When Céline’s S/S 2015 campaign, starring legendary American author Joan Didion, began making its round on the web this past January, it was easily one of the most hard-hitting we have seen in quite a while. It was well-received almost instantly, particularly because the 80-year old model seemingly came out of nowhere – especially given creative director Phoebe Philo’s nearly uniform use of supermodel Daria Werbowy for the past several years.
On example of such praise comes from The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman, who wrote: “Hurrah! Fashion celebrating intelligence and heralding one of the finest writers of the past half-century as a role model as opposed to some random skinny 19-year-old with an Instagram account.”
Didion is nothing if not a worthy (role) model. She has long been something of the patron saint of female writers. “Goodbye to All That,” her 1967 essay about leaving New York, has inspired a generation of essayists to reflect on youth and place. Her packing list, which she reproduced in The White Album, her 1979 essay collection, is practically a sartorial mantra (“To Pack and Wear: 2 skirts, 2 jerseys or leotards,1 pullover sweater, 2 pair shoes, stockings, bra, nightgown, robe, slippers, cigarettes, bourbon…”). Per the Observer’s Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke, “Even her descriptions of despair, when she is in bed with a migraine or crying in Chinese laundries, conveys a sense of moody glamor.”
But her mainstream appeal grew exponentially in 2007, with the publication of The Year of Magical Thinking, a meditation about her husband, John Gregory Dunne’s sudden death and the nature of grief. She followed that with Blue Nights, another heartbreaking memoir about the death of their daughter.
When asked if she was aware of the sensation she caused online and off, the author said: “I don’t have any clue. I have no idea.” As for how the campaign came about, Didion, who resides in New York, has never attended a Céline fashion show, said: "They got in touch with me,” and elaborated saying that she is a fan of the brand and that she is "fortunate enough to own a few” of their things.