“I could not take pictures of myself all day long and post selfies. I don’t even like the word ‘selfie’.” Penelope Cruz is talking to Bazaar backstage at Chanel’s July haute couture show, shortly after being announced as the house’s new fashion ambassador. Fortunately, it’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld behind the camera for the upcoming ad campaign starring Penelope; a collaborator who shares her views on self-portraits. “This is the first sentence that Karl said the other day when he walked into his studios,” she recalls, “Somebody was taking a selfie with somebody else and he walked in and said, half joking, ‘No selfies allowed’.”
Penelope at Chanel Cruise 2018
When Penelope first attended a Chanel fashion show it was 1999 and selfie culture wasn’t even a twinkle in the Kardashian’s eyes. “I miss the ‘90s in that way, you know?” she sighs, “Okay, we had a cell phone or maybe a computer at home – later you send your emails – but it was not all day looking at a phone. Not talking to people. This new generation, teenagers, who’s teaching them how to talk to their friends and family? They’re always looking at the phone. For me, it’s not the ideal for human growth.”
At seven and five years old, respectively, Leo and Luna, Penelope’s children with her husband, actor Javier Bardem, are still young enough to be shielded from the negatives of social media; and Penelope admits that platforms such as Instagram can be harnessed for good, launching her own account to promote awareness of children with leukaemia in tandem with a documentary she directed in 2015. “I fell in love with all those boys,” she says of the kids she met while filming, “ and I said,”'Okay, I can use this for this purpose.’ I want people to see the documentary, to donate. I have almost three million followers; for that kind of thing, it can be very useful.”
Gigi Hadid walking for Chanel Cruise 2018
Despite her selfie qualms, “Penelope is one of the world’s most photographed women and has worn Chanel for the red carpet since she was 19. . Now 44, she has endless respect for the work Karl Lagerfeld has done in the intervening quarter century. “It’s emotional to see him walk out at the end of the show and think about what he has done with this brand. He is such a genius, a true artist. It is an honour to be working with him,” she smiles. Of the house itself she explains, “They have created this fantasy; it makes you dream. But it’s a fantasy that has very solid roots because of Karl. Every time you look at a Chanel piece you know it’s Chanel, but it’s totally new.” It is testament to the enduring skill of octogenarian Karl Lagerfeld, as well as the vision of Gabrielle Chanel, that the company recently revealed sales for 2017 were $9.62 billion (Dhs35.3bn), making it one of the largest luxury brands in the world by revenues, alongside Louis Vuitton. That a woman should have founded such a powerhouse of a brand chimes with the spirit of today, and Penelope says that she finds Coco Chanel, “Very inspiring. A feminist, you know?” Would she describe herself as a feminist? “This word has been so misunderstood in the last few years. But if a feminist means fighting for equal rights and for respect for each other, of course,” she says.
Chanel Cruise 2018
Stressing that she is an actress not a model, Penelope says that being photographed by Karl for the Chanel cruise campaign was “a great adventure.” She reveals, “He doesn't direct you a lot but I got his rhythm and I loved that he gave me that freedom. I imagined situations and characters and that’s what he wanted from me; to capture real moments.” No filter required.
From the September 2018 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia.
Click play for an exclusive look at the making of Chanel La Pausa with Penelope Cruz.