Published by Madame Figaro (November 2018) – Interview by Clara Dufour
He is celebrating his fifty years of fashion. She lends her beauty to Woman, the perfume Ralph Lauren. Between the star designer and the brilliant actress, the same exemplary success, the same sense of commitment, the same professional enthusiasm.
Manhattan, a loft with views of the Empire State Building. Ralph Lauren and Jessica Chastain, who illustrate the American dream so well, each in his own way, find themselves there. He is the legend of fashion that we know, fifty years of career, self-made-man who built an empire, imagined an aesthetic and a lifestyle that merge today with the American Dream, that of WASP, cowboys, Hollywoodians, so many national and universal myths. She ? She is one of the leading figures in American cinema, an excellent, demanding and influential actress. We follow her rise, the acclaimed roles, independent movies among the most interesting of the moment, quality blockbuster – for almost seven years and nothing seems to stop her. The Weinstein affair provided an opportunity to show how much she was also a feminist activist.
The creator and the actress arrive almost at the same time at the photo studio and embrace each other affectionately. Ralph Lauren, 79, is equal to himself, gentle, courteous and refined. Jessica Chastain, spectacular red-haired beauty and muse of the perfume Woman he created, shares this same understated elegance. Conversation.
Madame Figaro. – When did you meet for the first time?
Jessica Chastain. – Three years ago, I came to attend a Ralph fashion show. Some time later, we ended up at a dinner party: I discovered a charming, attentive and exciting man. In your opinion, Ralph, what link unites us? We were talking about the other day, an actress I admire at most point …
Ralph Lauren – Ah, I was crazy in love with her younger! Jessica and I love this golden age of Hollywood. Even before I knew Jessica, I had already seen and loved all her movies. When I met her, I was struck by her beauty, but especially by her intelligence. She is an uncompromising woman in her principles and opinions.
Another similarity between you, you seem each embody an idea of ??the American dream …
J. C. – I would not dare compare our course. Ralph embodies the pure American dream, and few men can take advantage of it. I do not have the opportunity every day to tell him that I admire him. His universe is mine. It’s an icon.
R. L. – My journey is a miracle and, to be honest, I do not explain it … I grew up in the Bronx, in a modest family of four children. We lacked everything, but we were united. I started from nothing. I have never done a fashion school. I just liked the beautiful clothes, the ones that girls liked. At the age of 28, I drew a few models of ties and started out in business, relying on my instincts. Then I wanted to create other products: shirts, costumes, a line for women, children’s clothes, and finally to offer a whole universe, with decoration and restaurants … All that I I built reflects my life, my tastes, my sensitivity.
Jessica Chastain, do you find yourself in Ralph Lauren’s career?
J. C. – I too grew up in a modest family, but on the west coast, in Sacramento. I have never been a spoiled princess. I was raised by a single mother, who worked hard to ensure a decent life. The end of the month was difficult. What comforted me was watching movies from the 1940s and 1950s: White doves and naughty gentlemen, Indiscretions, The Sound of Music, Gilda … These films allowed me to escape reality. This is precisely what triggered my passion for cinema.
R. L. – We are two film buffs and I am fascinated by the same icons as Jessica: Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant … I was lucky to be able to rub shoulders with most of them. Cary Grant even came to lunch with me once.
J. C. – I wish I were there that day! Neither Ralph nor I have forgotten where we come from. Money is not our engine. What interests us is to be creative.
R. L. – And happy!
Ralph Lauren, you was just awarded an honorary award. Do the tributes still make you happy?
R. L. – I have had ups and downs, failures, I have faced hardships. There were times when my business was doing very well, others where everything was more perilous and therefore scary. In these moments of doubt, you feel alone. I never wanted to confide in my father, for fear of disappointing him. I always got up. I am proud of the road traveled, but I remain an eternal beginner, I have the leaflet before each show. I remember my first parade: it ended with a standing ovation, but the only thought that crossed my mind was, “What am I going to do for the next collection …?” In a world that is changing so quickly, you have to know how to adapt, to question yourself, and to stay awake and feel the vibrations of the world. If I was able to hold on the duration, it is also because I knew how to remain faithful to myself.
J. C. – Ralph is right, the important thing is to remain honest. I believe that the public perceives this sincerity. We do not cheat.
You celebrate women each in your own way. Is it a militant act?
J. C. – Too often, women serve to foil male heroes. It seems to me more interesting to choose a character unpredictable, contrarian, against the current. In one of my latest films, Miss Sloane, I liked to embody an unscrupulous lobbyist, ready to do anything to achieve his goals, a character who, usually at the movies, would have been embodied by a man.
R. L. – We have to move the lines. All my life, my whole career, I’ve been on the women’s side. In my company, they play a decisive role and are distinguished by their talent. Ricky, my wife for fifty-four years, continues to inspire me on a daily basis, like my daughter Dylan, whom I admire for her ambition and strength of character. I love women, I respect them, protect them (he has been involved for over thirty years in the fight against breast cancer, Ed).
You have also created costumes for movies …
R. L. – Woody Allen liked my clothes because they were antifashion, according to him. When I created the Annie Hall look, with that androgynous silhouette today so fashionable, I thought about the clothes that Diane Keaton, her performer, could wear in real life. Initially, nobody liked. When the movie came out, everyone went crazy with this look.
Jessica Chastain, how do you define the Ralph Lauren style?
J. C. – Timeless. These are essential classics that do not go out of style. I have in my dressing room Ralph’s parts for ten years! I keep preciously his jackets, because they are my allies in all situations.
R. L. – I do not try to be fashion, I do not like fashion, let alone trends. A garment should last a lifetime. Timelessness, elegance and beauty are at the heart of my work. So being out of fashion has brought me luck, unintentionally. Forty years ago, I was already working on what is now known as streetwear, but also on this notion of effortless chic, so fashionable. I did not deviate from my line. I love cowboys, the open spaces of the American West, nature in its raw state that inspires me so much, but also the energy of cities like Manhattan.
Producing movies like you do now, Jessica Chastain, is this a way to tell more stories, like Ralph Lauren with his collections?
J. C. – The place of women in the film industry has unfortunately changed little. It is time for women to become more involved in the creative process of this industry. We must act. To this end, I launched a 100% female project. Last May, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing and I unveiled together at the Cannes Film Festival this future film called 355. We will shoot it for the same salary and with the same time of switch to the screen.
What can we wish for you in the future?
J. C. – Producing new films.
R. L. – Continue to create and dream.