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Julia Roberts stars in the new Givenchy campaign. Photography by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
I have known Julia Roberts for more than ten years and I have my fair share of Givenchy clothes hanging in my closet. So when Riccardo Tisci, the design genius behind the brand, cast my friend Julia as his latest muse for the spring campaign, two of my favorite people finally came together. Needless to say, I had to join the party! Speaking to Riccardo in Paris and Julia in Los Angeles, I got all the details about how this incredible campaign came to be. Here I talk to the dynamic duo about supermodels, high fashion, having it all (or not), and what we all want for Christmas.
Riccardo Tisci on collaborating with his latest muse Julia Roberts.
JZ: Why did you pick Julia for this campaign? Was she your first choice?
RT: Julia was my first choice for a few reasons; I think that she represents such a mature woman. With each campaign for Givenchy, I’m always trying to make a difference. A lot of people see Givenchy as only “haute couture,” or only “street and urban.” For me, Julia is many things. She has this strength as an actress, but she’s also this beautiful American woman. She’s a big star, but she’s not a paparazzi or a blog monster. It’s going to be my tenth year at Givenchy in March, so I wanted to represent the woman who is more mature, beautiful, talented, but also unpretentious.
JZ: Congratulations on 10 years! You didn’t recreate runway pieces for her. These are the “classic” pieces of Givenchy?
RT: In the campaign, Julia is wearing a tuxedo, which is basically my iconic piece; this is what women know and buy Givenchy for. She also wears this black and white chemise dress, which is another iconic look.
These are classic Givenchy—the ones that I’m famous for. You know, the boxy jacket, the black dress with the white collar, the lace shirts and the masculine trousers. It’s this kind of mixing of masculine and feminine. Julia does this a lot in her films. She really has to think about transforming herself a lot; she’s very versatile.
JZ: I love that! Do you remember your first Julia Roberts movie? What was your favorite?
RT: Of course, the one that everybody in the world knows is Pretty Woman. Pretty Woman is such an amazing and iconic movie.
Photography by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
JZ: That was my favorite. How old were you when you saw Pretty Woman? Did you see it in Italy?
RT: Yes! I was young, like 13, and I was obsessed! Today it’s fine, but at the time—and especially in Italy—it was scandalous. You know, the fact that she was representing a prostitute and basically falling in love with a rich man. The story is very romantic and very strong. She immediately became an icon.
RT: All of these women are talented, but they also have strong personalities. I don’t like to use clichéd types. Erykah Badu, Marina Abramovic, Isabelle Huppert—these are women that people don’t expect. And they’re all very beautiful because they are like family to me.
JZ: So tell me about the actual shoot.
RT: It was really amazing. Mert and Marcus are great friends of mine, as well as Julia. It did not feel like an advertising campaign. At Givenchy, we want to show clothes, but we also want to show emotion. The campaign is quite strong because people want to see Julia in the way she is on screen, but in real life she’s much more tomboyish, no make up. This is everyday Julia, not what you see on the red carpet or in the movies. This was an iconic moment because she is an icon.
Julia Roberts in Givenchy at the premiere of August: Osage County. Photo: Getty Images
JZ: Julia's not showing off her famous all-American smile in the campaign. Did you choose to shoot her that way? How come?
RT: She has the most beautiful smile in the world and I love it, but it's Julia’s sensibility that interests me. I fell in love with her because she’s a strong woman, but she’s also fragile. I also love her intellectual side. So for me, the Julia in these pictures is the real one you see every day. They’re really honest portraits of her.
JZ: You’re really good on social media. Everyone loves your pictures on Instagram. But Julia does not do social media at all. So, on the photo shoot, did you try to talk her into getting on Instagram?
RT: She should! I was about to ask her, but then I was having such a special moment—to work with someone so iconic. And at the end of the day, you feel it. “You’re with Julia Roberts!” It was so emotional that I didn’t ask, “Can you take a selfie with me?”
JZ: I’ve done a selfie with her!
RT: Really? I wanted to keep it a secret though. I knew if I did, everyone would be talking about it.
JZ: As a designer, is there one piece of advice that you can give to women that can make them feel more confident about their style?
RT: You should always follow your instinct. Sometimes you put on a lot of clothes and then you stand in front of the mirror. Just look at yourself. Be honest and then take it off if you want. You’ll find out what you really like.
JZ: What’s in store for the next 10 years for Riccardo?
RT: The past 10 years have been really amazing. The next decade will be about growing and achieving, more and more. I would like to bring Givenchy to an even higher level. I would like to make Givenchy become a lifestyle brand. I’m just very lucky to have worked with so many cool people.
Julia Roberts on posing for Givenchy’s new campaign
JZ: Congratulations. The pictures are amazing.
JR: Well, thank you.
Photography by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
JZ: I love it. How about you’re a supermodel now? All those years we talked about it, and here you are!
JR: I know. My sister and I were actually just on the phone, and we were laughing so hard. She goes, “How are you suddenly turned into a supermodel? You’re almost 50.” It’s funny.
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JZ: I love it! I talked to Riccardo yesterday and I said, ‘What made you think of Julia?’ He’s like, ‘She was my first choice. She’s so iconic. She has this really strong, mature beauty about her and nobody can top her.’
JR: It’s so sweet. It’s funny because I had never met him before our first day together shooting the campaign. I was so nervous, and I was expecting this very kind of chic man in a suit and a white shirt and a tie. I come walking in and there’s this good-looking man in a plaid flannel shirt and some work boots. I’m like, “This is Riccardo?”
JZ: He’s so nice!
JR: He’s so sweet. He’s in an industry that I find very intimidating and elusive—just like the good-looking girl in high school. The whole fashion industry is that to me. And then you meet these people who are so kind, love what they do, and are very interested in the personal aspects of it. You know, the way you look, it’s so personal. Riccardo put me very much at ease. And Mert and Marcus are just the most fun people to spend a day with.
JZ: What did you think of the pictures?
JR: Well, it’s impossible for me to be totally objective and not make four or seven jokes right now. I wish I looked like that! If you could see me right now, you’d be laughing so hard. I think they’re very cool images and I think all the clothes would have been things I would have chosen for myself.
JZ: When I talked to him, I hadn’t seen the pictures yet, and then I said, “What did you design for Julia?” And he said, “She is the most iconic woman for me in America, and I wanted to design for her the most iconic looks.” I love that description.
JR: Well, they were so beautiful, and they’re all so impeccable. Trends and I never shall meet; I just can’t quite pull it off! That’s why I love a suit. That’s why I love impeccable tailoring and really perfect fabrics. He did it all. That black, flowy blouse? It’s heaven on a hanger. It’s like a piece of artwork.
Julia Roberts wears Givenchy to the Oscars. Photo: Getty Images
JZ: I love that shirt and I love that picture, too. But let’s talk about the smile. Riccardo said to me, “I love the smile, but I feel like everyone’s seen her that way, and this is not about red carpet. This is very much about the real her.” Do you think that this was a true version of you?
JR: When you’re walking down a red carpet, usually you’re walking to some place that you are excited to get to, so there’s an element of joy. For a still photograph, it’s great when it’s spontaneous and people are looking happy, but it can also look manufactured. Not just me, but for anybody! I love that they wanted it to be sort of cool, edgy, and boyish. I was happy to serve because it’s nice to be different.
JZ: Do you get tired of people asking you for that all-American smile all the time?
JR: I’m just lucky that I’m smiling most of the time. It’s not that hard to throw it up.
JZ: You were saying a trend isn’t for you. There are a lot of trends that would be good on you, but trends aren’t for everybody. Is there some sort of style rule that you would give women?
JR: Well, the corny ones are the true ones. When you’re comfortable and you feel good in what you’re wearing, you’re going to look good. If you’re wearing something that’s so contrived and you look like a trussed up Thanksgiving turkey, you’re not going to look your best. For me, the older I get, the more I realize there are some major errors people make when it comes to what’s appropriate for their age.
JZ: I agree. They get caught up with trends. Have you made any style mistakes that where you think, “Oh my God, why did I ever do that?”
JR: Oh, I’m sure I’ve made hundreds, but you know, when I look back now, I’m glad I did. I think it was just part of a time and we weren’t so scrutinized 20 years ago. I just wore such crazy things. Bright tights, some secondhand naval officer jacket with a Rolling Stones t-shirt and a pair of boots. I thought I was ready to go. I’m so glad I had that time in my life to just really shop at thrift stores in Manhattan and wear really crazy shit.
JZ: I love that! So, I asked Riccardo—since he’s on Instagram every three seconds—if he tried to convince you to join and he got so nervous. He was like, “No, I could never do that. I can’t have a selfie with Julia on my phone!”
JR: Social media would just be another thing that I’d neglect. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. What does he post? Like his life? Or his clothes?
JZ: Mostly his life. He’ll be out all night and there’ll be like 50 pictures from it. That’s why I think people love it because social media is voyeuristic. Now, last question. How do you balance it all? Being a mom, an actress, now a muse, and model? Do you have any advice?
JR: Well, I say, try. But for me, it’s a daily impossibility. I just have to approach it with a sense of effort and humor because by 11 o’clock, there are 17 things that I have not, will not, and cannot get accomplished during the course of the day. Especially for working moms, there’s so much pressure to do it all and be it all and have it all, and I think the best thing to do is to give ourselves a break and say, let’s put forth our best efforts. As long as everyone is tucked in, happy and healthy at the end of the night, we’ve crossed the finish line.
JZ: It’s okay to not have it all. Or not do it all.
JR: For sure. It’s interesting raising children in a time of everything being fast and more. It really makes you realize that even though there’s greatness to all this invention and forward thinking, there’s also greatness to quietness and the simple things in life. Did Riccardo tell you that I told him to make a Givenchy mahjong set? Well, it’s because I’m obsessed with mahjong, Joe.
JZ: Do you play it? I don’t even know the rules. I’ve always tried to learn!
JR: No, Joe, this is an exclusive! I’m obsessed with mahjong.
JZ: Are the rules hard?
JR: It’s not that hard. I’m still such a beginner, but I have so much fun! Imagine the most chic Givenchy backgammon, dominoes, cards, and mahjong. Wouldn’t that be amazing?