PARIS — Many industry insiders will be familiar with Robert Lussier’s and Mia Forsgren’s list of career achievements — campaigns for Miss Dior, Dior Homme and Dior’s “Secret Garden — Versailles” among them. But whereas Mert Alas, Marcus Piggott and Fabien Baron have become well-known names, this duo has stayed out of the limelight — until now.
After almost seven years of working in-house at Parfums Christian Dior, where they built a team from scratch, and for its parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the pair in January 2015 launched their own Paris-based creative agency, which is set to enter a new phase.
Dubbed The Style Council, its projects in the pipeline include two Loewe fragrance campaigns for spring; one with a luxury jewelry brand for spring, and a Ray-Ban one. Some personal creations — think scents and handbags — keep percolating, too.
“We wanted to open our agency so that we can work on editorial. I want to work on book design. I want to work on what I want to work on,” said Lussier, sitting with Forsgren in their streamlined office tucked behind the Place Saint-Sulpice on Paris’ Left Bank.
The potential remains great. They’ve already developed and launched three unisex scents under the brand LeSnob — created by Lussier and a partner — with Les Parfumes de Rosine, but reeled off a wish list of other ideal projects — with fast-fashion brands, say, or young labels, retailers, mass-market beauty players and companies in Asia.
What sets Lussier and Forsgren apart is their track record of successfully — and creatively — taking risks. A case in point was having Rihanna photographed at Versailles for Dior.
“It was the first time a black woman was ever shown in any Dior advertisement,” Lussier said. “I think the Dior ‘Secret Garden’ series kind of broke the mold.”
It was among the first fashion films and lit up the Internet in 2012 when it was launched on YouTube, where luxury brands were hardly present. Dior had placed small banners and teasers online, but the impact was massive, with the campaign boasting 17 million viewers lickety-split.
“That was [about]: How do you break through luxury to the masses?” Lussier commented.
The campaign was then run in movie theaters and on TV, marking the first time a Dior fashion or leather goods ad aired on the small screen.
For their first Miss Dior campaign, the duo assembled what they considered a dream team, including Sofia Coppola and Tim Walker.
Lussier said he often injects an “American in Paris” perspective into their advertising. (He is from Detroit, and she, from Västerås, Sweden.)
For leather-goods campaigns, the pair said they opted from the get-go for advertising storytelling traditionally employed only for perfumes. Cut to the Lady Dior bag series, “One Lady, Four Cities,” with the first installment featuring Marion Cotillard directed by David Lynch.
“We gave him carte blanche; he wrote that script in a couple of days. Steven Klein flew in to do the print,” Lussier said.
The Style Council, whose moniker winks to the Eighties band of the same name with two members, is billed as a “no-boundaries think tank” — up to a point.
“We need to be realistic when it comes to budget and deliverables, especially these days when there are more deliverables and not more budget,” Forsgren said.
There’s no set recipe for her and Lussier’s secret sauce. “Ideas come from everywhere,” she said.
“You might as well start big and trickle down from there,” Lussier said.
They’re also finely attuned to the voice and music in their campaigns. “We are word people,” Forsgren said. “We find a lot of our inspiration in music lyrics or music itself.”
Often a whole idea can come from a song. James Brown’s “I Feel Good” inspired the Rouge Dior campaign by that name featuring Natalie Portman.
“Red lipstick to us was about an attitude, versus just beauty,” Lussier said. “[With] everything going on in the world, I think people need to feel good. The color red — when you look it up in the dictionary — makes you feel strong, passionate, powerful, confident. At the end of the day, it makes you feel good.”
Poems, sayings and quotes are key, too. For a Dior Homme ad, the instigator was James Dean’s “Live as if you’ll die today.”
“Now, we’re into country music,” Forsgren said.
“Talk about storytelling lyrics,” Lussier added.
Powerful concepts, they believe, can be scaled. “When it comes to digital and social, if you really have a very strong creative idea it can be executed on all these different platforms,” Forsgren said.
Instagram has been a great, immediate vector for their self-expression, information-gathering and community-building. The pair has long collaborated with the industry’s greats, such as Meisel and David Sims, but is also working with emerging artists — “the new ones that are going to take us to tomorrow,” Lussier said. Gordon von Steiner is an example.
Such rising talents have strength and confidence, according to Lussier. They are ascending fast due to digital, as well. “They’re so prolific. They’re doing a lot of the editing themselves. They’re doing the music research themselves,” he said.
“They’ve grown up during the digital age,” Forsgren continued. “So print and film being combined is not a stretch for them.”
Still, she and Lussier like to go back to basics, making collages of their ideas.
The duo was tapped by Carine Roitfeld to work on CR magazine and have teamed with her on other projects, such as the Harper’s Bazaar icon issue and the 2018 calendar CR Girls.
Their first campaign for Loewe perfumes will present a new way to communicate, while still making people dream, according to the pair, who were mum on further specifics.
“It is so important right now in the world not to lose that,” Forsgren said. “There’s been a lot of teaching and preaching and statements, but in the end, sometimes you just need to dream a little bit and escape.”
What’s needed for that these days is to tell a slightly different tale, they claimed. “Our goal is really to react to the times. Instead of being so exclusive, we’re more inclusive,” Lussier said.
The duo counseled it’s key for brands to only release qualitative content that’s consistent with their DNA. “Right now it’s under a microscope,” said Forsgren, who added Millennials are good at seeing through what’s fake in the swell of information.
“You need to be careful with what influencers you pick, what products you promote and how you promote them,” she continued, adding: “I feel like a lot of brands don’t celebrate their heritage or where they come from, or what their story is.”
“If you’re a brand and you stand for something, you can be unique and different,” said Lussier, citing as examples Gucci and Balenciaga, which he described as purely themselves. “Those are brands that are shaking it up. They are sticking to what they do and selling like crazy.”
Forsgren and Lussier are supreme multitaskers. He, for instance, recently opened a Paris boutique at 4 Rue des Saussaies, called LeSnob, showcasing his bag line, among other products. “I think we need a new concept in Paris that celebrates everything I love, which [includes] vintage and perfumes,” he added. “It’s a crazy time.”