CANNES FRANCE  MAY 19 Cate Blanchett attends the The Zone Of Interest red carpet during the 76th annual Cannes film...
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Cate Blanchett attends the "The Zone Of Interest" red carpet during the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2023 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)Getty Images

Cate Blanchett Brings Deadstock Dresses and Barefoot Defiance to Cannes

Cate Blanchett has a unique knack for redirecting the spotlight beamed onto A-list actors to matters of greater importance. Take her turn as president of the Venice Film Festival jury in 2020, when the Oscar winner issued a statement declaring that she would only be rewearing previous red carpet looks over the course of La Biennale. With the world’s fashion press duty-bound to cover every Armani Privé confection and Acne Studios suit the actor appeared in on The Lido, her decision to take a more sustainable approach to event dressing generated countless headlines amplifying her core message. To wit: it’s chic to repeat. As her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, told Vogue at the time: “Her idea of re-wearing is not a mandate, it’s a provocation… It’s a turning point because it shows that a critical mass is aware that change is necessary.”

So, when Cate arrived on the Croisette this month to promote *The New Boy—*a Warwick Thornton drama in which she plays a nun in wartime Australia—the world knew to expect politically provocative red-carpet appearances from the star. For her first premiere, Blanchett and Stewart turned to Louis Vuitton, with Nicolas Ghesquière fashioning a caped monochrome gown with silver embellishments entirely out of deadstock from the house’s ateliers. Yes, she looked impossibly glamorous, but she also highlighted the need to eliminate the waste currently endemic to the fashion industry.

A barefoot Blanchett, radiant in Giorgio Armani.

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Then, for an afterparty, Cate slipped into a velvet Giorgio Armani jumpsuit and floor-length pink coat. It’s her choice of shoes (or lack thereof), though, that proved a point of discussion. Footwear has been a bone of contention at Cannes for years, with festival organizers endorsing a de facto rule that women must wear heels at all public events. Kristen Stewart protested the diktat in 2018—slipping off her Christian Louboutin pumps halfway down the red carpet. “If you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me either,” she declared. Julia Roberts had done the same in 2016, a year after reports that the festival turned away a group of women from a Carol screening for wearing flats.

For her part, Blanchett’s decision to ditch her stilettos represented a feminist defiance of Cannes’s painfully backwards directives, but it also served to highlight the need to think of women’s rights globally–not just on the Croisette. During an appearance at The Majestic Cannes, Cate stood before the assembled press barefoot while presenting French-Iranian star Zahra Amir Ebrahimi with a breakthrough artist award. “I am going to take my heels off, in honor of the women of Iran,” she told the crowd, before quipping that Ebrahimi’s sharply pointed statuette was “to stab everyone who stands in the way of women’s rights”.

Ebrahimi, who won best actress at Cannes in 2022 for her performance in Holy Spider, was forced to flee Iran in her twenties after an intimate video of her with her boyfriend was leaked by a friend —with authorities in Tehran promptly drawing up a criminal case against her for having pre-marital sex. If convicted, she would have been subjected to both lashes and years in jail—with the actor using her time onstage to call out her home country for “executing innocent people”. If Cannes still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality, at least the female stars in attendance are doing their part to call out sexism at every turn.