GENEVA — For Chopard, it’s never too early to start building fashion buzz around next month’s Cannes film festival.

Even before the lineup of movies has been announced, the Swiss jeweler gave an advance look last week at Chopard’s second Red Carpet collection, along with its ambassador, actress Mischa Barton, who naturally got first dibs.

“The Oscars is for one night; Cannes lasts for 10 days and is watched across the world, from Kazakhstan to Australia,” said Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, Chopard’s co-president and creative director, as she unveiled a 61-piece collection destined for the festival’s famous steps, and later, select Chopard boutiques.

She said the line is emblematic of glitzier times for the festival, traditionally considered a more intellectual affair than the Oscars.

“People let their hair down in Cannes,” echoed Barton, who’s been attending the festival since she was 15. “There is a European flair to the way people dress, compared to Hollywood where everyone plays it a little safe.”

Price is no barrier for the Red Carpet range, with the most expensive set this year — a quartet of vivid yellow diamond rings that can be transformed into a necklace — estimated at $30 million.

Gruosi-Scheufele said many pieces from the debut Red Carpet collection last year sold during the festival. It represents a fraction of the firm’s business, which is mainly generated by the house’s jewelry and timepiece collections, in equal parts. But the line has its place, Gruosi-Scheufele explained, first as a great publicity vehicle, and as a way to satiate growing demand from emerging markets such as India and China for extraordinary one-off pieces.

Barton was draped in a swirling necklace of diamonds and multicolored South Sea pearls. Other highlights included a white diamond choker made from looping daisies, sparkling with 3,000 diamonds, and a tie necklace featuring rose-cut diamonds and 340 carats-worth of pink Peruvian opals.

“I gave my team carte blanche,” Gruosi-Scheufele said. “The idea here is that each piece is unique, for women across the world of all ages. The key element is to bring out the beauty of the stone.”

The collection, flanked by the house’s ever-present army of guards, will be whisked to the Chopard suite at Cannes’ Carlton hotel, situated opposite the festival’s main pavilion, in time for the May 14 opening night.

This story first appeared in the April 21, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Cannes is the second most covered media event after the soccer World Cup final. Chopard arrived on the scene in 1998, when it opened its first store in the town. That same year, the firm became one of the official sponsors of the festival, even getting its stamp on to the event’s trophy, the Palm d’Or.

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