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Breaking: Julia Roberts Stars in the Givenchy Spring ’15 Campaign

Over the last two years Riccardo Tisci has made a habit of hiring non-model celebrities for Givenchy’s print campaigns. First, the artist Marina Abramovic, then the musician Erykah Badu, followed by the French actress Isabelle Huppert. But Givenchy’s Spring ’15 face may be Tisci’s biggest get yet. Julia Roberts, as the designer pointed out at the Mercer Hotel this afternoon, isn’t a social media star, she’s a real star, one whom you don’t often see in the press aside from the compulsory awards show or movie junket appearance. She wasn’t, for example, at Art Basel in Miami Beach last week. Here, Tisci talks about landing Roberts and why he didn’t want her famous 1,000-watt smile.

Julia Roberts!

I’m literally shocked, happy shocked. Julia, she’s one of the few [stars] that you don’t know much about. She doesn’t do fashion shoots, she doesn’t do covers, she doesn’t do all of that. But still, she’s one of the most well-known people in the world. Even my mom and my sisters—they care about fashion because of me, but they don’t really follow fashion—their reaction was so excited. Julia, you don’t see her much, she doesn’t do fashion campaigns, she has this big contract for many years which we all know with Lancôme. When I asked, I was very surprised that she said yes.

How did you decide you wanted to go out to Julia with the request?

I wanted it to be an honest collection, true to myself and true to Givenchy, of course, but more to myself. It was a very pure message. Very black and white. A powerful woman, with sex appeal but at the same time with masculinity, which is my style. And I wanted an honest campaign. Every house has a show—you sell that, of course, but you do have in the shop what are your icons. I always start from my icons. The world is so full of images, so full of everything, if you don’t have an identity, it’s very difficult to find the point of where you want to go. Soon it’s going to be 10 years [that I’m at Givenchy]; I really wanted to shoot my iconic pieces. The first time Julia contacted me to work with me was for the red carpet and she wanted my tuxedo. I thought it would be amazing [to get her] for the campaign. I respect her a lot as a beauty and as a woman. She’s a very intelligent girl. And a very funny girl. Super-funny. And very confident of herself, which is very much my woman, you know like Marina [Abramovic], Mariacarla [Boscono]. I thought it would be difficult because Julia really doesn’t do [campaigns], so I was surprised that she said yes.

What was the shoot like?

It was a very strong day for me. Mert and Marcus were shooting. They both turned around and said, ‘Wow, it’s Julia Roberts.” It was quite strong. She was very professional. Sometimes you shoot someone who’s so popular, you try to make it glam, but I really wanted her the way she arrived: black jacket, men’s shirt, jeans, which is really what we have in common. No hair, no makeup. I said to her, “Because your smile is so beautiful and everybody knows you for that, I think it should be no smile,” and she was really cool. She said we should go for it. We did it, and there we are, I’m very happy. It’s a powerful picture.

How did Julia feel about being makeup-less?

She’s very cool. Of course, she’s conscious of herself. When you’re a well-known designer, you’re paranoid about your looks, so imagine when you’re so well-loved by everybody. She saw the first picture and she liked it, she said because “I can see myself, my real self.” Which was the concept, not to try to make her glamorous. We wanted her more cool, more masculine, more real, more American, if I can say, more urban, more New Yorker. And it was so easy, so fast. The fastest shoot I’ve done in my life. It was a really nice mood on the set, you know, because we’re family, we’re friends. She felt at home—that I think really helped.

Today, celebrity has become so much [about] how many followers you have, how big you are on Facebook. For me, she represents a pure talent and a pure beauty. So many celebrities are celebrities today not because of their talent. That’s fine, it’s the moment today. But she’s an iconic actress.

She succeeded without social media.

It was a moment for me. And it’s strange, because I’m always working with a lot of celebrities. With her it was really special. It’s probably because I grew up with Pretty Woman. In Italy, when it came out, that movie was so big. She became an icon straightaway in Italy. She’s like a Miss America, even without doing so much press. Of course movie press, but not fashion press.

When you choose a celebrity for a campaign, are you thinking about the impact your choice will have globally, or is it more of a personal decision?

It’s more a personal decision. It needs to be very honest. Julia is a big star, but I’ve worked with celebrities who weren’t. Erykah [Badu] disappeared for so long. For me she’s a great artist and she’s going to come out with an album soon, but people had forgotten about her. I didn’t care, because I respect her so much, she’s such a beauty. I’m not into classic beauty. I need to fall in love with the person. People were shocked about Erykah. Isabelle Huppert is famous, but a lot of countries didn’t know her. I don’t mind about that. I really like strong women. And Julia is a strong woman. So it’s not about fame. If it was about fame, I could have friends of mine who I really love [do it]. It’s more about the [model’s] strength as a woman, strength as a man. It’s always very difficult to find a strong man. It’s much easier to find a strong woman.

Who are some strong men for you?

Who’s a strong man? Does it exist? Jay Z is a strong man. Kanye is a strong man. Brad Pitt is a beautiful man, but he’s not a strong man. Obama. I love Obama. Who else? Keanu Reeves is a strong man, even if he disappeared for a bit. There is another one I really like, but someone came before me. Willem Dafoe. I love him, but Prada came before. She was faster than me, Miuccia. When you talk to him, you fall in love.

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