Keira Knightley: Chanel’s Mademoiselle

Keira Knightley has signed a deal to be the face of Chanel's five-year-old Coco Mademoiselle scent, replacing fellow Brit Kate Moss.

NEW YORK — Chanel is swapping Brits.

The famed fashion house said Tuesday that actress Keira Knightley has signed a deal to be the face of its five-year-old Coco Mademoiselle scent, replacing Kate Moss.

This news confirms a report in WWD on March 3.

Knightley — who has appeared in films such as “Pride and Prejudice” (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award earlier this year), “Love Actually,” “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and “Bend It Like Beckham” — will become the face of Coco Mademoiselle next spring. While Chanel wouldn’t confirm details, the campaign is said to include both TV and print. While Chanel executives refused to comment on terms of the deal, it is believed that Knightley’s contract is for at least one year and that she is likely to earn at least $1 million for the job. She was not available for comment Tuesday.

“Keira is very modern and has an incredible beauty and freshness, yet she has a certain edginess to her,” said Maureen Chiquet, the head of Chanel’s U.S. business, who was reached late Tuesday afternoon in Tokyo. “When I look at her choice of diverse roles, from ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ which is timeless like Chanel, to ‘Domino,’ where she plays a bounty hunter, I am continually struck by the fact that the women she plays are very independent and make up their own minds, very much like Mademoiselle Chanel herself. Coco Mademoiselle is a very current and modern brand with an independent spirit. By partnering with Keira, we continue to reinforce the brand’s personality and remind everyone that Chanel is and always has been forward-thinking.”

“We think Keira is the perfect Coco Mademoiselle woman because she is always incredibly alluring and seductive,” Christine Dagousset, executive vice president of fragrance and beauty for Chanel, told WWD on Tuesday. “Jacques Helleu [Chanel’s artistic director] chose Keira Knightley for her modernity and because she represents exactly what we want to say about Coco Mademoiselle. Keira possesses beauty, elegance and modernity, so she has many qualities that parallel other iconic Chanel faces in previous fragrance campaigns. What makes Keira exceptional is that she shows strength and independence through the film roles she chooses to play. And she certainly has a vein of irreverence that is similar to Mademoiselle Chanel herself. In fact, we think of Coco Mademoiselle as the fragrance Mademoiselle would wear if she were 21 years old in the 21st century. Coincidentally, Keira turned 21 in March.”

This story first appeared in the April 26, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Rumors that Knightley was talking to Chanel began circulating in earnest after Chanel declined to renew Moss’ contract. Moss, who had served as Coco Mademoiselle’s face since its inception in 2001, was released from several advertising contracts, including those with H&M and Burberry, after her well-publicized, alleged use of cocaine in September. She checked herself into an Arizona rehab clinic shortly thereafter and has rebounded, signing contracts with Calvin Klein and Nikon, among others, and is featured in campaigns for Stella McCartney and Longchamps this spring.

“Kate Moss has embodied Coco Mademoiselle’s character since the fragrance launched in 2001,” said Dagousset, who declined to discuss Moss’ past difficulties. “Chanel has enjoyed its collaboration with Kate for the last six years, which continues until the end of 2006, and Chanel maintains a close relationship with Kate Moss. Keira Knightley becomes the new face of Coco Mademoiselle in 2007.”

The Chanel deal is not Knightley’s first endorsement project: She signed on as the face of Asprey, the British jewelry and luxury goods retailer, in July 2003, a role which continues.

While the privately held Chanel does not discuss numbers, industry sources estimated that Chanel’s overall global beauty revenues are north of $2 billion yearly, and the venerable brand is obviously willing to shell out for fresh campaigns to keep its scents at the top of the charts.

While signing a celebrity to hawk a fragrance is the beauty industry’s favorite gambit these days, Chanel, to be sure, has a long history of cinematic and fantasy-themed advertising. It counts Ali MacGraw, Candice Bergen, Carole Bouquet and Catherine Deneuve among its past celebrity pitchwomen, and filmmakers Luc Besson and Ridley Scott among those who have created memorable images via commercials. The company most recently made celebrity fragrance news in August 2004, for sprucing up its classic No.5 business with a TV and print advertising campaign featuring Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman and directed by Baz Luhrmann, which sources estimated included ad spending of about $8 million.

Dagousset declined to comment on whether Chanel is speaking to other celebrities to represent additional products in its portfolio.

Coco Mademoiselle, first launched in 2001 as a flanker to Coco, has become a star in its own right, said to have done $21 million at retail in the U.S. in its first year; it is still ranked ninth on NPD’s U.S. charts. The scent, created by Chanel’s in-house perfumer Jacques Polge, has top notes of bergamot and orange, a heart of jasmine and rose and a drydown of patchouli, vetiver, vanilla and white musk.

In addition to the upcoming Chanel campaign, Knightley is currently working on three films that are slated to be released next year: “Pirates of the Caribbean 3,” “Silk” and “Atonement.”