Cannes Lions

Keeping It Classy: What to Wear in Cannes

Adland Execs Offer Peek Inside Their Suitcases

By Published on .

Close your eyes. You're cruising along the French Riviera on a giant yacht, sipping on a chilled glass of rosé and soaking up the sun and sea air. Open your eyes. You see your boss, your boss's boss and the execs you're supposed to be wooing in the hopes of closing that big deal.

As adland convenes in the South of France for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, attendees will sharpen their skills in the art of balance -- between wine consumption and professionalism, work and play. The same goes for wardrobe. Ad Age once again seeks to ease the packing pain as most Cannes-goers fly across various oceans and daydream about all the French cuisine they'll be forced to eat and yachts on which they'll be forced to embark. Because ... business.

Here's how adland is doing Riviera chic in 2016.

Credit: Zara mid-length tube dress; Valextra canvas tote; Supergas white canvas shoes.

Business casual doesn't really exist in the South of France, said Dee Salomon, chief marketing officer at media and marketing consultancy MediaLink and former sales and marketing senior VP at Vogue parent Condé Nast. "It is the Côte d'Azur, which gives you permission to take some risks. You can get away with things that would not really play well in the U.S." This year, her "risk" is a fitted, bright red dress.

Still, it's a balancing act with more casual and understated shoes. "Something I probably wouldn't do at a U.S. conference in a business-casual framework that I'm happy to do in Cannes is wear tennis shoes," she said. "You can get away with that and a dress, and it looks really comfortable and casual but still looks chic." White canvas Supergas are her go-tos. During the day, a Valextra canvas tote carries all.

At night, Ms. Salomon suggests glamming it up with an elegant fabric like silk or satin, a pair of dressier flat sandals and a small, simple bag with a strap. Ms. Salomon is bringing black and leopard-print sandals for evenings. Trendy off-shoulder tops and dresses are also appropriate in Cannes. "A shoulder is like a knee," she said. And although she limits her packing, Cannes is one of the few trips for which she checks luggage.

Credit: Peter Millar shoes; Façonnable linen shirt (Yoox) and shorts (Lyst).

"This is not a carry-on trip," agreed Brian Terkelsen, global brand president for Publicis media agency Mediavest/Spark. "And for a guy who will literally travel the world -- and has been for the past seven to eight years nonstop -- this is the only trip I make where I check a bag. It's the South of France. It warrants my respect. No matter where you are, you're always on."

That bag, a Briggs & Riley suitcase, will house his Peter Millar shoes (to be worn sans socks), Façonnable shirts and lots of linen, including a new pair of shorts and a sport coat.

Still, not everyone will have brought enough for day and night, and then some. Adland is split on checking baggage.

Credit: MM6 off-shoulder top (Neiman Marcus); Barneys double-band suede slides; Jerome Dreyfus nestor bag.

"Cram everything in one bag. Don't check it in. French are notorious for misplacing luggage and locating it a week later," said Ana Andjelic, senior VP-global strategy director, Havas LuxHub. Her method is simple. "There are three rules for dressing in Cannes: 1) Absolutely no high heels; 2) Plan for outfits that will look good all day and all night; 3) Hydrate. No outfit looks good on a person who gets too drunk, too quickly."

She recommends an MM6 off-shoulder top with shorts and a baby-doll white MSGM dress. Or really "anything that will sustain the cumulative Carlton terrace heat and close talkers." For walking and day-to-night, she has a pair of silver Isabel Marant wraparound sandals, and she recommends a neutral Jérôme Dreyfuss bag with a strap for evening. "They are cool, edgy and neutral enough that you don't need to worry whether they go with the rest of what you're wearing," she said.

Credit: Tory Burch sierra caftan boho dress; Lotuff The Tripp purse; Aquazzura block-heel wild-thing.

To stay on trend, try what Refinery29 Fashion Features Director Connie Wang refers to as "the new boho dresses."

"Even if you didn't consider yourself the boho sort, the newest version of romantic, bohemian dresses are less hippie and more polished," she said. "Look for off-the-shoulder silhouettes, pretty florals, long sleeves and oversized ruffles, and flowing skirts." The decade of choice this summer is the 1970s, complete with "'70s-style prints and solid colors for a more professional vibe," she said. But there is a line one mustn't cross. "Leave those ikat and paisley patterns in your closet for the beach."

Additional must-brings, according to Ms. Wang, include a suede slide, day-to-night lace-up sandals with a block heel, a bag with a cool print and "retro-future cat-eye" sunglasses. "You're in Cannes: Get into the Old Hollywood spirit! My favorite new style of sunglasses are the modern cat-eye," she said. "They've got a bit of a '50s-by-way-of-the-'90s Jetsons vibe, and they're incredibly chic."

Credit: Kate Young Tura cat-eye sunglasses; Mango destructured leather sandals.

"I believe those that go to Cannes should practice 'business chic,'" said Renee Wilson, president of the Council of PR Firms. "You never know when you will meet your next prospective client, talent recruit or future boss, so be mindful of the choices."

This year, she's packing a few flowing beach dresses, wedge heels and three pairs of sunglasses. For the dressier awards ceremony, she said, "I've seen everything from tuxedo jackets with shorts to ball gowns to fabulous, chic dresses. There are also some very casual dressers as well at the award ceremonies, but it's Cannes for goodness sake. Live a little."

For evening the casual-chic daytime attire is replaced with glam and a simple ponytail -- the hairstyle of choice this year, according to the team at industry networking group The Girls' Lounge. Founder Shelley Zalis and her team recommend a Zimmerman "picnic dress" for "poolside" cocktails and parties, a daytime jumpsuit for any event and statement shades. Bright low mules, lace-up sandals and embellished summer flats should do the trick for walking and yachting.

But Riviera chic also goes beyond garb. This year, Ad Age asked a few of adland's Cannes-goers to reveal the labels they stock up on at French pharmacies, which can be tough to navigate for non-native speakers. It's worth it. The pharmacies are well known for their local and affordable skincare products, which often contain ingredients that are tougher to score in the U.S.

Girls' Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis and team:

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen
  • Bioderma Photoderm SPF 50+

Dee Salomon, CMO of MediaLink:

  • Homeoplasmine skin cream made with calendula

Alexandra Delanghe, senior VP corp comms at MDC:

  • Embryolisse cold cream
  • Savon de Marseille "which you can use for a surprisingly wide range of household and beauty and health purposes."
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