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PARIS – Jacques Helleu, Chanel’s artistic director for more than four decades, died Friday at age 69 after a long illness.
He was the driving force behind the image of the Chanel beauty business, whose No. 5 fragrance remains a perennial bestseller around the world.
Under Helleu’s tutelage, Chanel has had a long history of cinematic and fantasy-themed advertising, counting Catherine Deneuve, Ali MacGraw, Candice Bergen, Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman and most recently Kiera Knightley among its celebrity pitchwomen. Filmmakers and photographers immortalizing Chanel fragrances in commercials include Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Jean-Paul Goude, Baz Luhrmann, Luc Besson and Ridley Scott.
Throughout his career, Helleu maintained the continuous rejuvenation of a brand’s advertising is key to its longevity. He said vital to such an approach is “simplicity,” a keystone first laid down by Mademoiselle Chanel for the first Chanel No. 5 ad in 1921.
Helleu was born in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, on June 30, 1938.
He is survived by his wife, five children, a sister and four grandchildren.
A private funeral for Helleu will be held in Paris on Tuesday afternoon.
For a full obituary about Helleu, see Monday’s WWD.