Jeremy O. Harris and Mel Ottenberg on Cannes Style: “Revel in the Joy of Dressing”

Jeremy O. Harris is a bona fide Broadway-meets-Hollywood multihyphenate. And at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Tony Award-nominated playwright and producer on HBO’s Euphoria added another title to his resume: an actor in Sean Price Williams’ The Sweet East. The drama follows a young woman traveling along the northeastern coast of the United States and stars Talia Ryder, Jacob Elordi, Simon Rex and Ayo Edebiri.

The film premiered during the Directors’ Fortnight portion of the festival on May 18, and in a FaceTime Audio interview en route to another event the following day, Harris describes the cast’s approach to the red carpet as “walking down the street like we were in some fantastic, French behind-the-scenes documentary of what it means to have your debut feature at Cannes.”

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For Harris, street style transitioned into carpet style effortlessly thanks to the vision of Mel Ottenberg, celebrity stylist, Interview Magazine‘s editor-in-chief and Harris’ friend.

“Jeremy and I have been friends for a long time, and it’s very fun to style him. I think it’s really fun to style someone with a strong sense of style. It’s a collaboration, and [he] can also pull off a lot of looks,” Ottenberg tells The Hollywood Reporter by phone. “Jeremy has like a natural, louche ability to wear clothes in a way that’s really cool. When he called me about Cannes, even though I was very busy with a bunch of things I was doing for Interview Magazine, I was like, “Whatever let’s do it anyway,” because it’s really fun to dress him.” For the premiere, Ottenberg opted to dress Harris in Valentino couture men’s, calling the sharp and relaxed black-and-white ensemble “a perfect choice for the event.”

“It’s very minimal, but it’s also ornate,” Ottenberg says. “It plays with the minimal mood in fashion right now, but it’s still kind of over the top.” (At the premiere’s after party, Harris slipped into a more daring, all-red Ernest W. Baker look.)

THR speaks to the actor about his role as Matthew in The Sweet East, his pre-carpet prep routine and his dandy-like approach to the art of dressing.

Jeremy O. Harris wore Valentino Haute Couture to “The Sweet East” premiere during the 76th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 18th.
Jeremy O. Harris wore Valentino Haute Couture to ‘The Sweet East’ premiere during the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 18th.

How did the environment of Cannes inspire your outfit and overall aesthetic for the premiere?

The thing I love about Cannes is that Cannes is one of the few places where both the respect of film and the respect of aesthetics allows you to revel in sort of the joy of dressing, right? So I decided to wear Valentino couture to revel in the joy of dressing. That was one of the things that Mel and I talked about a lot. This is my first time being an actor in a film at Cannes, so I really wanted to treat myself like the great actresses and show up and show out.

I was wearing the brand head to toe. I actually don’t work with Valentino, but Pierpaolo [Piccioli] is a friend of friends, and Mel had such a great idea to come out with a bang, and I felt like…I never really get my tits out, you know? It was a good chance to be less Ivy League prep and more a bit of a sexy coquette.

What is your working relationship like with Mel? How much of your own style does he elevate, or does he really take the reins and you’re willing to follow?

If you look at how he worked with Rihanna, it was very much that he took a person who already had such a deep, complex and rich personal style and allowed her to showcase her style in the best way possible. I think we get to do that as well. He showed me all the clothes that he already knew were in my wheelhouse and also showed me things that maybe were outside of my comfort zone. And by doing so, it pushes me to do something a little different.

What was your actual getting ready process like? How do you prep and get dressed for the carpet?

I had two amazing women working with me…and they showed me a lot of love. They gave me a massage both on my scalp and on my face. We really just loved on each other a bit as we listened to [Korean-American singer] Yaeji’s new album With a Hammer and just laughed a lot about all the different ways that we could accent my beauty with a little pull and tug and highlight and braid. It was two women of color just hanging out with me. That’s the space I like to be in. My mom was a hairstylist, and she put a lot of care into the women that she worked with. I like to surround myself with people who have that same sense of care when it comes to hair and makeup.

Do you feel like your role as Matthew in The Sweet East sort of inspired how you approached your carpet style, or was that Jeremy?

It was Jeremy, but it also was like a wink to Matthew. Matthew is a bit of a glamazon. If you see in the movie, he’s wearing head-to-toe Thom Browne in one scene, and in multiple scenes, he’s wearing head-to-toe Bode, most of which comes from my actual closet or were gifts from Emily Bode herself. I feel like Jeremy O. Harris and Matthew are both in their fop era, and so they’re really excited about being glamorous, queer fops of film and TV.

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