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Courtesy of Chanel

Exclusive: Timothée Chalamet on his French roots and becoming a Chanel boy

For Dazed Beauty, Timmy discusses his first-ever fragrance campaign, his upcoming role as Bob Dylan and the power of scent as creative self-expression

Timothée Chalamet is officially a Chanel girlie. Today, the fashion house announced him as the new face of its men’s fragrance, Bleu de Chanel. It is the first time Chalamet has been an ambassador of any fashion or beauty label, and marks a new era for the scent – one that flirts with a more edgy and audacious style that is open to all possibilities.

Shot by Mario Sorrenti, the official campaign will drop in June so Timmy stans don’t have long to wait until they can feast on new content. Until then, Dazed Beauty has some exclusive images of the young star brooding and evocative to tide you over. A short film directed by Martin Scorsese – the paparazzi images of which you’ve been seeing all over the internet – is also coming in the autumn. Scorsese is a long-time friend of the Bleu de Chanel fragrance, having directed Gaspard Ulliel’s debut campaign in 2010. Chanel’s first-ever male ambassador, Ulliel was the face of Bleu de Chanel for 12 years until the French actor’s sad passing last year.

For the half-French Chalamet, collaborating with Chanel felt like a natural fit and one that he was excited to go all in on. “I didn’t have to sell myself on anything when I was asked to become the new ambassador of Bleu de Chanel,” he says. “The decision was not dissimilar to agreeing to do a film. I am lucky to be at a place in my career where I have the opportunity to curate and choose projects that strike my passion. When so many fingers in the glove feel like they fit, it becomes a no-brainer.”

Below, Chalamet chats about identity and philosophy, his anticipated upcoming role playing Bob Dylan, and his belief that fragrance is one of the last bastions of creative self-expression that hasn’t been commodified in visual media.

Is there a memory of fragrance that sticks out to you from your childhood?

Timothée Chalamet: Growing up, my sister danced at Rosella Hightower dance school in Mougins, south of France. Once, our mom took us to a perfumery in Grasse. I loved the experience, and I got a cedarwood-scented room spray to bring back to my bedroom. I accidentally sprayed it on my clothes, and the smell was overwhelming. Yet I remember very vividly feeling at the time that it was a creative expression to curate the scent of my room. That felt very French and nostalgic.

There is so much nuance and subjectivity that revolves around the power of scent and what it represents, evokes and invokes. What role does fragrance play in helping to shape, inform and bolster one’s identity and how we show up in the world?

Timothée Chalamet: What jumps out to me is identity. It’s such a topical word right now. Creative empowerment and how you style yourself to not fit in a box isn’t anything new but continues to be amplified by social media. I was thinking, as I was on my way here today, that scent is something that cannot come across in visual media. It’s one of the last bastions of creative self-expression that hasn’t been commodified in that visual space. It’s really for you – similar to how the way in which clothes feel on your body can never come across to anyone, whereas how they look and fall on your body are what comes across to everyone.

What elements of your French-American upbringing define your personality?

Timothée Chalamet: I had a cultural upbringing that wasn’t like anybody around me. I spent summers in a small French village called Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which couldn’t be more opposite from my life in New York. Yet the duality about what I was gravitating toward artistically or culturally – whether it was Jay-Z, arthouse cinema, literature, my Saint-Étienne soccer fandom, the American lore and lure of McDonald’s, and Xbox 360 – was all over the place. But it always felt good and open-ended.

It seems you shape-shift between the dualities of French and American life somewhat innately.

Timothée Chalamet: For me, there was such a stark contrast between the self-empowerment of the United States and even the relationship I had with acting at a young age versus how things are done in France, where it felt like there was such respect for time, tradition and conversation. It’s things that, growing up, I didn’t have respect for at the time because I was drawn to more stereotypical American habits. As I’ve grown older, I have connected more with the French side of myself, which is why the Bleu de Chanel ambassadorship is appealing at this time.

During the pandemic, I was walking around Paris and I saw a receipt on a café table that had clearly been sitting there for three hours next to four people still deep in discussion. In LA, people are at dinner for only 45 minutes. America is ahead of the times and trendsetting in many ways, but at the same time France has fashion, self-expression, and identity that clashes beautifully with a very traditional French passive way of life. I’ve come to realise and embrace these contradictions of each culture and within myself.

What are you most curious about right now?

Timothée Chalamet: Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about how life would’ve been in New York in the 60s! As I prepare to play Bob Dylan in A Complete Unknown, I keep ruminating on what it must have been like downtown at the time – mainly because living downtown is so expensive these days. What would it have been like when it was affordable and accessible, and at the same time so rich in art and culture? I’m wrapping my head around that more than anything because even I grew up in a different New York than New York is now. So that’s the thought of the day.

What are you most grateful for at the moment?

Timothée Chalamet: I’m thankful for everything right now, and that I can reasonably know where I’m resting my head at night and that I get to keep doing something I love to do. I’m grateful to start this relationship with Chanel and to be a small part in the brand’s storied and elevated legacy by helping to inform the next chapter of Bleu de Chanel.