Sunday, June 28, 2009

Optical Scentsibilities:In a Suspender State of Mind (the new Chanel Coco Mademoiselle ad)

The new advertising images for the best-seller and much copied Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel saw the light of day on The site offers that it is "a gorgeous Keira a sheer white blouse, Chanel pearls, and braces" (what other nations call suspenders ~personally I associate braces with teeth!). is also enthusiastic, calling it "very retro Coco Chanel look". Indeed the black and white juxtaposition signals Chanel even before you can lisp Coco.

Personally I find that the previous bowler-hat-hiding-invisible-breasts and leaving elongated limps to view was not as naughty as it wanted to be, although the commercial was positively divine. In comparison the newest is looking like it goes for a little more coverage, yet still with the subtle tittilation that Coco Mademoiselle stands for in the Chanel portfolio (and which must have accounted for a large portion of the younger clientele following). The look is mature and erotic to the degree that the audience can take it. The need for a masculine touch, as androgyne is so tempting visually, is presented through rose-tinted glasses: The sheer blouse covers just so (you can still see outlines) and the flowing effect contrasts well with the stricter line of the suspenders, which appear like whips on flesh we only visualise and never see. But it's also a fashion nod to the gangster of the 20s, the era in which Chanel solidified the look that would make her the stuff of legend and the long pearls necklace depicted is also a nod to the jewellery she helped immortalise. Suspenders also remind us of garters, their erotic significance never far in the mind of the viewer: the promise of something that will loosen, that will unbotton...
What is odd is that despite its timelessness (I've worn the look myself), this look was very 2006: it even trickled down to Miss Selfridges and American Apparel!
Keira has already been photographed for Interview magazine with this look, perhaps to more outright sexy vibes, while Victoria Beckham also presented her own boyish but conservative version in Christian Dior (or rather the stylist's vision) on an Elle cover recently.

None of them however can surpass the sheer power that is emitted through that cougar that is Charlotte Rampling and her ambiguous character in The Night Porter. Keira is pretty and has that angular look that helped Rampling cut the silver screen like a scimitar, but her own raw erotic power is not of the same calibre.
My personal gripe however with the new print advertisement for Coco Mademoiselle is with hair and makeup: The shade of Keira's nicely coiffed a la 40s noir heroines hair looks like it has been two-toned horizontally (as if she is growing out her natural shade), which puts a much darker frame around the face; perhaps an intended choice, given the unusually shaded makeup which sculpts her already sculpted cheekbones and gives supposedly mysterious depth to her eye sockets. The finger on the mouth apart from acting as a further sucking innuendo also elongates the line of the cheekbone to the point that it becomes almost Garboesque. A heavy load on Keira's tiny shoulders....

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Optical Scentsibilities, Chanel news and reviews, Chanel Les Exclusifs.

Ad brought to my attention by AlbertCAN (thanks!). Pics:,,,


  1. As a Chanel and Keira fan, this was a really fascinating read. I haven't quite made my mind up on the new ad, but I do like it better than the first version. The comparison to Charlotte Rampling is also rather interesting, as she played Keira's mother in The Duchess.

    Great job,

  2. Thanks, Jamie! (~and what an interesting digital project, may I add).

    I like it better than the first version too! The limps were toooooo elongated for her to appear human in the first one and although the bowler hat reminded me of the "melon" one in The Unbearable Lightness of Being it wasn't as charged erotically, I thought.
    Yup, Rampling is an inspiration (for me personally) and it was fitiing that they cast her as her mother: they're angular both and with a certain British aloofness that is good for such roles. However I vastly prefer Charlotte.

  3. Anonymous13:07

    Hi! I don't know why, but I don't like it. Her face lacks something and is very unnatural here. :(

  4. I actually like this pic of Keira, as her face is looking more womanly and mature. imho.

    And yes, Charlotte Rampling. It's sad that there are few fiercely independent, intelligent and sexual actresses like her these days. Her androgyny is a breath of fresh air when compared to the hollow, porno like obviousness that passes for sexy today.

    I did suspenders for a while in the early 90's- a look that did not flatter me. lol

  5. Alexandra15:42

    Charlotte Rampling really looks like a Piguet *Bandit* kind of girl.
    Coco Mademoiselle EdT is exactly kind of perfume that I don`t like. I was making a list of similar perfumes to it : E. Arden Red Door Shimmer, Lancome Miracle Forever, Cacharel Liberte... I gave up, 50% new perfumes smells like Coco Mad.

  6. Thanks for the compliment, comment, and the link! I have added Perfume Shrine as link on my blog as well. I really enjoy reading your takes on the new perfumes that are constantly coming out and their ads.


  7. L,

    I think it's the makeup! It's too dark for her and rather brownish (not exactly fit for her colouring, it would need a more olive complexion)

  8. Dea,

    thanks for chimming in!
    On the whole I like this approach more than the previous one. There's something about it... Rampling: the only woman on film who was truly, truly sexy, for me.

  9. Alexandra,

    you think eh? It's an interesting proposition, I had considered something else for her in this particular role on my S/M series (scroll).

    As to what you're saying about the impact of Coco Mlle on the market, there is no doubt in my mind that you're absolutely right!! Indeed it was a major influence on new releases (I'm not too crazy about it either, although I have to give it to it the success it has garnered)

  10. You're welcome Jamie, it was deserved and awww, thanks for including me, I'm flattered.

  11. I often like Keira but am often annoyed by her persona as well -- and I think in images they've taken her razor-sharp cheekbones too far. With her an Audrey Tautou I feel as though they look like they are perpetually sucking in their cheeks, like starved waifs. I do not like that look, but I think this new ad looks fantastic and she appears more mature.

    Rampling! I mentioned on another board recently that I have had a dvd rental of The Night Porter for weeks now, and keep meaning to watch it on the weekend. I hadn't been aware of Rampling's "previous life" when I started seeing her recent films such as Ozon's Swimming Pool & Sous le Sable -- then I saw many of the famous Newton photos from the 70s and was blown away by her presence.

    Just to comment on dea's observation: I find Tilda Swinton to have an amazing presence nowadays, but she's not really cast in any "sexy" roles lately. I'd also count Kate Winslet as intelligent and sexual.

  12. Oh, yeah, the sucked cheeks and pouty lips personally irritate me to no end on Keira especially: it's like a perpetual grimace! (But I forgive it when I see the even worse horsey laugh!!> But anyway, let's not bash Keira, she's a pretty girl, just not my cup)

    GO HOME AND WATCH THE NIGHT PORTER!! NOW!!! It will change the way you see things. I had first watched it when I was 15. It was amazing and made me hanker after both Rampling and Liliana Cavani ever since. (I already had an affinity for Dirk Bogarte thanks to the brilliant The Servant and Death in Venice).

    I like your taste in actresses, those all have a riveting presence. Kate Winslet is truly beautiful too, in an English rose sort of way, which might detract from her presence, but to her credit, she never, but never, lets this happen on screen...
    Tilda is a goddess. You should watch Young Adam for a very sexy role in a very unconventional frame of visuals. ;-)

    (I should probably start a cine-blog, the way I'm going!LOL)

  13. Anonymous00:20

    Helg, look for Tilda Swinton in "Orlando". NO one but Swinton could have succeeded so well in that role.
    -- Gretchen

  14. I actually like this image more than I have done the others- I thought the bowler hat pic looked far too photo shopped although I liked the idea of it.

    I like Keira Knightley well enough- I keep in mind that if my friends or I were famous (obviously less beautiful) we would probably come across quite like her. She is no Charlotte Rampling though! Chanel seem to be walking a tight rope of wanting CM to be a bit edgey (for them) but not to lose it's more conservative followers.

    I did like the tv/ film advert- mostly because I wanted that apartment and jewellery!

  15. Gretchen,

    thanks! I already have and you're so right: who else but Tilda could?? (I can't think of anyone)

  16. K,

    good point about being famous.
    I think the Coco Mlle franchise is too precious for Chanel to want to alienate any of their customers.

  17. I suppose it's a bit late for a comment, but as I've just read this, I'll leave one anyhow.

    I'm another person who finds the suspenders/bracers to be an interesting image. As a perfume lover, Coco Mademoiselle is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I find both the bowler hat and the suspenders that have been used to advertise the fragrance quite interesting. Despite marketing the fragrance towards a younger market, Chanel has at least twice chosen timeless (though some may say "dated") and less-than-mainstream masculine garments which when worn by women have moderately fetishistic overtones.

    In some ways this choice seems contrary to what it seems like Coco Mademoiselle was "supposed to be". (A fragrance for a younger market, with "mademoiselle" in the name, and pink juice.)
    It also seems as though they've chosen symbolism which will be lost to the majority of their market.

    I find these choices interesting ... and maybe I can use them to excuse my love of a fragrance most perfume lovers consider boring, mainstream, and (at least in some cases) suffocating.

    Just to add to the catalog of visuals, among which I also agree that The Night Porter is easily the most powerfully engaging ... Madonna's 1990 music video for "Justify My Love" also fits. The black and white video, with a theme of sexual experimentation, prominently features a suspender-wearing head-nod to Charlotte Rampling.

  18. Prox,

    thanks for such a stimulating comment! :-))
    Since you were late with it, you will excuse my own lateness in replying I hope!

    I know the Coco Mlle franchise has been a choice of the US creative department and it was not fully approved till some time elapsed. Then again Polges is a sophisticated man (and so is Lagerfeld) and they could not possibly market a "young" juice in the conventional way such things are usually (and young it is, in the best sense, even if I am not totally crazy about it myself but I can see how successful and competent it is)
    Therefore I should think that as you so aptly say the bolwer hat and suspenders are masculine nods to more "sophisticated" elements which are indeed ingrained in the Chanel tradition (the androgynous tailoring, the use of jersey, the pants...)

    Thanks also for reminding me of the Madonna video, which I had referenced when talking about Montana's Parfum de Peau, due to Wallis Montana appearing in it (in the fetishist suspenders outfit). Indeed!

  19. Anonymous13:11

    I also wear suspenders and love it. Keira is so beautiful and suspenders always look adorable on her!

  20. Denise,

    thanks for stopping by! Suspenders have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, they're so intriguing, aren't they. I bet you look equally good in them as Keira.
    I actually love those things on guys too: Either the punky kind or the old-Hollywood 30s-40s look, I'm not picky!


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