Cruise control: backstage with Chanel and Lily-Rose Depp
Behind the scenes of Chanel’s Cruise campaign
“A young woman who lives in a sublime house in a fantasy south of France,” is how photographer Karim Sadli sums up his campaign for Chanel’s 2020/21 Cruise collection, dreamt up by Virginie Viard. “I think we all wanted something light, simple, where you don’t feel the effort.”
At Chanel, the Mediterranean has long held a special place, anchored in the biography and inspirations of the brand’s founder. Along the Côte d’Azur, between Monaco and Menton lies Roquebrune-Cap-Martin; here, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1928 designed and realised La Pausa, her French Riviera retreat which followed an all-beige colour scheme, framed in verdant gardens.
In Cannes, Chanel outfitted holidaymakers at her own boutique; in Juan-les-Pins the couturière had enjoyed sunbathing years earlier. Then, there is the spirit of the Mediterranean that has inspired some of Chanel’s most enduring designs: the location’s sunny climate and active outdoors-set lifestyle is best enjoyed in easy-to-wear ensembles. Picture blue and white striped marinière tops, jersey separates and accessories woven from straw.
Earlier this year, Chanel’s Mediterranean heritage gave shape to Balade en Méditerranée (A Mediterranean Jaunt), the second cruise collection conceived by Viard, the brand’s artistic director since February 2019. Originally, Chanel had blueprinted spectacular on the Elysian island of Capri to present the collection this May, with views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Alas, these plans were cut short by international travel restrictions. Unperturbed, Viard collaborated with Paris-born Sadli, who was educated at Sorbonne and the London College of Communication.
At Chanel’s Paris photography studio, Sadli conjured up a sun-soaked setting for Viard’s creations replete with pebble-strewn beaches, azure blue seas stretching to a horizon at dusk and model Micaela Argañaraz on a grand tiled terrace with ocean views. The fanciful set-up befitted Viard’s designs, which advocate for an easy elegance. Wide-legged palazzo trousers are worn with fitted tweed Saharienne jackets, light blue jeans feature pink tweed patch-pockets and are worn with an embroidered bandeau top and flat slider sandals fashioned from woven cord. Hobo bags are malleable and unstructured.
“I thought it was an incredibly desirable collection,” Sadli says. “In the spirit of a holiday wardrobe from which women can pick and choose and play with. Everything is so chic and yet amazingly casual at the same time.” When asked, the photographer sums up Viard’s Balade en Méditerranée as, “the holidays, a gentle torpor, nature, the sea, the sound of the waves”.
Viard and Sadli repeated their hat-trick once more, when working on the collection’s campaign, for which they cast Lily-Rose Depp. “I have known Lily-Rose since she was young in Los Angeles, through her mother [Vanessa Paradis], before she started her career as an actress,” says Sadli of the house muse. Both previously partnered on a Chanel fragrance campaign. “Virginie Viard was looking for someone who could embody a freshness, a sort of candour, a liberated and confident femininity, and who has a playful spirit. Lily-Rose was the obvious choice!”
And so Sadli’s photographs capture Depp whiling away sun-soaked hours. Her holiday wardrobe? Slim-cut bougainvillea flower pink tweed jackets and skirts matched with vibrant embroidered triangle organza bikini tops and diaphanous black chiffon for balmy evenings, all accessorised with a rattan basket, a chain-finessed bucket bag, glittering jewel-belts and visor topped sunglasses. “Before liking the work, it’s the woman herself, Virginie, who I like: her kindness, her humility, and then the love and tenacity that she puts into her work. And I think this is reflected in the collections,” says Sadli. “While keeping Chanel’s codes very identifiable, she infuses them with something more contemporary.”