The Cannes Film Festival was back in all its glory this year. Held in the French Riviera resort town of Cannes, the event, which takes place annually in May at the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, is home to the glitziest of fashion red carpets — and this year was no exception.  From custom gowns to haute couture and in everything in between, celebrities and fashion houses embraced one of the most watched events.

After being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Cannes is roaring once more and our community of MENA designers and celebrities continued to make their mark among the many eye-catching fashion moments on show. I’ve enlisted the help of Saudi Arabian fashion critic Hadeel Hussein to run down all the Arab glamour we’ve seen on the Croisette this year. Hussein is the founder of “Haute Hadeel,” an Instagram page, with over 20,000 followers that provides content analysis and criticism on fashion and highlights the growing body of emerging regional fashion designers in Arabic.

The Cannes Film Festival carpet is known for its “more is more” attitude. From flashy dresses to extravagant one-off jewelry pieces, it’s a moment in time where celebrities, actors and film industry leaders go all out. This year’s 75th edition was no exception, according to Hussein, every style possible was present this year. “Some dresses were dramatic and flashy, others focused on volume and ruffles; however, we’ve also come to notice simple straight line silhouettes where the focus was on the jewelry,” she explains.

The shape of a Peter Pan dome

Among the many attendees this year, our community of Arab stars also headed up  Cannes’ iconic stairs this year. Five Arab women stood out to Hussein, namely, model Nour Arida, who opted for a look from Givenchy’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection, which consisted of a crop top with side cut outs and a ruffled skirt around the hips. The look was finished off with a beautiful statement necklace from Boucheron, “that takes the shape of a Peter Pan dome, which enhances the structural side of her look,” explains Hussein. Additionally, Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi turned heads in a light blue mermaid dress with delicate parallel pleats and ruffles from Georges Chakra, that Hussein explains perfectly matched the color of her eyes.

Other notable mentions include Alice Abdelaziz, who donned in a dress from Zuhair Murad with a halter neck cut that embraced and accentuated her figure and Nujoud Al-Rumaihi who looked picture perfect in a dramatic black jumpsuit from Ashi Studio.

An arena for Arab designers

“I tweeted that the Cannes Festival has become the forum, or an arena for Arab designers. Pieces by Arab designers are always distinguished by the artistry in their execution. Many of the pieces scream luxury, a style that befits an event such as the Cannes Film Festival,” Hussein adds.

This year, we witnessed an array of Arab designers on the red carpet. Saudi’s Ashi Studio also dressed Dipika Padukone “in an orange dress with draped details connected to the front to increase its size and create a cape slanted on the shoulder in a dramatic way befitting the beauty of her skin tone.” Actress Raline Shah also wore a look from Ashi Studio’s Couture Summer 2021 collection, “The piece is a ball or a-line dress with subtle longitudinal pleats with a connecting cape that reminded me of an haute couture dress from the golden era,” said Hussein.

Model Georgia Fowler in Hamda El Fahem reminded Hussein of the Old Hollywood era, and particularly Rita Hayworth. “The off-shoulder dress with side belts attached to it with a pleated train took the look to a three-dimensional aesthetic level, which was beautiful,” she said. Jessica Michel in Nicolas Jebran, Jasmine Stookes in Zuhair Murad and Josephine Skriver in Tony Ward were among those who stood out in Arab designers.

New designers paving the way

While established Arab designers made their mark on Cannes’ red carpet this year, new MENA designers emerged, paving the way for the future of our growing industry.

“I noticed the presence of the names of emerging designers, such as the Saudi designer Youssef Akbar, who dressed Masoom Minawala Mehta and Farah Al-Misbah from Kuwait, who I like to call the couture heiress because of her distinctive craft she uses in her designs. Several artists attended with looks she had designed, such as the actress Martina, who chose two looks from the designer’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection. And finally, hailing from Sudan, FTA 2021 Debut Category winner, Abdel Gader El Tayeb, founder of El Tayeb Nation, dressed writer, filmmaker and journalist Rokhaya Diallo in a beaded dress from his winning collection presented in Doha last year.