to their industries, take off in popularity after the exposure from your suites?
ND: It’s huge! It’s in fact very interesting, because we have a base of companies that follow us world-wide. Recently we had a client since 2007 that just got huge after Monte Carlo in June, because they did three years of events with us and they just signed a deal with a hotel to sell their products world-wide. It’s a lot of success stories. People like designer of pearls worn by Sharon Stone on the red carpet. And she (Stone) is one of the top images for fashion and glamour. She puts a lot of our products on the red carpet or in the streets (for photo-ops) and a lot of companies get pushed to the next level. It (being a part of a gift lounge) accounts for about 6 months of public relations when you do a suite like this. Even if a suite had only two stars. The amount of press and promotion and the network of people is incredible. We invite only the biggest celebrities. And if the celebrities don’t come, still the network people come, big agents, and it will grow the network for these people (vendors).
BT: Have you ever had a moment (not naming names) where a celebrity visited and you had to intervene between a celebrity and a vendor?
ND: We had the case one time where a very big celebrity entered the suite and I think she was not comfortable with her image. She wore her sunglasses and said, “Where are the diamonds!” All she wanted were the diamonds and she walked in and out. It was disappointing for the other vendors. We very rarely have problems with celebrities. (Although) we have funny stories with celebrities, like after being gifted so much (some celebrities) will call again to ask for more. Recently a huge A-List (celebrity) did that (call and asked for more), which was surprise. Normally the A-list[ers] don’t do it. It’s more like a B-list, (since) we don’t invite C-list. The bigger the stars the easier it (the gifting suite) is.
BT: What have been some of your favorite moments doing this?
ND: Some really magical times! I had a very sweet moment with Richard Gere in Venice [at the Film Festival], where we gave him some gifts. He is a very special person. The night of his premiere, he crossed the whole room full of people with his wife (and it was high security), to come get me. My client introduced us as the people who gifted him all day. It was very special.
The first time I met Terrence Howard [Iron Man], he wanted to sign a check at the end, because he didn’t understand the concept. And he was very sweet and amazing. He is always doing something special. He comes to a lot of our suites. (Again) the first time he essentially took his checkbook out and I said, “No, no, no, it’s just gifts for you.”
The second time [Howard] came he was really amazing [again]. It was another Golden Globe one where we had the suite above the red carpet. He wrote a note in the mirror (by the gifting -suite guest book). So, nobody could read it and to read it you have to put it (the message in front of] a mirror. It was a very special note to me.
I think of big moments, like little kids growing up who are really big now: like Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men. We have been seeing her for three or four years. It really so exciting.
BT: Any strange moments you recall over the years?
ND: We have to have security when we do L.A. . We have lots of people impersonating people, like lying. Recently at the Emmy’s, we had this guy arriving, acting like he’s Aaron Paul [Breaking Bad] and he looks like him. It was really bad. We have stories like this a lot. We have thieves. We have prostitutes trying to come with bags saying they're actresses from whatever show. When we are in Cannes we were almost attacked. This guy, he was 7-ft. tall and he looked like a skin-head. He knocked at the door and said he had come to get the gifts. Also had a little old lady who was once walking by the suite. She wanted to get a gift bag. So she tried every single day until finally we were so tired of it we just gave her a gift bag. It was so sad.
BT: You’re traveling all over the world, is there any city that tends to be more difficult than the rest?
ND: The Middle East was very tough in the beginning, because we get a lot of Bollywood, a lot of U.S. that go to the Dubai Film Festival. And also we get a lot of Arabic stars. And imagine this concept, in America or even in Canada. They know the deal that you take pictures (with the products that are being gifted). But, in the Middle East a lot of women have the veil. So, they (Middle-Eastern women) want a dress when they are going to wear it behind walls, but they don’t want to be shot (photographed) with the dress. In the Middle East they will be in trouble (for having their picture taken with the product). I would say there are no events more difficult, just different. I love them all!