Sofia Coppola arrives at the Ritz Hotel in Paris looking stylishly chic yet laid-back in Acne jeans, a Marc Jacobs sweatshirt and kitten-heeled boots. As she settles into her chair, she smiles and says, “I feel so at home in this hotel.” The 37-year-old Academy Award-nominated director, who splits her time between New York and Paris, quickly orders her meal in French but then switches back to English. “I’m still not sure of myself,” she says. “My daughter, Romy, goes to school in Paris and has mastered French almost as well as English. Obviously, I’m going to have to catch up with her!”
Meanwhile, Coppola is here to chat about the latest creative venture: designing a collection of handbags ($1,290 to $3,860) and shoes ($780 to $900) for Louis Vuitton. “It’s a prototype, so I have to be careful with it,” says Coppola as she unveils a grey leather day bag. “My friends and I were always on the lookout for the ideal bag for daytime. We wanted one that wasn’t too light or too heavy, too big or too small. It had to be able to
hold an agenda, as well as baby stuff.” Like her own personal style — which she describes as “non-attention-grabbing” — Coppola’s day bag is practical yet quietly posh. “I’m not a big fan of It bags you can recognize a mile away,” she confides. “Showing off is not my thing. I wanted something simple, and Louis Vuitton gave me the freedom to do just that.”
The SC bag — a mix of LV’s classic Speedy (a small, round bag) and Keepall (a bigger travel bag) — comes in grey suede, dark-blue calf leather and burgundy calf leather, as well as LV’s classic monogram canvas. But what about fashionista black? “That would have been a bit obvious,” she says. “Doing publicity for Lost in Translation, I noticed that I always showed up at red-carpet events wearing a little black dress. Since then, I’ve tried to add some colour. After all is said and done, little black dresses are rather boring!”
The other pieces in the capsule collection — duffle bags, clutches and two pairs of retro-style wedge sandals — have a timeless, understated elegance. “The clutches were inspired by Lauren Hutton,” explains Coppola. “She’s one of my personal style icons.” The inspiration for the sandals came from ’80s images of Bette Midler, Donna Summer and the actresses on the TV series The Golden Girls. “I really like platforms because they give you height without making you feel teeter-tottery. These ones are ideal: not too low and not too high — just the way I like them.” It was pure happenstance that Coppola landed the enviable design assignment. She was visiting the Louis Vuitton factory in Asnières to place an order for a customized bag when the conversation shifted toward Coppola designing her own collection. “I left the factory with an unexpected burning desire to make something.”
This isn’t Coppola’s first foray into the fashion world. “I’ve always loved fashion magazines,” she says. “Just recently, my mother came across some designs that I had sketched when I was six years old. When I was 15, I
interned at Chanel. I mostly made coffee, but I learned a lot by watching Karl Lagerfeld and Gilles Dufour.” After finishing her studies in 1998, she started a label, Milk Fed, which she later abandoned due to lack of time.
Her famous designer friends aren’t surprised that she was approached by Louis Vuitton. “Sofia’s charm stems from the way she uses her personal brand of relaxed elegance,” says Anna Sui. “She puts on a designer gown the same way she puts on jeans and a T-shirt: gracefully, with no affectation.” Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director, is also quick to praise his former fragrance model. “It’s hard not to think of the word ‘natural’ when you talk about Sofia,” he says. “She is always herself. One quality that is unique to her is her calm energy.”
Coppola credits her parents’ glamorous friends with influencing her style sensibility. “My parents are friends with women like Aurore Clément. I always admired her sophisticated simplicity,” she says. “That, after all, is what’s most complicated to pull off.”
On that note, Coppola gracefully mentions that it’s time to leave as she has promised to help a friend choose a wedding dress. She glances out the window and frowns. “It’s raining,” she says with a sigh. “I’m not sure if this bag has been weatherproofed yet!” The porter offers her an umbrella and she skips outside, making her way across the street with her umbrella and her precious prototype design. It’s the kind of poetic shot you would expect to see in one of her movies. Coppola may shun the spotlight, but she runs the risk of attracting everyone’s attention with her new Louis Vuitton bag.