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Stylists Reveal Behind-the-Scene Workings at Cannes

Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn go “more edgy” at film festival.

 Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn

Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn

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CANNES, France — While certain actresses choose their red-carpet frocks last minute, Rachel McAdams knew precisely what she was going to wear for the premiere of “Midnight in Paris” here on Wednesday: a red lace and nude tulle Marchesa gown selected during two fittings in Los Angeles with celebrity stylist and costume designer duo Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn.


With their help, the actress jetted into town with one trunk containing pre-selected looks for two premieres and three press junkets. “We bagged up every outfit with shoes and accessories, so everything is paint-by-numbers,” said Zangardi.


The busy pair also counts Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Kerry Washington and Will Smith among clients. Here, they talk about what goes on behind the scenes:


WWD: What made you select the Marchesa gown for Rachel McAdams?
RZ: “Compared to her Oscar look, we talked about being a little more edgy, and more couture.”


WWD: How do you see McAdams’ style?
MH: “Old Hollywood, young and sexy but not overtly so. High fashion but not over styled.”


WWD: When it comes to red carpet dressing for the Cannes Film Festival is the approach any different from the Oscars, say?
RZ: “There's definitely the opportunity to go more edgy, and high-end even. A lot of the couture houses come out for these sorts of projects.”


WWD: Red-carpet dressing tends to be pretty conservative. Would you agree?
RZ: “Definitely. Because of all the blogs and how immediate the response is, I think there has been a tendency for celebrities to play it a little safer. Our clients are a little more risk takers, though.”


WWD: Ever had any disasters?
RZ: “We like to break zippers a lot! A lot of clothes we work with are samples. We’ve often found ourselves sewing straight up the zipper.”


WWD: Do you work with any young designers? 
RZ: “Absolutely, we always try to pick the best of what is out there. For press junkets, Rachel could wear something moderate. She wore Carven for one recently, for instance. It's about teaching them about what is new.”


WWD: Who are the red-carpet kings?
RZ: “Elie Saab makes amazing red-carpet dresses; Marchesa is another one that tends to get it right. Monique Lhuillier is really amazing. They all come up with new, refreshing designs that are also wearable. A lot of designers make amazing couture pieces that are not so practical.”


WWD: Any red-carpet dressing tips you can share with us?
RZ: “Just the usual, really: double-sided sticky tape, of course, petal or silicon nipple covers and laser-cut underwear to avoid seams.”


WWD: What so far has been your most impressive red carpet moment?
RZ: “Rachel at the Oscars was really a big moment. She wore a hand-painted Elie Saab couture gown. There aren't many other places than the Oscars that you can wear a big dress like that.


Because we dress music artists, we also get to work on music videos where we can be a bit more editorial. We just styled Lopez’s ‘I'm into You’ video a couple of weeks ago in Mexico and she’s wearing this snakeskin (print) Cavalli scarf used as a head wrap. She’s head-to-toe snakeskin in a Lanvin dress and shoes.”


WWD: How did you guys meet?
RZ: “We’d been friends for a while. Mariel was working on Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ video around five years ago and called me in to help. We’ve been working together ever since.”


WWD: Do you ever fight ?
RZ: “Not at all. People either think we’re an old married couple or brothers and sisters. We agree on everything, we have exactly the same taste, even in food.”


WWD: Is it snarky behind the scenes in celebrity stylist world?
MH: “Not at all, we’re genuinely nice people who happen to have a good relationship with other stylists.”
RZ: “Once a stylist had a mishap for the Oscars and we ended up sending over the dresses we weren’t using. At the end of the day, it’s the designer who gets hurt by people holding onto things.”


WWD: Do you ever get feedback on the impact that a celebrity credit has on a brand’s sales?
RZ: “Jennifer (Lopez) on American Idol recently wore an asymmetric fuchsia Valentino top that we were told sold out the next day.”


WWD: Which celebrity is the most informed about fashion designers ?
RZ: “Jennifer (Lopez). She’s been in this industry a long time. It comes with experience.”


WWD: Are there any misconceptions about your profession?
MH: “That it’s extremely glamorous. The final look is extremely glamorous but getting to that point often not so!”

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