Haute couture, dramatic capes, Cathedral trains, never ending layers of ruffles, tulles and millions of dollars’ worth of Chopards, Bulgaris and Cartiers—that’s how the Indian contingent of beauties have started defining the historic red carpet of Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped up last month.

Undoubtedly one of the most glamorous showbiz events in the world, the Cannes Film Festival transcends cinema and has so many other cultural dimensions attached to it. Fashion is one of them. When it comes to style, the Cannes red carpet can easily hold its own in the international fashion circuit, rivalling the ramps of the big shows in Paris and Milan.

It wasn’t until 1987 that the event actually rolled out a red carpet for stars. And soon enough, it became a fashion venue that attracted global attention. Over the last few years, we have seen troupes of film stars flocking the scenic French Riviera to make their respective style statements.

Sonam Kapoor in a Ralph and Russo pant-suit.

Indian celebrities often visit the festival with their vast entourage of stylists, designers, and hair and makeup artists. With hundreds of paparazzi lenses trained on them, these stars make headlines globally, sharing the limelight with their styling crews.

Deepika Padukone attended Cannes in a ruffled lime-green voluminous Giambattista Valli gown, which she wore with an Emily London head wrap, Lorraine Schwartz ring and a tiny satin bow. Kangana Ranaut in a Kanjeevaram sari, which she donned with a custom Falguni Shane Peacock embellished corset, retro hairdo and a pair of opera burgundy gloves. With such trendsetters, it feels that the Indian divas have decided to revolt against restraint, which is a complete contrast when compared with their Hollywood or French counterparts—known for their fuss-free, relatable styles.

It’s a form of fashion aggression, where style becomes a mark of the culture of conspicuous consumption, power and status.

Aishwarya Rai in a Jean Louis Sabaji holographic dress.

At this year’s event, we saw the American actress Elle Fanning channelling Dior’s ever classic New Look, in a full tulle skirt, bow and black macramé Dior hat. Then, there was one of the most celebrated red-carpet divas of our time, Aishwarya Rai, who appeared in an eccentric neon-gold, holographic mermaid gown by Jean Louis Sabaji that featured an edgy shoulder and a dramatic train. Not only that, Rai even painted her ears golden to complement the costume vibe of the piece.

Both these looks on the red carpet signified opposite extremes: the former more subtle and low key, while the latter somewhat eccentric and loud. This gives us a sense of the stylistic range on display at Cannes.

In another notable instance, Priyanka Chopra turned heads at this year’s red carpet in a white gown by Georges Hobeika. She walked hand in hand with her husband Nick Jonas, who wore a satin white suit by Berluti. This wedding motif didn’t go down well with fashion critics. Questions were raised on whether the couple was pushing it too far by giving a private event a public spin.

Sonam Kapoor, a red carpet pro, during her innumerable public appearances has mastered the subtle art of presenting herself in the international arena. At this year’s Cannes fest, she decided to exclude herself from the trap of wearing anything big, predictable or going mainstream, and opted instead for a classic smart Ralph and Russo pant-suit look, with a statement emerald diamond neckpiece from Chopard. The trail and the plunging neckline added to the drama.

For the divas of Bollywood the Cannes red carpet is an occasion to capture the global market and that’s clearly evident in their OTT sartorial choices and the way they display their rehearsed preening. Their ideology of excess seemed to be the main protagonist of most of their appearances on the red carpet. Thanks to social media and a sudden gate crashing of celebrity culture, where everyone is a critic, a lack of balance and style, a sense of sartorial conflict is explicitly evident.


The author is senior lecturer and course leader, PG in Fashion Styling and Image Design, Pearl Academy