Chloë Sevigny Talks Her Obsession With Cannes Merch and "High Hollywood Glam"

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From left: Sevigny wore Alber Elbaz-designed Lanvin for the 2003 Cannes premiere of 'The Brown Bunny.' "It's one of my favorite looks;" In Chanel in Cannes in 2018; In Gucci at the Women in Motion Awards dinner in 2018.

The festival vet reveals what’s on her must-have list this year — from matcha green tea to a confidence-boosting stylist — and talks about her "shocking" good fortune of seeing the opening night film and her short film screen in competition.

Chloe Sevigny has a can’t miss destination every time she’s in Cannes: the merch tent. 

"I famously wear my merch like an asshole," says the 44-year-old actress with a laugh over the phone on a recent morning talking with The Hollywood Reporter. "I buy everything and all my friends send in requests of what they want; I have about 10 so far. Cannes lighters are always a big hit. I like to bring a little glamour back to New York." 

Sevigny will leave plenty on the red carpet here, too, as she’s poised (yet again) to be a standout star of the Cannes Film Festival, in its 72nd year. That is thanks to a series of appearances on the ground, first on opening night as part of the starry ensemble of Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die, in which she plays police officer Mindy Minerva. Later, she’ll appear in support of the world premiere of her third directorial effort, the short film White Echo (part of the female-directed short film series Shatterbox with Refinery29). The 15-minute competition entry is a mythical tale of a young woman’s relationship with her inner power. (Her previous short, Kitty, screened in Cannes’ Critics Week in 2016.) 

"It’s shocking — I can’t believe it," Sevigny explains of her festival fortunes after having already hit the French Riviera in years past for 1995’s Kids, 2002’s Demonlover, 2003’s The Brown Bunny, 2007’s Zodiac and last year as part of the Critics Week jury. "To me, Cannes has always epitomized quality taste so to receive acceptance and recognition here is thrilling. I’ve always operated outside the Hollywood system, so these are my people." 

Speaking of her inner circle, Sevigny confirms that her entourage this year includes stylist and New York native Haley Wollens, whom she credits with boosting her confidence for red carpet appearances. On her CLM agency bio, Wollens calls her relationship with the iconic American actress, "an ongoing stylistic partnership." Sevigny simply says, "We just gel. It’s exhausting trying to do it yourself so [working with Haley] has really taken a lot of pressure off for me."

Expect to see a variety of designers ("I’m all over the map this year"), custom looks ("which is really thrilling and flattering") and lots of bling courtesy of luxury jeweler Chopard ("I’m working on a product with them so there’s a whole collaboration"). But there is an overall strategy and story to tell with her ensembles, one that follows last year’s festival jury run which almost exclusively included Chanel looks. "We’re going for old Hollywood chic — that’s kind of our vibe," she says. "Or high Hollywood glam. In Cannes, there’s an allowance for a certain level of glamour that wouldn’t work elsewhere, and we’re going for it."

She knows how to nail that sweet spot. For the world premiere of Vincent Gallo’s controversial Brown Bunny, Sevigny slipped into an Alber Ebaz-designed Lanvin. "That dress was magical. I wore it to a wedding not that long ago. It’s one of my favorite looks. I was the right amount of skinny and tan and blonde. That’s something I shouldn’t admit but I was maybe looking the best I ever had. And Claire Denis gave me a rose before I walked out to the red carpet and in the photos my hand is clutching this bud." 

Denis is judging the short film section this year and Sevigny doesn't want to offer any guesses how White Echo will resonate with the iconic French filmmaker. What she will discuss is her packing essentials, the things she never leaves New York without, especially for a festival like Cannes. Examples: Charvet slippers, chic pajamas, a strong sleeping pill, melatonin, eye mask, earplugs, noise canceling headphones, Matcha green tea, a good raincoat and a list of great podcasts to fill the downtime. (Current faves are Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This, This American Life and Slow Burn.) 

Rather than headphones, Sevigny is more likely to be spotted cruising the Rue d’Antibes wearing a chic ensemble while checking out her favorite local vintage shops and consignment boutiques "to get away from it all." Still, her #1 is still the merch tent. "I love it so much. The year I was there with Kitty, all the merch said Cannes 69; it’s so great. I got the blue hat with red text in 69. It’s still my favorite hat."

A version of this story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's May 15 daily issue at the Cannes Film Festival.