The most stylish film you’re likely to see this month is just 30 seconds long and has no dialogue. It was shot in Paris by a BAFTA award-winning director and stars a Hollywood A-lister in a surprisingly action-packed role. Oh, and it’s a sequel. You’ll see it on TV any number of times – and it might just inspire you to go on a shopping trip.
It’s the new advert for Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance – and it stars British actress Keira Knightley, who has been the face of the perfume for the last three years. For 25-year-old Keira, reprising the role of the elegant starlet leading a glamorous Parisian life offered the chance to be reunited with Joe Wright, her director on two of her most successful films – Pride and Prejudice and Atonement – as well as the last Coco Mademoiselle ad, which has been running since 2008.
That advert famously opened with Keira, wearing a man’s shirt and bowler hat, nipping into an apartment through its open window and dressing herself in a 1930s-style scarlet evening gown which she wears to an event before fleeing into the moonlit streets of Paris.
The new advert also crams a great deal of story into its running time – and Keira is clearly still playing the same mysterious character: same hairdo, same penchant for grey nail varnish, same hurry to get to where she’s going (this time it’s to a photo shoot) – and the same desire to flee once she’s done her job. But this new advert required a bit more preparation from the actress
than the last one. Why?
Giggling, she replies: “Because of the motorbike! All Joe told me before we started work on the ad was that it would involve a motorbike. I must admit I was rather terrified of the idea. I think that Joe thought that I was the kind of girl who would already have been on one – which is flattering for me, because that means that he must see me as a very cool girl! But in reality, I’d never been on this kind of bike – so I took a few lessons.”
After her “crash” course, Keira felt sufficiently confident to shoot the ad – only to be told that the motorbike that would be used wouldn’t be any old motorbike. “They told me it would be a Ducati – and that was a completely different story. Especially since my instructor very calmly explained to me that if the motorbike fell, I would be unable to lift it up. Mind you, I had a lot of fun with my lessons – though I would have loved to have been as good as my biker companions who made revving up their bikes look so easy. I had to cheat a little, but this made me want to take more lessons so I could really make the bike go ‘vroom’!”
Of course, you can’t ride a motorbike in a Chanel evening gown. So Karl Lagerfeld promised to kit Keira out in appropriate gear. “All I knew before I saw it was that was a catsuit and that it would be beige,” laughs Keira. ” I didn’t have any details. I discovered it in his offices once it was done and immediately when I put it on, I felt like I was slipping into a second skin. I felt like a Chanel superwoman!”
The colour of the catsuit was obviously chosen to stand out alongside the black gear worn by the male bikers in the film, but that wasn’t the only reason: beige was Coco Chanel’s signature colour, and it’s one of the advert’s many little tributes to the legendary founder of the house of Chanel. Her famous mirrored staircase, which is to be found at her original boutique in Paris, is featured, as is her beloved Place Vendome, the magnificent square onto which her bedroom at the Ritz Hotel faced. Her love of pearls is reflected in the keyring which Keira carries her bike keys on, and even the actress’s loose bob seems to evoke the look of Coco Chanel in her heyday.
Was Coco Chanel an inspiration for the character Keira plays? She won’t say, but she does admit to being very impressed by what she’s learned about Chanel and her background. “I’m sure I would have found her intimidating in person. In my mind, she is incredibly mysterious but also strong, powerful and – above all – independent. Which is an essential quality to me.
“Actually, one of the things I love about Coco Mademoiselle – which was my fragrance even before I was first approached by Chanel – is that although it’s extremely feminine, it gives me this feeling of power. Before it, I only wore men’s fragrances. I didn’t want something light and flowery – I’m not that kind of girl. Coco Mademoiselle was the first perfume I tried and thought: ‘Yes, that fits.’ It’s the mixture of strength and subtlety. It doesn’t overpower but it makes you feel you can stand up straight – and that’s important to me.”
Keira was given her first bottle of Coco Mademoiselle by a friend who was fed up with her wearing men’s perfume and told her “it was time to grow up!”. If she hadn’t fallen in love with the fragrance almost on first sniff, Keira would undoubtedly have discovered Coco Mademoiselle for herself by visiting one of Chanel’s olfactive tables – one of which will be a key part of the company’s new beauty zone, an Espace Parfums with a Chanel Make-up Studio, opening in Frasers, Glasgow, later this month.
The Chanel olfactive table houses the 48 concentrates which make up the entire range of Chanel perfumery. From April 21, when the the Espace Parfums opens, fragrance experts will be on-hand to guide customers through the collection using a new ceramic blotter system which will allow them to sample every scent. There will also be a floating bar showcasing the entire Les Exclusifs mini collection of perfumes which, until recently, were only available in Chanel boutiques and Selfridges.
The Espace Parfums is the first that the company has opened in the UK outside the capital. The revamped beauty area, which will have a make-up play station and a giant screen showing the latest make-up collections, will put Scottish Chanel fans on an equal footing with Londoners as the “Fast Track” make-up collections, designed by Peter Philips, the creative director of Chanel Make-up and previously only sold in Selfridges and in Chanel boutiques, will be on sale here for the first time.