Follow Vogue Arabia

What it’s Actually Like to Be a Red-Carpet Stylist at Cannes

So high are the fashion stakes at Cannes that pictures from the French Riviera film festival could be confused with the Met Gala. A merry mix of movie stars, models, moguls and their plus ones, the Cannes Film Festival is the kind of social event that Lady Victoria Hervey attends every year and, well, that’s all you really need to know about the fashion.

cannes fashion

Law Roach and Naomi Campbell. Photo: Getty

The famously antiquated dress code keeps stylists on their toes. Despite the highly regulated attitude towards red-carpet wear relaxing in recent years, a pair of flat shoes can still result in a major media outcry. See: Kristen Stewart kicking off her Louboutins at the 2018 premiere of BlacKkKlansman and Jennifer Lawrence’s flip-flop moment last year, when she claimed she had “no idea” about the “barefoot controversy” that followed. (For K-Stew’s part, she said: “if you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you can’t ask me either.”)

Once a Hollywood dresser has deciphered the perfect modern-meets-Old Hollywood formula that will win their client enough paparazzi snaps to make a splash without looking too try hard, there are brand ambassadorships and sponsorships at play. Should a star, like Alexa Chung who attended with her Boucheron family, be hosted by a brand, they will be expected to wear it for every single occasion along the Croisette. A happy harmony if you like diamonds, as this is where the big league jewelers come to play.

cannes fashion

Emma Stone in Louis Vuitton. Photo: Getty

The French houses and their beauty arms, such as Dior which takes a suite overlooking the red carpet, look after their inner circle by securing rooms in one of the three hotels a stone’s throw away from the action. Louis Vuitton, for example, flies Emma Stone’s team, including Petra Flannery, over from LA, whereas a stylist booked by a client off their own back might not have the luxury of even getting on a plane, because of the stratospheric cost of so much as ordering le hamburger anywhere remotely near the festival. Harry Lambert, who is behind Sienna Miller’s boho-chic Chloé resurgence, had to orchestrate the actor’s entire Cannes wardrobe, including those major Schiaparelli fashion jeans, before she touched down in Nice.

Those who do exist in the frenzy of French fries and coffee over a snatched snippet of the festival (Cannes last for two weeks with most celebs dipping in and out over a couple of days), will not be frolicking on the beach, as per Brigitte Bardot et al in its early heyday. Glam squads have multiple meetings prior to a premiere to land on “the look”, which must photograph well against both the shocking red carpet and the bright blue sea and sky. Stairs, as per the Met Gala, are also a factor, hence so many shoe removal shockers in the past.

Despite the fact that Hôtel Martinez, The Carlton and Le Majestic are all within eyeline of the hubbub, stars and their stylists can sit in traffic for upwards of an hour while snail-pacing their way to the grand entrance. God forbid they should make the 10-minute journey down the jam-packed pavements wearing couture. (The insurance on the jewelry alone would forbid this from happening.) Red-carpet slots are timed to the minute and so, it’s a case of hanging around backstage or cutting it down to the wire to make it on time.

Helena Christensen in Vivienne Westwood. Photo: Getty

Photographs of Helena Christensen waiting on this year’s sidelines with a gown “handler” – who held onto her bridal Vivienne Westwood train for dear life, ready to fluff it up when she walked out – show that execution is everything. Scroll through Getty and there are many stressed stylists’ faces as the seconds count down. From then, it’s a wing and a prayer, hoping that the some 1,700 hours of work (the amount of time it took to sew Emma Stone’s 800,000 paillettes onto her Louis Vuitton gown for the Kinds of Kindness premiere) translate into great pictures taken by photographers who are all made to wear black tie despite the heat.

A word that will make any stylist shudder: returns. Once the party – which also includes photocalls, junkets and dinners – is over, every Jimmy Choo must be safely sent back to the PRs, and the jewelry handcuffed onto its porter’s wrist to be stowed in the vaults before the clock strikes 12. Cinderella shall go to the ball, but sometimes, in those manic moments when the odds can seem stacked against the most prepared stylists, even glass slippers can go missing.

Originally published on

Read Next: Bella Hadid Strikes Gold at the Cannes Film Festival 2024 in a Silky Mini Dress

View All
Vogue Collection