May 12, 2009
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Cannes : dress versus dress, stiff competition on the red carpet

May 12, 2009

PARIS, 12 May 2009 (AFP) – In Cannes, the competition is not only played out on-screen, but also on the red carpet: actresses from all over the world enter into a rivalry of elegance and glamour for fashion houses who fight for their favour to make the most of this exceptional showcase opportunity.

The "Palais des Festivals" in Cannes on the 11th of May 2009 - Photo : Valéry Hache/AFP

“There are few houses, but the competition is strong”, recognized Elie Saab.

Smaller houses are practically out of the running, even if stars create a surprise by digging something out of their wardrobes, like Sharon Stone did a few years ago with Guy Laroche.

Dressing celebrities takes a budget that can cover not only the loan of clothing but also “to give them presents, to invite them to large parties” where they will be profusely photographed, explained a connoisseur of the matter.

“There are also people who pay them to wear their clothes”, he continued, an allegation denied by the fashion houses who insist on the “friendly” nature of their “exchange” with the actresses.

For the big brands the festival has become, along with the Oscars, one of the principal media events of the year. Hence their efforts to lend dresses, accessories and jewellery.

“There is a great appeal to actresses to come and see our collections”, confirmed Elie Saab. Others stated that they did not need to solicit celebrities: “we are popular”, stated Chanel.

In addition to its models, such as Anna Mouglalis, Chanel will be dressing the president of the jury, Isabelle Huppert. She will have a “entirely borrowed wardrobe” including a dress specially designed by Karl Lagerfeld. Asia Argento and Robin Wright Penn, members of the jury, have also contacted the group which also hopes to dress the “faithful” like Diane Kruger and Penelope Cruz.

The fashion houses are very careful when it comes to a choice of actresses. “There isn’t really a set of criteria”, said a representative of Dior, but the dress should “correspond to the actress and the image of the house”.

At Chanel they highlight “quality, not quantity”. “If Pamela Anderson (ed. the amply breasted heroine of ‘Baywatch’) calls me tomorrow, I will say no”, explained a spokesperson.

The choice of different outfits is usually done in Paris. “We do the maximum number of fittings and alterations in Paris in order to have the dresses ready when they arrive in Cannes, and already allocated”, explained Dior. The clothes, which are often valued at many thousands of euros each, are transported by “armored van”.

Dior dresses “around twenty actresses” and, in addition to their pre-selected partners, takes approximately one hundred more dresses which will be available to other actresses and celebrities in a grand hotel.

Chanel, which also sends a small team to the event, keeps “a few emergency dresses” for the stars that it clothes.

The biggest danger is “to dress two actresses with the same dress, the same night, on the same red carpet”, stated Elie Saab where they have scrupulously taken note of “who has worn what through the years”.

The dresses, which can only be worn once, are in principal returned, even if in effect they end up being given to the actresses. More often, the actress will keep “a small accessory, a bag or a pair of shoes which they like”, said Dior.

Rare are those who keep dresses and accessories without authorization. Chanel has bitter memories of a celebrity who did not want to return a particularly valuable dress, and were delighted when no request was forthcoming from her this year.

By Jonathan Fulwell (Source: Dominique Schroeder/AFP)

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