On the Cannes red carpet, it’s film-makers’ turn to shine

<span>Film-maker Coralie Fargeat, second from left, with Dennis Quaid and Margaret Qualley at the Cannes screening of her film The Substance.</span><span>Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters</span>
Film-maker Coralie Fargeat, second from left, with Dennis Quaid and Margaret Qualley at the Cannes screening of her film The Substance.Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Unless you are on a digital detox, you have probably noticed that the Cannes film festival is taking place right now, with a battalion of celebrities descending on the Côte d’Azur. For 12 days in May, the festival turns the resort town into a catwalk. From the not-so-subtle arrivals at Nice airport (see English actor Joe Alwyn, fresh off the plane in a full new-season Bottega Veneta look, including leather trousers and a gargantuan £4,000 bag) to the five or so glamorous premieres a day, it has become one of the biggest events in fashion. Be it for the parties or the “off-duty” daytime looks, this is the time for Hollywood stars and their stylists to bring their A-game.

But it’s not just big-screen fixtures stepping into the spotlight. This year it’s the directors, more usually found behind the camera, who have become the somewhat unexpected stars of the Croisette.

While actors are often restricted to wearing brands they have deals with (Emma Stone has a multimillion-dollar Louis Vuitton one), directors are free to choose what and who they wear and they are unlikely to be paid to wear a piece. And this year at Cannes, there is a clear style that feels characterful and chic. Here’s a roundup of their best looks so far.

Steve McQueen

The British film director has made a simple chore jacket his signature both for long days on set and for fancier evening events. The style of jacket, worn by 19th-century French labourers, has become a mainstream staple and been elevated on the menswear and womenswear catwalks. Now, you’re just as likely to see Monty Don strolling around the Chelsea flower show in one as you are a gen Z-er showing theirs off in an east London coffee shop. “I need big pockets for all the things I carry with me … such as secateurs, string, seed packets, pencils,” Don has said.

We imagine McQueen shoving scripts and notes into their roomy compartments. He flits between single- and double-breasted, but always teams his jacket with a contrasting, bright layer underneath. At the premiere of his documentary Occupied City, McQueen wore a single-breasted black version and a clashing crimson T-shirt. His baggy, rumpled rust trousers are another signature item, as are his heavy-set glasses.

Coralie Fargeat

While her body horror film The Substance has plenty of gory scenes, for appearances alongside the film’s leads, Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, the French film director so far has leaned into a softer aesthetic. At a press conference on Sunday, Fargeat wore tailored black trousers paired with a sleeveless white silk top that had intricate embroidery the colour of buttermilk. Later that evening, she changed into a blush-pink sleeveless dress for the film’s premiere. The outfit complemented both Qualley and Moore, who wore similar pinkish tones (pictured top). With a director’s eye for balancing a film’s colour palette, we doubt the trio’s choices were a lucky coincidence.

Yorgos Lanthimos

The on-screen worlds that Yorgos Lanthimos conjures are at once beautiful, ugly and strange. While his 2023 blockbuster Poor Things gave rise to red carpet method dressing throughout its promotion – its lead Emma Stone rarely appeared without OTT Bella Baxter leg-of-mutton sleeves – Lanthimos veered between casual cotton shirts and jackets and a traditional tux. A year later, Stone and Lanthimos are back at Cannes for his new film, Kinds of Kindness, and this time around the auteur has switched things up. Having shot a campaign for Gucci and a cover shoot for Vogue Ukraine, he has clearly been taking notes and is leaning into a new oversized aesthetic; pictured alongside Stone on Saturday, he wore an olive green blazer and striped charcoal trousers. The sandals are a style traditionally worn by Greek fisherman – a nice nod to Lanthimos’s Athenian roots.

Greta Gerwig

As jury president, Gerwig is required to attend almost 70 premieres. To tackle this she has enlisted the help of the Hollywood stylist Karla Welch. Speaking to Vogue, Welch said: “We can either follow some sort of rules, or just do what we want – and we’re sort of doing both!” Like her films – Barbie, Little Women and Lady Bird – Gerwig is a chameleon when it comes to style. She kicked off the festival in a very south of France blue-and-white striped dress from Maison Margiela, and has since worn everything from a sequinned figure-hugging gown by Saint Laurent to an elegant off-the-shoulder gold dress by Prada. She’s equally unpredictable on set: while working on Barbie she wore a bubblegum-pink boilersuit and while directing the prom scene in Lady Bird she was pictured in a strapless taffeta mini dress.

Justine Triet

The Anatomy of a Fall director has previously spoken about her changing approach to red carpet dressing. “For a long time, I would sort of put on costumes for ceremonies or I would put on a sort of full-heeled panoply, which is an effort I no longer make.” Nowadays you’ll find her in oversized suiting rather than silk gowns. Triet describes her style as “a sort of false negligence”. Her look at Sunday night’s Women in Motion awards dinner encapsulates her new style, featuring a distinctive silhouette and a white shirt with giant cuffs. Jazzy blouses are becoming a go-to for Triet – in January, the internet went wild for a printed Lemaire one she wore to the Golden Globes.

David Cronenberg

Last year the director fronted a campaign for Saint Laurent and now – thanks to the luxury fashion house adding movie production to its repertoire – the film and fashion crossover continues to heat up at Cannes. Cronenberg has directed its first full feature, The Shrouds, which premiered on Tuesday and, naturally, he wore Saint Laurent for its premiere. On the carpet, he popped on a pair of the brand’s black acetate sunglasses, and inside the auditorium he swapped them for his signature Julbo mountain biking glasses. The director has worn the shades to the premiere of his last three films at Cannes, reportedly to block the flashes from the photographer’s pit.

Rungano Nyoni

Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni (pictured right, alongside actor Susan Chardy) attended Cannes for the premiere of her first feature film, I Am Not a Witch in 2017. Now Nyoni is back on the Croisette with her latest, On Becoming a Guinea Fowl. The comedy/drama has recently been acquired by the independent production house A24, which is behind such fashion-favourite films as Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, so it makes sense that Nyoni would bring some style credentials to the red carpet. On Saturday, she wore a silk maxi skirt with an oversized top covered in tactile tasselling. Her signature blue-streaked hair was styled in a high bun. The look is pleasingly counter to the archaic rules guests previously had to adhere to at Cannes. For instance, flat shoes for women were outlawed until 2019.

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