Fragrance campaigns, and the protagonists in them, are often just one Vespa ride away from being the plot of a blockbuster romance. They're inherently aspirational, but usually for a life plucked from Pinterest. YSL's newest fragrance, Libre, doesn't share the same goal.
The French brand's secret sauce isn't a devastatingly attractive man or dreamy European backdrop — it's Dua Lipa. While other prestige brands tend to tap Hollywood veterans like Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and Charlize Theron, YSL partnered with Lipa, the 24-year-old singer who's spent most of her career obliterating expectations, like that time she won two Grammys as a newbie. Now, she's the face of Libre, YSL's "fragrance of freedom".
It's an impressive landmark in her career, Lipa knows. "I'm pinching myself," she tells me while lounging on a black leather couch that's hidden away from the rest of the city near New York's Hudson Yards. "Freedom is the ethos of [YSL]. It's about strength and empowerment, especially for women."
She's right. Yves Saint Laurent, the founder of his eponymous brand, gained notability for creating a tuxedo for women in 1966, decades before gender fluidity was implanted in the zeitgeist. In short, Libre is Le Smoking suit in a bottle.
While the masculine energy of the satin ensemble had critics cringing in the '60s, Libre has Lipa grinning from ear to ear. "I love the idea of working with a brand that stands by that," she says, noting that the fragrance's lush fusion of orange blossom, musk and lavender is just as flattering on women as it is on men. "It's kind of the merging of worlds where [men and women] are, and should be treated as, equals. That in and of itself is freedom."
Lipa admits that the freedom she speaks of isn't exactly a 24/7 reality yet. "Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to express their freedom the way that they want to, especially women. We constantly get criticised for doing the things that we are rightfully entitled to," she says. "[This fragrance] is a hopeful statement. It's something we want to aspire towards."
The truth is, Lipa says that if she were a man, her career would be...different. She may have been called the "Madonna of gen Z" but she's not immune to the biased criticism female entertainers are so frequently met with. Even so, Lipa tells me that the public platform that inherently attracts trolls and haters is exactly the place where she feels empowered the most. "I feel the most free when I'm on stage," she says. "I've been so spoiled because, more often than not, I come off stage and go, 'Oh my god, that was the best show, ever.' I get that so often. Those moments I get to share with my fans are really important to me. I give 110% — and what I give to them, I get back."
As long as Lipa is feeling comfortable and confident, she's free. "If I have those two things, then nothing else can really change my mood or what I'm thinking," she says. "If I've decided to wear something I'm happy with that makes me feel confident, that makes me feel sexy because I like the way I feel in it, then [I'm free]."
This ethos echoes throughout the campaign —literally. It's no coincidence that the song accompanying the visuals is Lipa's cover of '90s Scottish alternative-rock band The Soup Dragons' "I'm Free". Just as she lyrically croons in the video — I'm free to do what I want any old time — she, in so many words, repeats to me in person with conviction, "That's how I like to think of my freedom: Doing things on my own terms."
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