The actress wore an archive Armani Privé dress from 2017
It’s Jenna Coleman’s first time attending the Venice Film Festival. We’re sat in her room while she’s getting ready for the evening – her clad in a fluffy Giorgio Armani bathrobe – with The Beatles playing in the background. “We’ve had a real [music] mix tonight!” she says, laughing. “We’ve had The Godfather soundtrack, we’ve had some soft ’60s on Spotify…” The mood is comfortable and relaxed, helped in part by Coleman’s longstanding relationships with her glam team. “I’ve known Valeria [Ferreira, make-up artist] and Halley [Brisker, hair stylist] for years, so there’s such an easy dynamic,” she tells me.
Of course, this isn’t business as usual for the film festival. This year’s schedule has been severely impacted by the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, which prohibit actors from promoting any work. But instead of attending a red-carpet premiere at the Lido, Coleman is in Venice as a guest of Armani Beauty, one of the festival’s lead sponsors, and preparing to attend the Giorgio Armani ‘One Night Only’ couture show that evening.
Below, the actress discusses the kind of fashion she gravitates towards, her go-to beauty product for red-carpet events and why what we wear, matters.
Talk us through your look for this evening. Why does it feel like a good fit for you?
“So we’ve gone for an archival Armani Privé dress tonight from 2017. We were going to go in a very light direction originally, but then we put this on… It’s got a lot of gothic, dark drama to it. It’s full lace and beaded, black. So there’s something quite Tim Burton, darkly romantic about it, which I love. For jewellery, I’m wearing De Beers – these are lotus flower earrings with the lotus flower necklace, too. We then sleeked the hair right back for full drama.
“Today I worked with Valeria – who’s been doing my make-up for years – and one of the first things that we did together was for the opening of Victoria at Kensington Palace. I wore an Erdem dress and went for that same kind of romantic look then. So it’s a similar vibe, touching upon a slight bit of gothic romance.”
How involved do you tend to be in the styling process?
“I think it depends on the brand I’m working with. I work with Leith Clark, who’s my stylist, and I feel that we’re both very much in tune together. We always end up with too many options! Last night we opted for another archival piece from 1995, which was a full beaded, pearl gown. That was very Bardot vibes – very old French cinema – so tonight we wanted to do something completely opposite.”
Do you feel like you’re getting into a character when you’re getting dressed for events like this?
“That’s my favourite way to [approach it] actually – especially when you come to Venice and you do something like the film festival, or you have a piece like this dress that is so dramatic, it’s really nice to either really lean into it or otherwise find a way to completely invert it, which is something that I also really love to do. So, for example, tonight, this dress is tulle and there’s a version of it that could be quite Cinderella and quite princess-like. [We’ve decided to] work against it and set the tones against each other. So the hair is quite severe and contemporary. I think that’s my favourite thing with fashion; trying to find that contrast. I like the pulling of two things; the masculine versus the feminine, the soft and strong.
“I start with the fashion first and then find the character, the feel and the tone. So once we had the dress and had decided to go down the more dramatic, Tim Burton route, we went for a dark lip and then a soft pink-purple eye set against it.”
What kind of fashion do you gravitate towards?
“I love vintage. I love contrasting styles – so, if you have something contemporary, finding something [classic] to set against that. I love things that are a little bit undone, or a bit rough around the edges. And I’ve always been really into playing with textures and fabrics, and colour. I tend to lean in to a lot of textiles.”
How has your style evolved over the years?
“It has [evolved], but I think the essence has always been the same peppered through. I think you learn more about what suits you [as you get older], and you become a bit more experimental. To be honest, it’s just about being playful. It’s the same with costumes and characters; it’s more about a feeling. So whereas last night’s look felt more undone, old-school, classic cinema, tonight’s is a lot more dramatic and theatrical.
“I don’t like anything that feels too try-hard. I like it when there’s a bit of nonchalance about [style], which is why I like mixing old and new pieces. It’s less formed and fixed. I have to feel in my body that I can relax in something.”
How does the event you’re attending or the project you’re promoting impact your style?
“It can be quite deliberate if I’m doing a certain press campaign. With Victoria, for example, we very much leaned into that. It really depends on the project. Sometimes it’s about the piece that you have, and then creating a story behind it. But we definitely played with a bit of Victoriana when we were doing Victoria. Obviously, when The Serpent came out we were in lockdown, so it never quite got its moment, but it would have been great to touch upon that [on the red carpet]. But I always think it’s about not being too fixed and formed – and I say this with very rigid hair right now! – but being a bit more blurry around the edges.”
What has been your most memorable red-carpet moment to date?
“Probably Victoria, I would say, just because it was set at Kensington Palace, and my family were there. I think it was one of the first ever red-carpet premieres at Kensington Palace, at the time. And being at the birthplace of Queen Victoria… There was just something about everything aligning together. So yes, probably that.
“Obviously, we’ve had a couple of years of no-red-carpet moments. The Fashion Awards have always been really cool. I was this amazing Preen look one year with a massive shoulder pads.”
Are there any particular beauty products that you always turn to for red carpet events?
“I’ve always used Armani beauty products and it was the base that we used on Victoria to get that porcelain skin. It’s my favourite to use in real life, too. Luminous Silk – I’m shade 5 – has been such a regular for me, on and off screen.”
When do you feel most beautiful?
“Probably when I have slept and drank water, and feel rested.”
Fashion has a reputation for being frivolous, but why does what we wear, matter?
“Because it’s an extension of you. It’s a tone and it’s a feeling. It’s playful and it’s creative and imaginative and inventive. It’s about exploring and, above all, it’s supposed to be fun!”