'Cannes has always been about the glamour'

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CANNES -- "Cannes has always been about the glamour," declared Margherita Missoni, the heiress of the iconic Italian fashion brand, while hanging off the side of a yacht parked in Cannes' old port on Friday.

"But these days it is also really a business."

Indeed. While fashion has long played a glamorously intrinsic part of the Festival de Cannes, the industry's goliaths are homing in on the fest like never before.

Forget Graham King and Harvey Weinstein. The town is awash in the leading names in fashion, from red carpet stalwarts such as Valentino and Roberto Cavalli, down to footwear giants such as Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo.

Add on an endless labyrinth of fashion parties, cocktails, sponsored dinners, and a hotel full of fashion suites -- mainly based at the celebrity-packed Martinez Hotel -- and it's almost as if Cannes has become two festivals in one, the one all but ignorant of the other.

It's a situation that was well illustrated at the lavish Vanity Fair bash in Cannes when a young fashion journalist sat reeling off the names of every last major fashion player in attendance to two film reporters who had spent the night chasing MGM's Harry Sloan, oblivious to the caliber of the fashion scene around them. Valentino, Diane Von Furstenberg, and the Dolce & Gabbana boys were just some of the names in attendance.

"It used to be that only the big stars would be dressed by the houses for a festival, but now every last up and coming star wants to be dressed," said Gabriella Cortese, the designer behind the niche, Paris-based fashion brand, Antik Batik, which for the third time this year rented a penthouse suite at the Gray d'Albion to use as a Cannes show room.

Cortese has spent the past three years working on her Cannes Collection for this year's festival.

One of the few smaller labels to have a suite in Cannes, Antik Batik is competing with heavyweights by the likes of Jimmy Choo, who was here dyeing bags and shoes to match people's outfits, to Chopard, a festival sponsor whose jewels are a part of any star's gala outfit.

Dress up a movie star on a magazine cover and it will outsell anything spotted on a model. Translate that to the Red Carpet and sales multiply. Clearly Cannes means business.

Missoni, who co-hosted to promote her charity OrphanAid, said:

"The effect of the red carpet is ridiculous. You get people phoning immediately to buy items actresses have worn."

Italian icon Alberta Ferretti has a more artistic response.

"Ten years ago, I would not have been here," said Alberta Ferretti who hosted a number of parties on her yacht including one for competition title "Che." "But it's inspirational to draw from different mediums and a way to keep apace of the way society is going, and to see clients. But it's not about forcing dresses on anyone."

Estee Lauder founder Ron Perlman joined the fray with his boat party on Thursday. Chopard this week held a whole host of events including an exclusive BBQ for Cate Blanchett at the Hotel du Cap and numerous parties, including the Chopard/Ferretti opening night champagne dinner which took place next door to the opening night bash for "Blindness" which SPC's Tom Bernard reportedly spent peering over the fence, hoping to swap sides.

And more and more fashion players are hitting town. Louis Vuitton had its own suite in Cannes for the first time. Italian fashion brand Costume National also hit the Croisette for the first time, hosting a cast dinner for the opening night film, "Blindness," and handing out sunglasses to the guests.

And there is plenty more to come: a Fendi amfAR afterparty at Jimmy'z; a Dolce and Gabbana "Dolce Vita," and many more absolutely fabulous happenings.

"It has become more of a business," uber-stylist Ed O'Sullivan said. "That's definitely the case for the Armanis of the world. Festivals are big business now. But today I think you have better dressed stars than ever before because of the involvement of the fashion houses. There is a very careful consideration towards movie stars to make sure they all look beautiful."
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