Whether it’s a swashbuckling aristocrat in Pirates of the Caribbean or a hotshot soccer player in Bend It Like Beckham, Keira Knightley glides seamlessly from blockbusters to independent films. This fall, the British actress and Academy Award nominee adds a new role to her resumé as the star of an advertising campaign for Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance. “Being the face of a Chanel campaign is like winning an Oscar!” says the 22-year-old, who replaces fellow Brit Kate Moss as the scent’s muse. “It’s so amazing to be welcomed into a couture house that has such a rich history and where, at the same time, you feel the pulse of creativity, energy and modernism.”
When we catch up in London, Knightley — dressed in a plaid minidress, black tights, gold sandals and a panama hat — looks like your typical twentysomething. How does she describe her personal style? “Dishevelled,” she says. “I sort of feel like a tomboy. That’s probably why I don’t walk very well in stilettos.” She admits that if she feels really comfortable in a garment, she might wear it for a couple of days in a row — a sacrilege, to say the least, for any of L.A.’s fashionistas, who toss their outfits after they’ve been snapped by the paparazzi. She also prefers flea markets to designer boutiques and visits Portobello Road Market and Alfies Antique Market in London in search of one-of-a-kind, vintage pieces.
But don’t think that Knightley isn’t interested in fashion. She admits to collecting shoes — even ones that don’t fit. “I try them on, look at myself in the mirror and then take them off,” she says. Knightley also loves to accessorize with hats — the bowler version she wears in the Coco Mademoiselle ads is her latest favourite. And on the red carpet, the chameleon-like actress can dial it up like a true Hollywood player. Since she made her debut in Hollywood several years ago, Knightley has worn gowns by the biggest designer names, including Valentino, Vera Wang, Gucci and Calvin Klein. But she laments the shortage of fashion risk takers among her peers. “There is little uniqueness on the red carpet,” she says. “That’s why I loved the swan dress that Björk wore to the Oscars in 2001. I’d love to have the courage to imitate her, but I don’t feel like I’d be strong enough to endure the critique that would follow!”
When it comes to fragrances, Knightley says that she was always loyal to masculine scents — which she feels are “much lighter” — until she was introduced to Coco Mademoiselle three years ago. “It was a Christmas gift from a friend of mine,” she says. Now, she’s enamoured by it. “It’s a fresh and subtle fragrance,” she says. “And you can wear it with jeans by day or all dolled up by night.”
Although she’s joining the ranks of other Chanel celebrity spokeswomen, including Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve and Candice Bergen, Knightley doesn’t seem daunted. In fact, she giggles at what the campaign will mean for her: a lifetime supply of perfume. “Can you imagine if I found myself with an empty bottle one day?” she says. “I’d have to face up to images of me in whichever boutique I’d run to for a refill. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing? So I’m happy to be well stocked up!”
Image courtesy of Chanel.