The story behind Chanel’s short film starring Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz

The story behind Chanel’s short film starring Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz

In the original film, starring Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Aimée is shown carrying an original Chanel bag. It wasn’t a prop but actually belonged to her, Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky explained in an interview on the day of the show, after revealing that the video is part of a handbag campaign that will be unveiled globally on March 27.

“The bag wasn’t product placement,” he says. “It was her daily bag. Claude Lelouch told us [himself]. She just put the bag on the table.” (Lelouch also appears in the Chanel film – he’s the man walking on the beach.)

This is just one example of the many connections between Chanel and cinema. In 1961, Gabrielle designed the costumes for another classic of the nouvelle vague – also known as France’s “New Wave” art film movement – called Last Year at Marienbad. Directed by Alain Resnais, the film also served as inspiration for a recent collection by Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard.

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“Virginie is a fan of cinema and the nouvelle vague and her first job was in cinema as a costume designer,” says Pavlovsky. “There is a very strong connection between Virginie and cinema. It’s very important that we stay connected with that. Cinema is about dreams, emotions and something unique – just like fashion.”
Pavlovsky also points out that the aim of the video is not to introduce a new piece but to celebrate the classic Chanel bag, which has remained the same for decades and dates back to the times of Gabrielle herself. “It’s more about creating an emotional connection with the customer because there’s nothing new to sell here,” he says. “We could have put in a new bag, but what is very special at Chanel is that even though for every collection we have new themes and novelties in handbags, there is only one from Mademoiselle Chanel until now, this iconic bag. It has a very special value.”

Cruz is a long-time Chanel ambassador while Pitt has previously starred in a campaign for Chanel No 5, the brand’s signature fragrance. Getting access to such A-list celebrities is par for the course for Chanel, a brand that truly cultivates the relationships with its ambassadors, as Pavlovsky explains.

Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt star in a Chanel campaign devoted to the label’s signature quilted handbag and inspired by the 1966 film A Man and a Woman.
“To incarnate what we are and the brand, it makes sense to work with A-list people and talented ones,” he says. “Brad is more than a face. He and Penélope wouldn’t have come to Deauville if they didn’t believe in the brand. Our ambassadors are the best people to talk about the brand because they discover the brand, wear it, talk to Virginie and they share their projects with us and we talk with their agents every day and recommend things and support them so they’re part of our ecosystem.

“Virginie is doing amazing collections and playing with accessories and bags and offering something very unique but very Chanel, and celebrities have their own take on that.”

At the end of the show, a visibly moved Cruz – who has been working with Chanel for years along with a list of other ambassadors and friends of the house such as Kristen Stewart, Margot Robbie, Charlotte Casiraghi and Vanessa Paradis – got up from her seat to hug Viard as she took her bow.

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Something that many of these celebrities have in common is that they’re not on social media, an aspect of their public persona that another brand would see as a deal breaker when choosing who to work with.

Pavlovsky and his team, however, are far from worried about that, and instead want to foster a genuine bond with the people they work with: “It’s more about the connection we want to create with them; about authenticity, not just for commercial reasons … that is much stronger and their contribution is much more qualitative because you can trust them and they’re comfortable and happy.”

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