By Vanessa Friedman
If the Met Gala has become the ultimate high-fashion costume party, the Oscars the ur-brand marketing opportunity, and the VMAs an expression of pure dress-up id, the Cannes Film Festival, which will draw to a close Saturday, is the anything-goes oleo of all of the above. It is simply so long — 11 days — and involves so many stars of so many levels (A-list to D-list), not to mention red carpets, gala dinners and related photo ops, that every possible permutation of dressing for the public eye is represented.
But amid all the acres of Giambattista Valli tulle, Dior princess gowns and body-baring Peter Dundas looks; amid the classic tuxedos (black and white) and aviator shades, a few statement-making pieces and people went beyond the mere fabulous to offer a lesson about this particular moment.
When Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino, revealed Pink PP, his special shade of hot pink (named for his initials) during the last Paris Fashion Week, and then decided to make pretty much his entire collection in that single color, the critical reaction was decidedly mixed. It was so … um, bright. And all kind of blended together.
But the show proved to be an unexpected hit with celebrities, who have been modeling pieces from the collection on red carpets since April. Yet elegant as the looks are, the celebs have seemingly missed the fact that, given how immediately identifiable, specific and blinding this particular color is, they all kind of look as if they are wearing the same thing.
Thus it was that, in the end, it was Valentino Pink PP more than any style or even star (including Anne Hathaway, Naomi Campbell, Bérénice Bejo, Katherine Langford and more) that was impossible to forget.
Between the froufrou and the penguin suits, the visual overload of entrances can often seem like mainlining macarons (especially after the fast of the past two years), and it’s easy to forget that Cannes is actually a resort town, complete with beach and boardwalk.
So it was … well, a bit of a breeze to see some celebrities embracing the seaside ethos by swapping ball skirts and tuxedo trousers for shorts. Not just any old frayed denim shorts, of course, but more like black tie shorts. Still, the right idea. Leading the way was Rossy de Palma, the head of the Caméra d’Or jury (which gives out the award for best first feature film) who vamped it up in a black shorts suit during the opening premiere, followed the next day by a similar white look. Cooler than a miniskirt and airier than a maxi, they gave the whole occasion un certain regard.
The red carpet, with all the associated camera lenses, paparazzi and eyeballs, is traditionally a magnet for protest (remember the Louis Vuitton show that was crashed by a climate protester?), and this year’s festival was no exception. A female activist crashed the premiere of George Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” stripping down to her underwear to reveal a naked torso painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and the message “stop raping us.” The lower half of her body was splashed with blood-like red paint and the word “scum” (the name of a French feminist collective). Though she was quickly covered up and carted off by security, you can understand the motivation. Why waste all that attention on frocks?
Plunging into a brand’s archives for the high-gloss equivalent of the re-wearing movement is becoming more common these days. (It’s about time.) Case in point: Bella Hadid, working with stylist Law Roach, offered a master class in the power of the vintage vibe via three different Versace looks. First, she attended the screening of “The Innocent” in an hourglass black number from 1987 with a giant pouf that channeled John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X.” Then she arrived at the festival’s anniversary dinner in a leather-hipped dress from 2001 with a plunging neck. And she just happened to appear on her balcony in a corset-laced chiffon look from 2003. It gave new meaning to the phrase “this old thing.
5. The “Elvis” Effect
The much-ballyhooed Baz Luhrmann Presley biopic has been making waves for a while now, so it’s little surprise that some of the King’s signatures have already influenced designers and the boldface names that wear them. Pastel tuxedos, bling and jumpsuits were all present and accounted for — and not just at the “Elvis” premiere. Given the critical reception, which praised at least the look of the film, this is just the beginning. Set your trend-o-meters now.
Plus honorable mentions to the best-dressed:
Anne Hathaway, who balanced grandeur with the kitschy fun of the Croisette in equal measure; Viola Davis, whose assortment of bright plumage made her look like a fabulous bird of paradise; and Rebecca Hall, a member of the grand jury, whose wardrobe was like an entire fashion week in miniature.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.