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EXCLUSIVE: Lenny Kravitz Fronting YSL’s Y Scent Franchise

The singer spoke with WWD about collaborating on the fragrance advertising, his upcoming film project and memoir.

PARIS — Lenny Kravitz has a new gig as the global ambassador of Yves Saint Laurent’s Y scent franchise.

Starting this month, the rocker will appear in advertising for Y, which ranks fourth among prestige men’s scent brands in the U.S. Anton Corbijn lensed the film advertisement that toggles between the grown-up Kravitz at a concert and him as a boy dreaming of music. David Sims shot the still images.

“He’s someone who keeps challenging himself, pushing the boundaries, never taking things for granted, pushing the limits,” Stephan Bezy, international general manager of YSL Beauté at L’Oréal, said of Kravitz. “This is really part of the DNA of Y. ‘Why?’ is the question you always wonder [about]. What drives you? What is your goal in life?”

Signing on Kravitz should add more fuel to Y’s ascendance, Bezy said. Y ranks 11th worldwide, and with Kravitz it could rise a notch in both the U.S. and globally.

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“He is an idol and icon. He communicates a lot of positive vibes,” the executive continued about the choice of Kravitz, who closely collaborated on the campaign. Bezy said Kravitz has a “cool spirit and way of facing his own success. He followed his dreams and made them happen. He’s very true to his own soul. His values are quite universal.”

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Kravitz, a longtime fan of the brand, recently appeared in Saint Laurent’s fashion advertising.

Here, he talks with WWD about an upcoming film project, his soon-to-be-published memoir and collection of vintage lyrics.

WWD: How were you first introduced to the Yves Saint Laurent brand?

Lenny Kravitz: That would have been back in the early Seventies, when my mother was wearing Yves Saint Laurent. My mother had great style, and she used to wear all kinds of beautiful garments. She’d be dressed [in the fashion], but I also used to as a kid play in her closet. I loved all the stuff she had in her closet — really colorful and vibrant, and had a lot of flair. She had great accessories, and I used to pretend to be a rock ’n’ roll musician. I’d play with her clothes. [Laughs] Scarves and belts and boots and jackets — all kind of stuff.

WWD: What drew you to the YSL Y project?

L.K.: The brand is classic, it’s iconic. I’m a big fan of Mr. Saint Laurent and what he accomplished, his artistry. I’ve been following the brand for years and years. I’ve been wearing Saint Laurent for ages. I feel as though so many of those clothes are made for me — they really fit my aesthetic, my silhouette, my lifestyle, and so when the brand approached me to do this collaboration, I was instantly on board.

WWD: Which are some of the favorite YSL pieces you own?

L.K.: I guess the pieces that get the most action, especially now, [that become] sort of my uniform — basically an old, beat-up denim shirt that I have and jeans.

WWD: When did you wear a scent for the first time?

L.K.: I’d say [it] was by junior high school, when the guys start wearing cologne. That’s one of the signs that you are growing up, right? You shave and you wear cologne.

WWD: What’s the first fragrance you wore?

L.K.: I’m sure it was me playing around with my grandfather’s Old Spice. [Laughs]

WWD: The tag line for the Y fragrance is “Why Not.” How does that fit into your way of life?

L.K.: I have always been that way: Why not express yourself? Why not believe in yourself? Why not accomplish your dreams? Etcetera. Life is for living, and I am one who loves life. I’m all about following that creative spirit inside of me.

WWD: What was it like to collaborate on the ad with Anton Corbijn? 

L.K.: I am a big fan of photography and the art of photography, and Anton Corbijn is somebody that I admire very much as a photographer — always had since he came out. I shot with him ages ago, in the early Nineties. I’m in one of his books. [He] came down to New Orleans and shot me. I also love his directing, his filmmaking. So it was wonderful to be able to reconnect with Anton and do this ad. Creatively we were on point together, and everything went really smoothly.

WWD: Are there any sorts of acting roles you’d like to try?

L.K.: There are so many things that I’d love to do. I have only done four films, and they have all been great. I wanted to get my toe in and do these supporting roles.

The time in between touring I’ve been [cowriting] my own film, and I plan on doing my own film, which will have [an album/soundtrack] attached to it that I will do. It’s about a musician — somebody who has a life very close to mine.

WWD: Your first memoir, “Let Love Rule,” is due out in October. Was there anything surprising in the writing process and/or memories it conjured up?

L.K.: It was therapy, it really was. I learned so much about myself and about all the dynamics around me — especially between myself and my father, and it was a beautiful experience. I never thought of writing a memoir, especially at this point. David Ritz, who worked on the book with me, suggested that I write a book. I had never thought about it, and he convinced me to do so and I’m really glad that I did.

WWD: Will there be another installment to the memoir?

L.K.: Yes, but there is some more life to be lived before I do part two. I purposely didn’t want it to be about fame, stardom or any of that. I wanted just to focus on my journey on finding my voice.

WWD: Your 11th full-length album was recently released and you’ve said it came together while you were sleeping.

L.K.: I’ve always dreamt music, but I’ve never dreamt a whole album before. This album was really just handed to me, and that was a beautiful way to do it, as well, because I’m not in my way. I was as much out of the way as I can be, and I love that.

WWD: What inspires you?

L.K.: Life itself in every situation — people, relationship, what’s going on on the planet, spirituality — everything [including] politics. Just life, just moments, mood, feelings. It’s all beautiful.

WWD: Are you working on any design projects? 

L.K.: I’m always working on design. I’m in the middle of a hotel project in Detroit right now, finishing a condominium in New York City on the Lower East Side, working on four or five private homes and some products.

WWD: Do you collect anything?

L.K.: Instruments, musical gear. Those are my tools. I collect cameras…and also pop culture artifacts, like lyrics. I have Jimi Hendrix lyrics of songs he wrote like “Crosstown Traffic.” I have his set list from Woodstock.

I have clothing from Miles Davis, from Jimi Hendrix, from Bob Marley, from John Lennon. I have the lyrics to “Lady Sings the Blues” when Billie Holiday wrote it, the lyrics to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” when Paul [McCartney] wrote it, etcetera, etcetera.

WWD: We are traversing a really unprecedented time right now — with coronavirus and social unrest. What message is the most important for you to share with the world?

L.K.: Faith, love, understanding, tolerance. The world is losing its mind at the moment, and we really have to put all of our energy into keeping ourselves together and moving forward, so that we don’t destroy ourselves and each other, and the planet, which we are destroying as we speak. All of our energy really has to be put into this.