An American in Paris

By Frank de Jesus

There is a long list of celebrity progeny who have succeeded in the “family business”. Occasionally Hollywood can also count a star-making, multi-generational family dynasty amongst its acting ranks, look no further than the Fondas, Hustons and Barrymores for proof of that. Though there may be many children of actors who vie for and eventually earn the spotlight, it is rare when this phenomenon occurs behind the camera – as in the case of Sofia Coppola. Coppola may have started her career in bit parts and supporting roles in some of her director father’s projects, but it is when she found her own voice as an auteur, following in her father’s footsteps, that she started to shine bright. An award-winning screenwriter, producer and director, Coppola’s cool, easy and chic style has elevated her to the rank of style icon and fashion muse.

Born in New York City, Coppola spent her formative years in Napa Valley where her family owns and operates a winery. But stomping grapes couldn’t compare to her visits to her father’s film sets, where she developed an interest in style after admittedly spending most of her time in the wardrobe department. Then in 1986, at the tender age of fifteen, Coppola interned for designer Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. In 1990, the reluctant actress, who had a history of cameos and small appearances in her father’s films, took over the role of Mary Corleone in The Godfather Part III when actress Winona Ryder dropped the part due to illness. Panned by the critics, she retreated from the spotlight and enrolled in the fine arts program at the California Institute of Arts where she focused on photography and experimented with fashion and costume design. After graduating, Coppola started a clothing line called Milkfed, which is sold exclusively in Japan.

Coppola’s style is understated and elegant. Though she lives in Paris, her mode of dressing is quintessentially American in its easy nature. Black and white are her go-to wardrobe colors, and are usually worn in timeless ways: a little black dress or classic white shirt with menswear inspired trousers. Coppola also has an affinity for delicate prints, be they tiny florals or micro polka dots. Cozy knits are also a favorite.

She is friend and muse to designer Marc Jacobs and dons his creations frequently, most famously to the Academy awards in 2004 when she accepted her Oscar for best original screenplay in a plum satin gown of his design. Coppola also serves as a muse and sometimes campaign model for Jacobs’ fragrance line. She has designed a handbag collection for Louis Vuitton where Jacobs also serves as head designer, and is often photographed on the street with her signature “SC” carry all.

Coppola’s love of fashion has influenced her body of work as well. The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and Somewhere are all dreamily stylized works of art. Coppola’s films, though stylish, still contain a heaping amount of gravitas, proven by the fact that she was the first American female director and third female overall to be nominated for an Academy award for directing. “You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion, but I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity,” said Coppola when discussing her film, Marie Antoinette in 2006. Talk about art imitating life.

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