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Literary Icon Joan Didion Is The New Face Of Fashion House Céline

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She’s the American literary heavyweight whose cult status rivals that of any contemporary supermodel. So French fashion house Céline made a very smart move indeed when they singled out novelist and playwright Joan Didion as the muse for their spring 2015 campaign.

Creative director Phoebe Philo selected the 80-year-old author, who has penned classics Play It as It Lays and Slouching Towards Bethlehem, to epitomise the label’s minimal, pseudo-intellectual vibe.

The first photo from the campaign, shot by Juergen Teller, shows Didion posing in a black turtleneck with oversized sunglasses and a giant gold pendant necklace.

It’s the kind of effortlessly stylish look that has seen Didion lauded by fashion commentators in recent years, in addition to her stalwart fan base of literary admirers.

Literary Icon Joan Didion Is The New Face Of Fashion House Céline

Designer Philo has a good eye for movers and shakers in the fashion industry, having been named last year among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2014.

A key element of American literary culture, Didion began her career in the  New York office of Vogue magazine. In 1964, she married writer John Gregory Dunne and the pair moved to California, where they later adopted a baby daughter named Quintana Roo.

They became a central part of a reactionary community of West Coast writers in the 1960s that included Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson. It was during this time that Didion wrote her seminal collection of essays Slouching Towards Bethlehem  and her critically acclaimed second novel, Play It As it Lays.

Literary Icon Joan Didion Is The New Face Of Fashion House Céline

Literary Icon Joan Didion Is The New Face Of Fashion House Céline

In 2003, tragedy struck Didion after her husband and then her daughter died suddenly in succession.

In her later works, including the books The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, she explores the heartbreaking loss she suffered.

“Crying all the time—that’s not what happens,” Didion said, in a 2011 interview about her experience of grief. “You become crazy. I found quotes from Freud and Melanie Klein where they call grief a form of psychosis we don’t treat. We let it run its course.

“I had spent so much of my life guarding against being raw. I mean, part of growing up for me was getting a finish, an impenetrable polish. And suddenly to be thrown back to this fourteen-year-old helplessness…”

She said writing Magical Thinking – a process that took less than three months – was like “sitting down at the typewriter and bleeding. Some days I’d sit with tears running down my face”.

Literary Icon Joan Didion Is The New Face Of Fashion House Céline

After she wrote the two books, Didion expressed the need to do something new.

“I’m feeling very strongly the need to do something in another vein,” she said, in another interview in 2011. “I don’t know what that vein will be, but I want to find it.”

This campaign for Céline certainly marks an entry into new territory for the novelist, although it is not the first time a big-name fashion or beauty brand has sought to reach out to a more mature calibre of poster girl.

Most recently, Dame Helen Mirren, 69, was selected as the face of L’Oreal Paris alongside 75-year-old Jane Fonda, while 69-year-old Charlotte Rampling has modelled for Nars lipstick.

Literary Icon Joan Didion Is The New Face Of Fashion House Céline

Credit: The Stylist

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