Park City • The Sundance Film Festival is known for many things, including crowning new indie darlings, Uggs, hot-tub parties. One thing it’s not known for is red carpet fashion.
But while the actors and other boldface names who descend on the small Utah town from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 may not set black-tie trends, there is no better place to scope out puffer chic. And this year, the trendiest puffers of all were arguably the official puffers handed out to the 400 directors and judges in attendance.
Ethan Hawke picked up his jacket last Friday. Viggo Mortensen, known for playing Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings,” on Thursday. Robert Redford sent an assistant to get his.
A limited-edition filmmakers jacket from Canada Goose (an event sponsor), it is gray, with deep pockets, reflective panels on the sleeves for late night mountain walks, and a Sundance 2020 logo on the sleeve. A similar jacket from the brand’s HyBridge CW collection costs $850.
These filmmaker jackets are Sundance’s version of the Allen & Co. Sun Valley fleece, or the high school varsity jacket: a special badge of in-dom and status that advertises the wearer as part of a privileged group. Turns out successful adults are as susceptible to the allure of free merchandise and what it signifies as any of us.
“I am starting to see people who have one, and I know they are in the gang,” said Erica Tremblay, a filmmaker who focuses on indigenous films. “I love being part of the group. We all understand what it took to get here and get the jacket.”
If becoming a Sundance-chosen filmmaker is a grueling process, however, one that often requires decades of work, picking up the official coat is a luxury experience.
The Sheraton Park City, your standard mid-luxury chain, is the headquarters of the Film Festival, and on the second floor is a VIP suite dedicated to jacket pickup. Full of idyllic pictures of Canada, plush gray couches with Canada Goose blankets, snacks including a variety of candy and fruit, and a skinny mirror, it resembles a welcoming living room.
Unlike the merchandise store, the press center and the accreditation areas in the vicinity, its purpose is not advertised. It is disclosed on a need-to-know basis.
The select few hundreds who would receive a jacket (it sounds like a lot, but given that last year 122,313 people attended, it’s a relatively elite group) received an email about their status as giftees in advance.
“I had just released an album, so I was up at 3 a.m. last Friday to do the rounds on the Canadian morning shows,” said Will Bowes, a Canadian musician and filmmaker. “It had been such a long day, and I was going to sleep around 11 p.m. when I received the email. I slept very well that night.”
Filmmakers also get a voucher — a golden ticket of sorts — to later exchange for the coat, when they pick up their badges. No voucher, no free outerwear.
Only one person at a time may enter the suite, where a Canada Goose-approved stylist will help them choose the correct size. “This festival has hundreds of thousands of people, but in this room you are the only one there,” said Calum Walter, whose film, “Meridian,” is part of the lineup at New Frontier, a subsection of the festival that focuses on new technology.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the jealousy around me right now,” said Bowes, who kept stroking his jacket when he emerged from the room. “There is a certain status that comes with this.”
Tremblay, who lives on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve in Ontario, was already thinking past Sundance. “This is going to come in handy during those winters,” she said. “I’ve been using this Zac Posen coat and another puffy coat that I got at Canada’s version of T.J. Maxx. This is way better.”
Walter was ruminating about what it was like to own the exact same jacket as the filmmakers he idolizes, such as Kahlil Joseph (“Beyoncé: Lemonade”). “I teach a class at Northwestern, and I talk about these people like Terence Nance in my class,” he said. “It feels really cool to have the same jacket as them.”
Some filmmakers bring family members or colleagues to the suite with them, which provides an opportunity for both awkwardness and generosity.
Jeff Orlowski, the director of the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” about how tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter are transforming civilization, gave his jacket to his mother. “She is super-supportive of all my projects, and it’s a great keepsake for her,” he said. “She has been gallivanting around Sundance in it. Last night I’m sure she used it to get into a party or something.”
Walter visited the suite with his partner, Rose Dickson, who didn’t get a jacket even though she was the producer on his project.
“Embarrassingly, Calum kept asking if they would give me a jacket,” she said, laughing. “It was very sweet. Let the effort show.”
He said, “I tried to get her to wear only a T-shirt so we could appeal to their sympathies.”