Fashion at the Cannes Film Festival was clear: clothes dress the body and identity. “The Message Is Present.”

Text by: Gianmarco Gronchi

Editing by: Domenico Costantini

The Cannes Film Festival ended a few days ago. After the stop imposed by the global pandemic, the magic of cinema has come back to life on the screens, while actors and actresses have returned to parade on the red carpets. This gave us the chance to find out where haute couture is going. Is it still able to respond to the major themes of our time? Does it still make sense to talk about haute couture?

For the first question, the answer would seem to be positive. Proof of this can be found in the outfits of Tilda Swinton, who has always been synonymous with a minimalist style. Gender identity is one of the great themes of our society today. This is the reason why there are no jewelry or accessories to enhance Haider Ackermann‘s half-sleeved suit, whose clean, straight lines speak of a different way of expressing femininity. Swinton thus carries forward an ambiguous and androgynous idea of sexuality, and this outfit claims, now more than ever, the right to express female freedom.

This is not to say that there is not room for a more seductive femininity, without ever lapsing into excess. An example of this is given by Etro, who gifted us with an American neckline black top matched with feather-covered trousers and a semi-transparent black lace dress, respectively worn by Izabel Goulart and Taylor Hill. 

The idea is to create fashion that is original, even provocative, without being excessive. Little silent revolutions, and so many, at this moment, seem to prefer clothes that are beautiful to see and wear, rather than to be photograph. This is the case with Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s Versace and Celine dresses, both quietly elegant.

Crossing over between different codes, with logic and intelligence, seems to be the key to dealing with these changing times. For proof of this, we need only to look at the choices made by Mélanie Laurent. The French actress jumped from white bralette and long skirt signed by Balmain, to long, well-defined dresses by Armani Privé and Gucci to end with a total black suit by Celine, which is very reminiscent of the mysterious and seductive androgyny of Yves Saint Laurent. 

The same androgynous, slightly retro style that is loved by Jane Birkin and her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, icons of Parisian effortless chic style, together on the red carpet in seductive black suits.

The ability to change, to transform with an open-minded attitude and dropping dogmas and prejudices. This is the spirit with which haute couture, including men’s fashion, seems to be facing the present. Look, for example, at Timothée Chalamet, who manages to alternate a silver Tom Ford suit with Virgil Abloh streetwear with perfect consistency.

In a kaleidoscopic alternation of choices and trends, even radical chic is beautiful. Thus, Nanni Moretti and the cast of Italian actors float among their foreign colleagues without looking like strangers, on tiptoe as if on the very last beach of Capalbio.

The Cannes red carpets seem to be telling us that even in fashion, the secret is not to hide, not to pretend, to show yourself for who you really are. And perhaps it is no coincidence that actresses such as Andie MacDowell and Jodie Foster chose to appear at Cannes with grey hair, in an attempt to break the taboos on ageing, which are now decidedly outdated.

Nor does, again, Tilda Swinton wearing a white Schiaparelli shirt with Picasso’s dove printed on it for the closing ceremony. A simple, direct symbol of peace, rooted in the past but still offering an alternative to the present of war and tension.

CANNES, FRANCE - JULY 17: Tilda Swinton attends the final screening of "OSS 117: From Africa With Love" and closing ceremony during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 17, 2021 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)

That dove holding an olive tree in its beak seems to fly from the Cannes red carpet towards a bright future, far from the hard times of the pandemic, where reunited humanity can blossom once again. Like the flowers on Sharon Stone’s long Dolce & Gabbana dress.