If there are any doubts that smart ladies are the new rock stars, one need to look no further than the latest Céline ad shot by Jürgen Teller.
It features none other than writer Joan Didion as the new face of the fashion house. Didion is the acclaimed author of, among other works, “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” “The Year of Magical Thinking” and, most recently, “Blue Nights.”
It would seem designer Phoebe Philo has long been a Didion admirer, given this shot of model Daria Werbowy channeling a portrait of Didion with her Corvette Stingray. Her philosophy of providing sophisticated, fuss-free clothes dovetails perfectly with Didion’s much-admired simplicity.
“I guess there is a bit of a political statement behind Céline, which is that we should be teaching young girls to feel good,” Philo said in a rare interview at last year’s Vogue festival. “I am not a big fan of women being sexualized through clothes, as you can probably tell from my work. I have no problem with a woman wearing anything as long as she has chosen to wear it for herself.”
Didion’s reputation for effortless cool precedes her. At 80 years old, she is as much a part of the zeitgeist as ever. The much anticipated documentary of her life, “We Tell Our Stories In Order To Live,” received more than double its initial goal for its Kickstarter campaign. And, as Jessica Morgan, one half of the blogging duo who produce the Go Fug Yourself style blog, pointed out, Didion has always been chic.
“I am delighted by the fact that Joan Didion is the new face of Céline,” Morgan said in an e-mail. “As a native Californian, of course I think of her whenever the Santa Anas start to blow, and ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is one of my favorite books ever. She is one of my favorite writers. And obviously, Didion has always been super chic — anyone who’s ever seen that iconic Julian Wasser portrait of her leaning against her Corvette knows this — so it’s not really that crazy of a choice, if you really think about it. But there is something incredibly satisfying to me to see a brilliant woman of her age being the face of such a major fashion brand. Essentially, it is so refreshing to be reminded that chic doesn’t have an age limit. (And smart on their part, as older women generally have more cash to blow on gorgeous bags and coats, too.).”
But there’s something else being signaled by Céline choosing Didion: the idea of women writers and intellectuals as the new cool girls.
When she swanned into popular culture after her engagement to George Clooney was announced, Oxford-educated barrister Amal Alamuddin was celebrated as a new template for the ideal woman. She is unmistakably worldly, graceful and chic, and she’s super brainy too. Clooney certainly recognized his good fortune. “I’m marrying up,” he told Variety.
As Kristen Houghton wrote in a piece entitled “The New Trophy Wife:”
The days of a well-off older man who has a brainless beauty on his arm at social functions seems to be a deal out of Mad Men. Educated, intelligent women are the ones most sought-after by men of the same caliber. Brains are the new beauty.
Alamuddin was the bright yellow buoy atop a wave that’s been in motion for some time, one in which the new cool girls are the ones who inspire cultural crushes, most recently among them Roxane Gay, Tavi Gevinson, Lena Dunham. Didion’s been the subject of many a writer crush for decades.
“As far as smart women being the new cool girls — god, I hope that’s a trend!” Morgan said. “But I bet most writers never think of themselves as cool girls to begin with — which perhaps is one of the reasons the cool ones are cool to begin with.”
Below, words on the appeal of Céline from the Philophiles, via Nowness: