'When I was younger, I wanted to grow up - I thought I was more suited to being in my 40s than being a teenager," says Sofia Coppola, who even now, as a 37-year-old mother and Oscar-winning screenwriter, has a dreamy, adolescent look.
But in the collection of bags and shoes that she has been working on with Louis Vuitton for the last year, Coppola has achieved her dream. The bags are grown-up and sophisticated. The shoes are elegant and comfortable. And when they go on sale next spring, after a launch party in Tokyo in December, they will show another facet of the quintessentially cool pop culture icon.
With her slight silhouette, off-kilter nose, mobile mouth and curtain of hair, Coppola is a scion of a Hollywood dynasty: her father is Francis Ford Coppola, who cast his newborn daughter in the finale of "The Godfather" in 1972; her mother, Eleanor, is an artist and set designer; and she is surrounded by a creative cousinhood.
Coppola has arrived at a personal and professional maturity after working through a trilogy of movies about young women on the cusp of adulthood.
First there was adolescent desire and yearning in "The Virgin Suicides." Then the confusion of a faltering marriage and adult intimacy in "Lost in Translation." And finally "Marie Antoinette" as royal teen. That controversial movie's music remix underscored Coppola's connection to hip music, as played by Thomas Mars of the French rock band Phoenix, who is her partner and the father of her child.
Coppola read Antonia Fraser's book on Marie-Antoinette and empathized with a young girl in a society "out of time with reality," attempting to create something "down to earth" in the Petit Trianon in a way that was both "ridiculous and touching."
At the age when Marie-Antoinette was facing the rigid etiquette of the court of Versailles, the 15-year-old Coppola was working as an intern at Chanel in Paris, a city that her parents had always loved. She had been brought up on the family estate in Napa Valley in California, and traveled with her father's movies, including two years spent in the Philippines for "Apocalypse Now."
Coppola says of her style that "I like to be comfortable because I am Californian - nothing too severe or feeling I am wearing costume." She recalls the 1980s in Paris as a time when she wore "ripped and faded jeans" and "shell jackets" and loved the fun Italian brand Fiorucci.
Her fashion epiphany came when she saw the Marc Jacobs 1992 "grunge" collection for Perry Ellis which "felt exactly like what I wanted." It was the start of a fashion love affair that led to her being the "face" (and the half-naked body) of Jacobs's first fragrance. She spent her 20s in the child/woman clothes with a flea market touch that Jacobs invented. Everything - even the slender dress she wore to pick up her 2004 Oscar - had the cool vibe that made her a fashion pinup.
Sitting in the Vuitton showrooms, looking out over the Seine and the gray slate roofs of Paris, Coppola, in a mauve sweater and corduroy pants, is the absolute opposite of a Victoria Beckham striving to create a celebrity fashion brand. The cinéaste had come from her Paris home, where she is writing the script of a movie she hopes to make next year, and looking after her daughter Romy, who turns 2 next month.
"I never really felt like a part of the Hollywood system - my father moved to North California and I always thought you can do it independently," Coppola says, referring to being a movie director. Her involvement with style has, until now, been incidental.
"Fashion is something I enjoy and like - but it is not the focus," says Coppola. "I collect photographs and art."
Jacobs, now the creative director at Louis Vuitton, was, inevitably, the conduit to the current collaboration. Coppola joins a roster of artistic people who have worked with Vuitton, including, famously, the contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, Stephen Sprouse and, more recently, Rei Kawakubo, the conceptual designer for Comme des Garçons, and Richard Prince.
Coppola was inspired by a trip to Louis Vuitton's original home in Asnières, on the outskirts of Paris. Working with the special order department, she took up the challenge of designing "the perfect bag that doesn't exist."
Coppola wanted a day bag that was "chic, discreet and lightweight and that isn't enormous," adding that "it is hard to find bag without a lot of hardware." She opens the roomy bag (selling in the monogram version at €1,600, or about $2,190), showing how there is an open pocket enabling her to grab her telephone. The evening clutch (€800), with its pochette containing a mirror, is "a thing I wanted for myself."
"It was an interesting creative process," says Coppola. "I feel I am creative person. My focus is filmmaking - so I am able to ask people to make exactly as I would in film."
Coppola drew on a well of personal experience for the accessories. A gilded wedge ankle-strap sandal (€500) was stirred by the memory of her mother's Yves Saint Laurent shoes in the 1970s. ("I loved the 1970s' interpretation of the '30s and '40s," she says.)
It was tough to find an unregistered name for the bag, ultimately called the "SC." The "Sofia" had already been used for a Marc Jacobs bag (as well as appearing on a bottle of Coppola Napa Valley champagne).
What about a full fashion collection?
"I wouldn't say never, but I don't have patience to learn all the details - know about proportions," says Coppola. "Clothing is so nonstop. What I love about films is that you can take the summer off."
In fact, Coppola plunged into fashion a decade ago when she founded with friends the Japanese label Milk Fed, still part of a Tokyo girl's kawaii, or cute, world. She says that "when I first went there in my 20s, it felt like teenage girls were running the whole country." After poking gentle fun at Japanese mores in "Lost in Translation," "Marie Antoinette" has put Coppola back in favor. She will celebrate the LV collection in Tokyo on Dec. 5 before it goes on sale in Vuitton flagships across the world in March.
Coppola does have a fashion aim - to look like "the chic women of my childhood," referring to her parents' acting friends Carole Bouquet and Aurore Clément.
"Paris women have certain style - they are not trying to be little girls," she says. "In general, people are more chic and put together in Paris. American sportswear hasn't entirely taken over. I like the idea of growing up and being a woman - the end of childhood but keeping part of your nature."
7 months ago