January 7, 2015

Joan Didion is the face of Céline’s new ad campaign


celine-joan-didion-spring-2015-holdingEveryone is breathless about the ads designed by Phoebe Philo for French fashion label Céline. That’s because they feature the literary legend Joan Didion as the cover girl.

“We can die happy now,” declared Raquel Laneri for Refinery 29.

“It may be too early to say this, but Céline just debuted the best campaign of 2015,” Jamie Feldman exclaimed for the Huffington Post.

“What brand wouldn’t want to be associated with the ultimate in glamorous, literary cool?” asked Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke for the New York Observer.

Alessandra Codinha lays out the situation in a gushing post for Vogue:

Let’s discuss the facts: that Céline has become the label where all the season’s trends are born, where your chicest friend gets all of her wardrobe inspiration, where your favorite fashion editors save up to spring for statement pieces. (It’s so good it hurts, really.) And now let’s talk about Céline’s just-debuted ad campaign featuring none other than immortal intellectual-and-otherwise dream girl Joan Didion. Well, did you just feel the collective intake of breath shared by every cool girl you know? Did you feel the pulse-quickening vibrations of every recent college grad and literature fan? Did you sense the earth trembling beneath your feet? Do you have two eyes and a heart?

Well, it makes sense. Joan Didion, who turned 80 last year, wrote about how her love of designer labels (mixed with politics) has to do with “staying alive” in Blue Nights, her book about the heartbreaking loss of her daughter Quintana Roo.

“One day we are absorbed by dressing well, following the news, keeping up, coping, what we might call staying alive; the next day we are not. One day we are turning the pages of whatever has arrived in the day’s mail with real enthusiasm—maybe it is Vogue, maybe it is Foreign Affairs, whatever it is we are intensely interested, please to have this handbook to keeping up, this key to staying alive—yet the next day we are walking uptown on Madison past Barney’s and Armani or on Park past the Council on Foreign Relations and we are not even glancing at their windows. One day we are looking at the Magnum photograph of Sophia Loren at the Christian Dior show in Paris in 1968 and thinking yes, it could be me, I could wear that dress, I was in Paris that year; a blink of the eye later we are in one or another doctor’s office being told what has already gone wrong, why we will never again wear the red suede sandals with the four-inch heels, never again wear the gold hoop earrings, the enameled beads, never now wear the dress Sophia Loren is wearing. The sun damage inflicted when we swam off the raft in our twenties against all advice is only now surfacing (we were told not to burn, we were told what would happen, we were told to wear sunscreen, we ignored all warnings): melanoma, squamous cell, long hours now spent watching the dermatologist carve out the carcinomas with the names we do not want to hear.”

Even with the challenges of growing older, Didion is as effortlessly glamorous now as she was as a young woman. And as everyone who has read The White Album may remember, Didion has always known how to pack fashionably and is willing to teach us how:

“This is a list which was taped inside my closet door in Hollywood during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily. The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do. Notice the deliberate anonymity of costume: in a skirt, a leotard, and stockings, I could pass on either side of the culture. Notice the mohair throw for trunk-line flights (i.e. no blankets) and for the motel room in which the air conditioning could not be turned off. Notice the bourbon for the same motel room. Notice the typewriter for the airport, coming home: the idea was to turn in the Hertz car, check in, find an empty bench, and start typing the day’s notes.”


2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes
nightgown, robe, slippers
bag with: shampoo
toothbrush and paste
Basis soap, razor
face cream
baby oil

mohair throw
2 legal pads and pens
house key


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.