Each year on the French Riviera, directors and film stars flock to the Cannes Film Festival using the opportunity to transform their sartorial statements into lasting impressions.
With the Chinese film industry having taken off over the past few decades, an increasing number of Chinese actors, filmmakers, and celebrities have made their way onto the red carpet at Cannes, often times teaming up with major fashion houses to help them put their best foot forward.
As the film festival turns 70, Jing Daily is helping celebrate the anniversary by looking back at the most memorable fashion moments by Chinese actresses, filmmakers, and designers in the history of Cannes.
1. Gong Li in a classic outfit by an unidentified designer
1993 was a monumental year for the Chinese film industry. That year, director Chen Kaige won the Palme d’Or (the festival’s highest honor) for Farewell My Concubine, making it the one and only time a Chinese film won the top award (the film was also initially banned in China for its critique of the Chinese government). Chinese actress Gong Li, the female lead in the film, attended the festival and impressed Western audiences with her stunning looks and classic attire.
2. Gong Li in Saint Laurent
Since Gong’s debut at Cannes in 1988, she has made frequent appearances at the festival. She attended the 50th Cannes Film Festival as a juror, sitting alongside Tim Burton and Mira Sorvino on a committee chaired by French actress Isabelle Adjani. That year, for the first time, Gong wore a dress by a Western designer. According to Chinese media, the white dress with the classic silhouette was designed by Saint Laurent.
3. Zhang Ziyi in Armani
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi rose to international fame for her role in Ang Lee’s 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She is also known for her frequent collaborations with the Chinese director Zhang Yimou. But it was her sexy Armani number, worn during her 2005 Cannes appearance for Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha, that really turned heads.
4. Maggie Cheung in Givenchy
Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung attended the opening ceremony at the 60th Cannes Film Festival in 2007 in a striking yellow and black gown by Givenchy. She caused a further hubbub on the red carpet that year when she nearly fell over making her way down the stairs. Cheung won the Best Actress Award at the 57th Annual Cannes Film Festival for her role in the movie Clean, directed by French director Olivier Assayas who is also her ex-husband.
5. Shu Qi in Roberto Cavalli
Taiwanese actress Shu Qi dressed up in a blue couture gown by Roberto Cavalli at the 60th Annual Cannes Film Festival to attend the premiere of Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights. Shu, who is known in Western media for her chic style, was praised that year for her outfit by many international fashion magazines.
6. Fan Bingbing in Laurence Xu
Actress Fan Bingbing made a memorable debut at Cannes Film Festival in 2010 with an extravagant “Dragon Robe” by Chinese designer Laurence Xu. For some context, the Dragon Robe was traditionally worn by ancient Chinese emperors. Fan’s choice was controversial at the time but no one could deny that she caught people’s attention with it. Since then, Fan frequently ups the dramatic ante with her red carpet choices for Cannes.
7. Zhang Xinyu in Hu Sheguang
Taking a page out of Fan Bingbing’s dramatic playbook, Chinese actress Zhang Xinyu took a colorful and extravagant turn at the 2015 festival in a gown by edgy Chinese fashion designer Hu Sheguang. According to the designer, the dress took as inspiration the traditional floral textile patterns of Northern China. While Hu is a favorite of the Dutch royal family, his design for Zhang at the festival was derided for being “low class” and lacking in taste. Some even called it a “blanket.”
8. Ni Ni in Zuhair Murad
Actress Ni Ni first rose to fame after taking a star turn in Zhang Yimou’s 2011 film The Flowers of War. She first attended the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, dressing in Zuhair Murad Couture for the Opening Gala Ceremony. She was broadly praised not only for her fashion selection but also for her fluent English.
9. Xu Dabao in a dress featuring the national flag
Another highly controversial fashion moment at Cannes was when an unknown Chinese internet star Xu Dabao hit the red carpet with a national flag gown. The online community accused Xu of defaming the country, because Chinese law forbids people from wearing the national flag. Xu said that she only wanted to show her support for the “One Belt, One Road” initiative by the Chinese government, but the Chinese audience was not satisfied with her answer. Xu later apologized to her fans on Weibo for causing offense.
10. Li Yuchun in Gucci
Another interesting moment during the 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival was when Chinese singer and actor Li Yuchun, who was just named Gucci’s brand ambassador in China in the past week, strutted the runway for a philanthropic event. Li was once quite a controversial public figure in China for having a boyish face. In recent years, a great number of luxury and fashion brands have started collaborating with her. This year, Li has already appeared at public events wearing gowns by Gucci, Givenchy and Maison Margiela.