The behind-the-scenes battle to dress the biggest A-listers in Cannes

It’s impossible to predict what a celebrity will wear to the Cannes Film Festival because, to maximize drama, the details of their finery are always kept secret until all is revealed on the red carpet. But as the 77th annual event kicks off on Tuesday, one thing is more certain; a protest will probably start.

Considering that, there could be an uproar from the #MeToo movement Media share, the French online investigative newspaper, has threatened to publish the names of ten actors and directors accused of sexual abuse, including some whose films are set to premiere soon. A group of festival workers is also calling for a general strike because of the “precarious” position of freelance staff. With the Israeli-Hamas and Russian-Ukrainian wars raging, Cannes could also be used as a stage by activists.

Cannes has been used for protest – from the powerful #MeToo demonstration in 2018, in the wake of film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s arrest for rape, to last year, when Ukrainian influencer Ilona Chernobai drenched herself in fake blood on the steps of the Palais from Cannes. Who could forget 2015’s #Flatgate – some of the women who attended the premiere of Carol were turned away for wearing flat shoes instead of high heels, which made global headlines.

Ilona Chernobai

Cannes is often used for protest: last year, Ukrainian influencer Ilona Chernobai immersed herself in fake blood on the steps of the Palais of Cannes – Getty

Certainly, no action will threaten the glamor at this event. Major players in every luxury area (fashion, jewelry and watches, cosmetics, shoes and accessories) take advantage of all parts of the festival – from the red carpet to the press conferences, but also the parties that take place in beach clubs and on board yachts – such as sets to show their spring-summer collections to the actors, models and influencers who are part of the scene.

Cannes is “the most mediatized event after the World Cup,” according to Caroline Scheufele, co-president and artistic director of Chopard, who designed the coveted design. Palm d’Or price, it says.

Cate Blanchett on the red carpet of The Zone of Interest at last year's Cannes Film FestivalCate Blanchett on the red carpet of The Zone of Interest at last year's Cannes Film Festival

Cate Blanchett on the red carpet of The Zone of Interest at last year’s Cannes Film Festival – Getty Images

Another reason why Cannes is an important time on the fashion calendar is because films that premiere there often receive Oscar nominations. Cannes typically kicks off the Oscar campaign strategy for the coming year, and the festival is a crucial place for luxury’s top minds to collaborate with celebrities who are contractually obligated to wear their clothes (known as ‘brand ambassadors’) and also to look for new talent whose flair and charisma can entice “tomorrow’s customers” to shop. After that of Gaël Morel Alive, mourir, renaître (Live, die, live again)included in the festival’s official selection, Chanel, for example, signed Lou Lampros, the 22-year-old French actress who stars in the romantic drama.

“You almost see all the fashion brands fighting to get actors to wear their clothes in Cannes,” explains Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of Fashion France. “With Instagram today, the red carpet is a phenomenon and can be a huge profit for brands.”

Emma WeymouthEmma Weymouth

Emma Weymouth attended Cannes – Getty last year

Coco Rocha poses at the 76th annual Cannes Film FestivalCoco Rocha poses at the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival

Coco Rocha poses at the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival – Getty

For sheer glamour, some say the Met Gala can now rival Cannes – although the former is one night and the latter can offer several major red carpet moments. These include the festival’s splashy debut of the opening film – when an international group of actresses and models, who are ambassadors for L’Oréal Paris, the festival’s official make-up sponsor – get ready for the paparazzi, and the Cinema Against AIDS event.

The annual charity auction raises money for the AIDS Research Foundation. Since 2012, Roitfeld has managed the style components and cast of models appearing on the red carpet outside the event’s legendary venue, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. She also curates the runway show that warms up the crowd before the bidding begins.

When considering whether the Met Gala and Cannes are competing, Roitfeld says diplomatically, “It’s not a competition. But it is a bit. The models [for the Foundation for Aids Research] wanting to show up as their best selves and take great photos.”

Demi Moore at the Met Gala, 2024Demi Moore at the Met Gala, 2024

Demi Moore at the Met Gala last week – Getty Images

Protests aside, taking red carpet photos and video at any film festival is more complicated than ever because everyone is a critic thanks to social media, argues Cameron Silver. The retailer, which is consultants to Balmain and Dolce & Gabbana, acknowledges that the publicity of a big red carpet moment like Cannes “sells fragrances and small items such as accessories and handbags”. [for brands]. A beautiful piece of jewelry worn by a modern icon like Cate Blanchett can appear very attractive to a discerning customer.

“But we are in a very difficult time where everything – what people say and do – is analyzed so that there can be liabilities on both sides,” he adds.

During a 2008 red carpet interview in Cannes, Dior ambassador Sharon Stone said that an earthquake that had recently struck China’s Sichuan province was “the result of ‘bad karma’ over Beijing’s occupation of Tibet….” She later explained that her comments were in support of the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism. For Dior, China was too crucial a luxury market to disrupt… the brand quickly distanced itself from the star.

Sharon Stone at the premiere of Changeling at the Cannes Film Festival, 2008Sharon Stone at the premiere of Changeling at the Cannes Film Festival, 2008

Sharon Stone at Cannes in 2008 – an interview she gave on the red carpet that year ended with Dior distancing itself from the star – Getty

More and more, actors are appearing on the red carpet in looks inspired by the films they are promoting – also known as ‘method dressing’. While it was conceived in old Hollywood, there were promotional tours for a slew of recent films, including Barbie, Challengers, Dune And Bad – have turned ‘method dressing’ into a fashion phenomenon on the red carpet. It’s fun to watch and since it’s all about film promotion, it’s a safe styling option for Cannes this year and fitting considering the festival operates one of the largest annual film financing and sales markets.

For the premiere of Furiosa: A Mad Max SagaAnya Taylor-Joy should make another outing in the ‘post-apocalyptic press tour style’ that her ‘image architect’ Law Roach has created for her.

Celebrity stylist Jessica Paster explains that the premiere looks she creates for her clients, Aubrey Plaza and Maria Bakalova, will reference their competition films. Bakalova plays Ivana Trump The intern, Ali Abbasi’s biographical drama about the former president of America’s heyday in New York in the 1980s as a real estate magnate. “For Maria it will be about power dressing,” says Paster.

Plaza plays a supporting role in one of the festival’s most anticipated films, Megapolis. Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘passion project’, a sci-fi Roman epic, features a masterful wardrobe by Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero. “For Aubrey, I refer to the past and the future,” Paster says.

Greta Gerwig at the Met Gala, 2024Greta Gerwig at the Met Gala, 2024

Greta Gerwig at the Met Gala, 2024 – Getty Images

Barbie‘s director, Greta Gerwig, heads the Cannes jury, which counts Lily Gladstone, Eva Green and Lebanese-Canadian filmmaker Nadine Labaki as members. Given the current awkward mood, the female judges are allowed to wear black suits or pantsuits to the premieres. In formal situations, the low-key style of dress symbolizes allegiance to #MeToo – although this is at odds with the sartorial spirit of Cannes.

“[Gerwig] has a lot of choices,” a source told me.

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