T&C Exclusive: Margot Robbie Talks About Being a Feminist And Finding Inspiration in Coco Chanel
Ines de la Fressange. Linda Evangelista. Claudia Schiffer. Ali MacGraw. Catherine Deneuve.
These names not only belong to venerable personalities in fashion history, but the women behind them also have the shared experience of serving as muses to the luxury brand Chanel. Joining their ranks is Academy Award-winning Australian actress Margot Robbie, who stars in a new campaign for the fragrance Gabrielle Chanel. In an exclusive interview for Town&Country, Robbie talks about what it's like working with the brand, how she finds herself in Chanel's founder, and her thoughts on femininity.
What does Chanel represent for you?
I’ve grown up knowing Chanel my whole life! It’s a whole legacy. Chanel feels timeless and elegant, but now that I have a personal and direct relationship with the house I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art that goes into Chanel products. When you go to a Chanel show, you really appreciate the work and the artistic expression behind it. It’s beautiful and wonderful to be a part of that.
Please tell us about the shoot for this campaign.
It was incredible! I got to work with the photographer Nick Knight, who constructed this giant revolving square in a space where I had room to move, create, and just be. He created airflow in all these ingenious ways, and I got to throw super-light material up in the air and create this beautiful chaos all around me. It felt liberating and creatively stimulating—I really felt the art in that. I remember thinking, “This is what it feels like to be an artist: the world around you reflects this beautiful chaos that you can see and appreciate and even touch sometimes.” It’s right there, within reach. Gabrielle Chanel once said: “I decided who I wanted to be and that is who I am.”
Do you feel like you have something in common with her?
I love that quote, and I really believe that you determine your own destiny. That said, I don’t know how I would describe myself. Ever since I was little my mom has always described me as determined and independent. I feel like I share with Gabrielle Chanel ideas about breaking the norm, creating and seeing beauty in chaos. It’s completely liberating: the world becomes your oyster. When I was on-set with Nick Knight, I sensed that maybe this is how Gabrielle Chanel might have felt in her day: that you can be liberated by creativity, that you can appreciate the beauty of chaos and make what you want of your world. Someone is always going to break the rules; it might as well be you.
Do you think it’s possible to be feminine and committed to women’s empowerment at the same time?
Absolutely! We all know women are incredibly strong but I don’t believe it means you have to hide your femininity. I think we can embrace femininity and still feel powerful.
Are you a feminist and how does it impact your life as a producer?
I’m absolutely a feminist! When my friends and I founded our production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, the idea behind it was to tell stories with an organically and authentically female presence, whether through a female protagonist, women filmmakers or creators. Before that, I would read a script and I always wanted to play the male characters because the female ones just weren’t as exciting. Today, we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far: We work with a lot of emerging talents, first- and second-time filmmakers who are going to be the next generation of greats.
Does blazing a new trail with your company make Gabrielle Chanel more relatable for you?
I think the way I relate most to Gabrielle Chanel is as a businesswoman. She was an incredible businesswoman, but also an artist. I feel like I’m so fortunate to walk a line between producer and actor, and enjoy the business side as well as the artistic side. I’ve always wanted to do that, and I don’t think I could do just one and not the other. In her day, Gabrielle Chanel was an iconoclast: she could identify the things she loved in the world around her, and also do things differently—and she wasn’t going to let boundaries get in her way. I just want to be who I am and do what I want without waiting around for anyone’s permission.