How to Wow on the Red Carpet on Festival Circuit

Venice may be known as the jewel of the Adriatic, and Berlin brings out funky fashionistas in February, but for the haute couture world, Cannes is considered the crowning glory of the film festival circuit. The call of the Croisette brings out the best from the French houses, as thousands of journalists from around the world are on hand to cover the sartorial excess of the red carpet — and the brands that are on the backs of the actresses. Despite each festival’s distinct sartorial flavor, there is a general rule of thumb for all three European destinations, says stylist Tara Swennen: “You want to make sure it’s really classy, it’s really elegant, and that you stand out.”

“The beauty of Cannes is that you can go all out,” says Swennen, who’s dressing Kristen Stewart and “Money Monster’s” Caitriona Balfe for this year’s extravaganza. “Especially the opening night. For us, it’s like a dream come true because it’s OK to have a train that’s 20 feet long or a dress that’s fully beaded head to toe.”

In other words: fashion fantasy come to life.

“You can really utilize the designers,” Swennen says. “It’s an opportunity to use couture, it’s an opportunity to make bespoke pieces, it’s an opportunity to really collaborate and do something a bit more spectacular.”

A star turn on the Croisette is a golden opportunity for fashion brands, too.

“Cannes is seen on such a global scale; it gets the most coverage worldwide,” adds Swennen. “It’s got the clout. It’s the one most people fly into; it’s the one most people know about. Cannes has been built up to this point where it’s not just the festival — it’s the parties, it’s the scene, it’s just a massive flocking to the South of France.”

Which isn’t to suggest that designers aren’t thrilled to collaborate on Europe’s other famed festivals.

“Venice is incredibly glamorous,” says Sophie Lopez, who has styled Kate Hudson for the canal-hopping fete, which kicks off Aug. 31. “You can really go there with the gowns. You know: Oscar-style dresses, big hair, sparkles, sequins, the whole thing.”

Think Diane Kruger’s regal Prada train and Elizabeth Banks’ bejeweled Dolce & Gabbana at last year’s “Everest” premiere, and Stewart’s gilded Chanel
couture at “Equals.”

“That Chanel was a little outside of what people would expect from Kristen,” says Swennen. “And I think that’s what the allure is with Venice — it’s a time to show regal opulence. Venice, to me, is magical, and you take from the magic of the city.”

As for Berlin — which manages to draw an A-list crowd despite its February dates and timing between the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards — it’s steadily gaining in gravitas, says Lopez. “Berlin is a little bit edgier, a little bit cooler,” says the British stylist, who dressed “Miles Ahead” breakout star Emayatzy Corinealdi for the event. “It’s not as dressy as the other two, but it’s quirky and cool, and feels a bit more European, in a different way,” adds Lopez, who says she relishes the opportunity to mix things up a little. “In terms of styling, Berlin’s quite a fun one to do; it’s not just all gowns — you could do jumpsuits, you could do suits, you could do cocktail dresses.” Case in point: Julianne Moore’s sequin Sonia Rykiel jogging pants at the “Maggie’s Plan” premiere, Tilda Swinton’s two-piece Chanel suit (not to mention her Flock of Seagulls-like coiffure) at “Hail, Caesar!” and Emma Watson’s Maiyet cocktail dress and Behno coat combo at “Colonia.”

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