It was only a matter of time until Joan Didion became the face of a luxury brand. And that time is now. The octogenarian essayist is the face of a new ad campaign for Céline, the French luxury brand that is, according to Vogue, “synonymous with an ideal that’s at once sensual, austere, controlled, and achingly, achingly cool.” The description could also be applied to Ms. Didion’s style of prose. And of dress.
Writers, especially those who had their 80th birthday last month, are not often used instead of models in ad campaigns. But if it makes sense for any writer, it’s Ms.Didion. Her prose is laced with allusions to brands and luxurious items that somehow become imbued with larger meaning. Whether it’s her black cashmere leggings or her scent memory of Henri Bendel jasmine soap, there is something glamorous and talismanic about the objects that she mentions.
Ms. Didion 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…”). 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.
And as she ages, her popularity grows. This past fall, Ms. Didion’s nephew, Griffin Dunne, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make a documentary about the writer’s life. The target amount for the project was $80,000. The campaign ended up raising $221,135. The rewards for donating, the chance to own something associated with Joan Didion, was part of the appeal (2 backers donated $2,500 for sunglasses from Ms. Didion’s personal sunglasses).
And what brand wouldn’t want to be associated with the ultimate in glamorous, literary cool?