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Sophie Elkus

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Cannes Film Festival with S.Pellegrino

Fabiana Milazzo dress, Aquazzura shoes, Thalé Blanc clutch, Geary's jewelry

In early May, I caught the most exciting subject line in my email inbox.

I did a double take – Cannes Film Festival.

I’ve always wanted to go to Cannes. Not only to the beautiful beachside city, but to the festival. I’m familiar with film festivals  – I’ve been to Sundance several times and really enjoyed the screenings and experiencing the intersection between fashion and film. Despite having fun, Sundance is in January in Park City and the dress code is anything that can get you through three feet of snow. Cannes is on a different level – the red carpet is as iconic as the Oscars, and set against a backdrop of the stunning French Riviera, it doesn’t get any more glamorous.

I was set to go with S.Pellegrino, and it was an incredible experience from beginning to end. As a main festival sponsor, S.Pellegrino was promoting their film, “The Great Italian,” and looking for brand exposure through bloggers and journalists. I was grateful to get to know such an iconic company and their team was so welcoming and gracious. I was honored to be the only American blogger they sent to Cannes. I admit that in LA it’s more fun to have friends at events, because let’s be honest, no one likes walking into a networking room alone (although I’ve done it plenty of times). On this trip it was great to meet European bloggers I wasn’t familiar with, as well as journalists writing for print publications. I applied to college as a print journalism major (then later switched to PR) so I have a lot of respect for journalists and traditional writing, as I thought that’s what I’d be before landing on blogging.

But back to prep. Once the flights were booked and itinerary was set, my next mission was to find a DRESS. I had two weeks to find something spectacular for the red carpet, easily one of the most exciting events I’ve ever dressed for. Shockingly I wasn’t that stressed  – I just had a good feeling about it working out, so after a few showroom pulls that came up short I was still calm. Good timing and luck kicked in and I was connected to Fabiana Milazzo, the Brazilian designer of a gorgeous line of gowns.

Fabiana’s dresses are what dreams are made of: exquisitely beaded and hand-embroidered pieces fit for a red carpet. I was even more excited to meet Fabiana and learn about the philanthropy behind her business. She started Income for Women, a project that employs women in vulnerable social situations from the most underprivileged areas of Brazil. Fabiana teaches them the technical skills to hand-embroider her gowns, and most importantly, job and finance skills. Mothers can bring their children to work, keeping them off the streets and away from violence. Her couture is beyond exquisite, but I was even more touched and impressed to learn about this – I love supporting women helping women.

I was debating between two dresses and themes for Cannes: a classic, Cinderella-shaped ball gown fitted at the waist with a billowing skirt and a big presence, or the turquoise dress I actually chose – slinky, body-conscious and glamorous. I just loved the mermaid shape and how I felt in it. If (not if – when!) I return to Cannes, maybe I’ll go for a more classic dress, but for my first Cannes experience this beaded number felt right.Once the dress was rush fitted (with a week until flight time) I scoured the city for accessories. I chose a gorgeous clutch by my favorite bag designer Thale Blanc, gold shoes by Aquazzura, and pulled some beautiful diamonds from Geary’s Beverly Hills- a tennis bracelet, ring and heavy drop earrings. I can’t lie, I was slightly nervous to fly with these and be responsible for them for two weeks! I had the jewels attached to me at all times, from my doorstep to the plane – eyes laser focused on my bag as it slid through the TSA machine – until they could be locked in a hotel safe.

My boyfriend and I flew through Paris to Nice and arrived to Cannes by nightfall, super jet lagged and ready to pass out. The next night we walked to the theater, Palais du Festival, to see S.Pellegrino’s film “The Great Italian,” a documentary about the legendary Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi. The film told the story of Marchesi’s life and culinary achievements, and touched on the evolution of Italian food over the last half century (with plenty of food shots that made me very hungry). Marchesi himself was there, nearly 90 years old, sitting front row. He was so funny and courteous, spoke little English but was clearly enjoying the event in his honor and looked sweetly surprised at his standing ovation and amused that everyone was there to celebrate him.

I wore a short navy lace dress for the first night (which is now on sale for under $150), which was perfect for the rooftop Michelin- star dinner following the film. The rooftop overlooked Cannes with a stunning view of the water and a gorgeous table awaited us peppered with S.Pellegrino bottles.

Saturday was lunch at Nespresso Beach (Nespresso and San Pellegrino are both operated under Nestle). Nespresso Beach is a chic little beach club by the water. We lunched on fresh caprese and fish, with of course a Nespresso cappuccino to finish.  Christophe and I both love a good cappuccino and he has the machine at home (so good and the capsules are so easy).  At this point I was really feeling the jet lag and struggling to get it together – just feeling overwhelmed. Producing content on the spot is not as easy and effortless as it looks; it’s quite a balance between enjoying an experience in the moment like a normal human without a phone in front of your face, and trying your best to document everything (all my readers who are fellow bloggers will relate). Cannes is such a special event and I definitely felt the pressure to deliver.  After all, the whole point of my being there is to share it with you, who is reading this right now – in a way that’s exciting and enjoyable. Despite all this, tonight was the night I came for- the red carpet and premiere.

I received a lot of questions about my red carpet hair and makeup, so I’ll put together a post on getting ready for a red carpet event. S.Pellegrino was kind enough to have hair stylists and makeup artists on hand, although I ended up deciding to do my own makeup at the last minute. I went with violet eyeshadow tones to contrast with my green dress (an unlikely but BOMB combo for green eyes, too!) I asked the hair stylist for my signature loose waves; with all my own hair  and no clip-ins. My hair honestly totally fell out after about an hour of running around and sweating, as 5pm summer in France is hot, but I could not care less. I relied on this setting spray to hold my makeup all night, and put plenty of this shimmery liquid glow on my arms, which really translated in the photos. This highlighting palette is a major investment, but it’s my go-to for big events and makes a significant difference in photos.

I shot photos of my gown on the famous La Croisette before heading to the red carpet at Palais du Festival. The red carpet was a total blur. It’s a scene – the music playing from the carpet and the announcer’s voice echoes for blocks and becomes louder as you approach the area. There was so much security, huge uniformed men with guns watching the entrance like hawks as we neared the carpet, which makes sense considering recent events in Europe but unsettling nonetheless, their army uniforms an oddly stark contrast to all the sequins and silk flying by them. After multiple scanning checkpoints we approached the lit up area and it’s exactly as you’d imagine – lines of photographers in black tie scrambling for the perfect shot, hundreds of blinding flashbulbs, festival reps ushering you along the carpet and action everywhere. It was totally thrilling. The theater itself was spectacular and enormous. Moments before the screening began, the actors came in and everyone rose to applaud them.

The actual movie was terrifying, a thriller-drama called “You Were Never Really Here” starring Joaquin Phoenix as a suicidal hitman on a quest to rescue a little girl from a child trafficking ring (casual).  Lots of blood, lots of gunshots. Not really my thing, but I was so overstimulated from the day that I had trouble focusing on the film anyway –  it’s hard to concentrate on a movie sitting in a six pound beaded gown.

By the way – if you’re wondering what to wear under a sheer dress – get these – laser thin, slightly high-waisted.  Trade secret. My dress had a lining, which was also sheer, so between the beads and the gauze lining my skin was still visible. I needed something undetectable that wouldn’t compromise the beaded pattern and ruin the sheer effect (but with flashbulbs at night, I also wanted to be careful). It worked like a charm, although the dress’ open back was so low that we still had to cut the fabric on the top of the underwear three inches down. There’s so much behind the scenes magic that goes into making a red carpet look.

We left the theater and walked to a late midnight dinner, wandering the streets by the water in our black-tie attire before settling on a bustling café. The town was still filled with people out and about, beginning or ending their nights, and you could feel the energy; so alive and glamorous and fun.

Cannes was such a special experience and career highlight. I’ll never forget walking down those cobblestone streets decked out in a gorgeous gown and diamonds, passing all the vespas and cafés. It really made me think about all the hard work and ordinary things you do to run a business everyday that in turn reward you with an extraordinary moment like this.

The next morning, we packed up and headed to St. Tropez – a recap post on that will be coming your way soon. Find my cocktail dress, gold shoes, and some Cannes-inspired dresses below – like this pale blue off-the-shoulder number and this gorgeous silky wrap gown.

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