I’m on my way to the hotel from Nice Côte d’Azur Airport under an overcast sky that colours everything in a grey, murky light. As if sensing my disappointment, the chauffeur tells me that “it always rains during the festival, but the sun always comes up”. And right on cue, shafts of light break through the clouds above as tarmac roads are replaced with a view of the Mediterranean Sea on my left; and I find myself smiling at the drama of the moment.
After all, where better to get dramatic than in Nice as it plays host to the Cannes Film Festival? It’s the reason I’ve made my maiden post-Covid journey out of Singapore on the invitation of Chopard, who is celebrating its 25th anniversary as the official partner of the prestigious event. And I have to admit: I have been looking forward to it.
Before the trip, I was informed that the Swiss jeweller had arranged for us to attend the full “red carpet experience” at the screening of Broker—the South Korean film by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the Palme d’Or in 2018, starring Parasite actor Song Kang-ho and South Korean sensation IU. Yet, as we pull up to the circular driveway of Hôtel Martinez Cannes by Hyatt, I get the sneaking feeling that the festival experience has already begun.
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A throng of people, with their phone cameras ever ready, are lining the road adjacent to the hotel, braving the afternoon sun in the hopes of seeing a famous face. Reputed to be a favourite among the celeb set whilst in town, the hotel is also where Chopard has based itself for the two weeks of the festival’s running.
Temporary offices are sequestered away behind closed doors at the side of the reception hall on the ground floor. The hotel’s panoramic penthouse suite (said to be one of the largest in Europe) has been transformed into a VIP rooftop lounge complete with a hair and makeup room as well as a glam team to spruce up guests right before their event. In my case, it’s the “Chopard Loves Cinema” dinner happening later that evening—an annual highlight of the festival’s calendar and where the jeweller’s Red Carpet Collection is to be feted.
Comprising 75 haute joaillerie designs (one for each year of the festival’s running, as Chopard tradition dictates), this year’s Red Carpet Collection is themed to 75 iconic movies “from the past and from all around the world” that inspired Chopard’s Co-president and Artistic Director, Caroline Scheufele. As she explains at a press conference on the festival’s opening day: “As I was leaving Cannes last year, I thought about what was going to be next year’s theme. Then I saw the entrance of the cinema and all these cameramen, all these photographers, to the left and right, and I thought: ‘It’s right here in my face; it’s cinema.’”
Thus, from Charlie Chaplin’s monumental City Lights (1931) comes a rose brooch with articulated diamond pavé petals on a black titanium stem. An emerald bead necklace with a 25.39-carat opal recalls the epic magic of James Cameron’s 2009 Avatar, while a diamond necklace featuring a 60.03-carat blue heart-shaped sapphire brings to mind the Heart of the Ocean necklace of his 1997 hit, Titanic. A sensuous multi-strand pearl necklace for Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) and a whimsical doggy diamond cuff for Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (1961) are further proof that Scheufele has drunk deep from the well of inspiration of the seventh art—and the attendees of the glamorous, cinematic-set dinner at Hôtel Martinez’s convention space seem to heartily approve.
Running out onto the runway after the jewellery presentation (barefoot and with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Byron in tow), Scheufele is given a standing ovation and raucous cheer by people who clearly feel a connection to her. So much so that model and long-standing friend of the brand Petra Němcová takes the stage on her own accord after Scheufele’s thank you speech to share her appreciation for the brand’s generous support of her non-profit organisation, All Hands and Hearts. (Part of the proceeds from Chopard’s Happy Hearts jewellery collection go towards various non-profit associations, including the Education Above All Foundation, Němcová’s All Hands and Hearts, and Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation.)
It’s a moving moment that sees Bella Hadid dabbing at her eyes as celebrities the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eva Longoria, Maye Musk, Mads Mikkelsen and Peter Sarsgaard look on with affection. This, before the night ends with an up close and very personal mini concert by Seal, singing oldie hits such as “Kiss from a Rose” and “Crazy”, and a Chicago-meets-Burlesque performance by Dita Von Teese, before DJ Cassidy hits the decks for the after-party.
As I make my way back to my room, I muse on the bond that Chopard seems to have with its guests. For all the celebrities who attended, the rock star of the night was clearly Scheufele and her ability to connect with people and inspire confidence. With that, I kick off my heels for my own cinematic moment, recreating in my mind’s eye Julia Roberts on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in 2016—barefoot, powerful and glorious.