Meet Cannes' Fashion Fixer

Courtesy of subject
Buffet at work in her studio. She says she never turns her phone off during the fest.

From last-minute alterations for everyone from Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz to Brad Pitt, Aline Buffet has been solving fest fashion emergencies for 24 years.

In seamstress Aline Buffet's workshop — on 6 rue d'Alger in Cannes — it's 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday when her husband storms in with a fashion emergency. An actress needs a rush alteration for a red carpet look — by 5 p.m.

Buffet, nicknamed "The Woman Who Never Says No" by those who know her well, takes the job, just as she does most days — and especially during the Cannes festival — in a bid to make sure every gown, tux and couture creation keeps every thread in place.

"Every night when we leave, all is done for the next day. When we come back in the morning, the planning has all changed," says Buffet, 58.

For the 11-day crush of the festival, Buffet never turns her phone off. Requests come from "all the designer houses," but she won't name names. Her team includes seven seamstresses and 10 interns from her private fashion school. "They have to be discreet, efficient and very fast," she adds. At the office, heels have long been replaced by sneakers.

Since she started working for the festival in 1994, Buffet has virtually seen it all: Boarding a private plane to make alterations for an Italian actress; running down the Croisette, scissors in hand and chased by police, to reach the Martinez and deliver Marion Cotillard's dress; adding 17 centimeters to Rita Ora's bustier an hour before a private event in 2015; working two days and two nights straight (and falling asleep at the sewing machine) doing alterations for Penelope Cruz.

Then there's Nicole Kidman. Buffet once used a large tablecloth to create an impromptu garment bag to protect the delicate silk of the actress' dress. "She is a phenomenal woman. She greeted every single member of the team," Buffet says of the Oscar winner.

She works with A-list men, too. "Once I had a fitting on a boat with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Joaquin Phoenix. They were very nice, very professional. It could have been lovely ... if I wasn't seasick and dying to reach the shore," she says with a laugh. Buffet also worked her magic on Penn's tuxedo (on dry land) when he was president of the jury in 2008. "He is very nice and organized, far from his bad boy image," she recalls. "It was really easy to work with him."

Yet for Buffet, these encounters with the stars are secondary. "I am not impressed by the celebrities, I am impressed by the clothes. I live and breathe for fashion," she says. "I need this kind of passion to survive the film festival."

A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 11 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.