Shane Atchison's first trip to Cannes came right after he sold his agency, Possible, to WPP. That put the digital shop's CEO under a lot of pressure to look sharp in front of his new peers and parent company boss Martin Sorrell. So he went to his local Barneys to buy some smart, Cannes-ready outfits, and then it was off to the south of France to don the linens.
They didn't make it.
Jet-lagged and desperate for a new wardrobe, Mr. Atchison wandered into a boutique near the Croisette. But no pants were a natural fit, and there were no tailors available on a Sunday. "A lady in a thick French accent said 'staples,' but I couldn't understand her," he recalled. "And then she pulls out a stapler, and starts stapling the khaki linen pants."
He paid the lady for enough clothing to last all week, put on the stapled pants and rushed to his first meeting in Cannes with Sir Martin and agency clients.
Lost luggage has been the fate of so many Cannes-goers that carry-on clothing is considered a must, fashion and ad industry vets agree -- including a much wiser Mr. Atchison.
For ladies, that means a limited number of separates that can be repeated and worn in different ways. In addition to a carry-on, Refinery29 Fashion Features Director Connie Wang recommends a classic tote by startup Leoht that also charges your phone.
To stay on trend while packing, think statement blouses with billowy arms and low block heels with ankle straps, said Ms. Wang.
Boho is having a moment, she said. "It's not like boho [as in] '70s commune in the middle of Vermont; it's like summering in the South of France boho, and it's perfect if you're in Cannes," she said. "Obviously you're not supposed to be wearing it to a board meeting. At the same time, it's dramatic and theatrical and perfect for an evening event."
That means floor-length dresses worn with gladiator sandals, or big straw hats with off-the-shoulder peasant blouses. While off-the-shoulder dresses may be pushing it for more professional lunch
meetings in Cannes, the style is still doable for evening events. Pair any Cannes look with a baby bag, she said.
For the plane, comfort trumps chic. She suggests compression leggings, a tunic and a giant scarf to keep warm.
Ogilvy CMO and Cannes vet Lauren Crampsie is also all about comfort for the long redeye, even if bumping into professional contacts is a given. On the plane, she'll probably wear "skinny cool urban gym-wear" pants or drop-crotch sweats, Nike Airmaxes, a Soul Cycle sweatshirt and a leather jacket.
In Cannes, it's all about flats and occasional wedges and outfits she can repurpose for Advertising Week in the fall. This year, those versatile, seasonless, day-to-night go-tos are jumpsuits.
For hot lunches in the sun, dresses and skirts that breathe are also key. "It gets really hot and if I'm sitting outside having lunch at a beach club, I can't get a table in the shade because I'm not Bob Greenberg," she said, half-joking.
Think Rachel Zoe for one-pieces, and Helmut Lang for dresses with light material, she said.
Lori Senecal, president-CEO of MDC Partners and global CEO of CP&B, errs on the safe side with a lot of black summer dresses. "That makes it easy to go from day to night," she said.
Summer dresses are easy to make casual for day and dress up for dinner with a quick change of shoes. "I must not be that big on fashion trends, because I like wearing platforms whether they're in or out. Black nail polish and a mini Prada bag finish the look."
When asked how casual is too casual in Cannes, she said, "Like Ron Burgundy would say, 'Keep it classy!'"
For guys, fashion-forward or not, the unanimous choice is linen.
"I take enormous fashion risks at Cannes. I forgo my baggy jeans, V-neck white T and Braves cap for head-to-toe linen (including white pants and salmon shirts) and a stingy-brim straw hat," said 6-foot-8-inch, 300-pound Noel Cottrell, chief creative officer at McCann's Fitzgerald & Co. "The only thing I don't take risks with is my footwear: always my size-18 Chuck Taylors (though sometimes in white)."
Mr. Cottrell hasn't always had the luxury of "fashion risks" in Cannes. A few years ago KLM airline lost his luggage and he had to wear a Cannes-branded T-shirt and green Celtic sweatpants for three days. "The backstreets of Cannes don't have XXL; everything is very fitted," he said.