V.F. Exclusive: An Interview with Jessica Chastain, Face of the New replica Ralph Lauren Fragrance, Woman

On a very cold winter day, in January 2017, at a grand estate somewhere in upstate New York, I watched the two-time Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain do what she does best: exude femininity, strength, and dynamism in front of a camera. Except this time, instead of shooting an awards-worthy drama, she was starring in replica Ralph Lauren new fragrance campaign, Woman, which launches today.

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“By naming the fragrance Woman, it’s putting the power back into the word,” says Chastain.

The setting for the print campaign, photographed by Steven Meisel, and the TV commercial, for which Philippe Le Sourd served as director of photography**,** was epic, to say the least. The mansion itself is massive, but the message of the campaign, for which Fabien Baron served as creative director, is quite intimate.

“As women, we need to be unapologetic, and we need to be very present right now,” Chastain says. “I love putting the word ‘woman’ in the forefront of this campaign, as it’s really empowering.”

The fragrance is targeted not at millennials, per se, but at the self-realized, confident women of today. With gender boundaries being blurred, Chastain thinks now is the time to move away from the typical stereotypes of what it means to be a woman.

That happens to be an approach that comes naturally to Lauren himself. “When I started designing women’s clothes, it was with a menswear sensibility,” he says. “I love women who take something masculine and make it exceptionally feminine.”

“Being a woman has always been a powerful thing, where history has sometimes dictated otherwise, but I believe that a woman can be compassionate, sensitive, soft, kind,“ she told us. “A woman can be all of those things, but she should also be allowed to be prepared, ambitious, and be in control.“

For Chastain, being in control includes being outspoken in an industry where too many actors of all genders are afraid to rock the boat for fear of being boxed out of roles. After serving as a juror at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, Chastain was asked by a reporter if she felt that opportunities for women are better now because “so many women [in the film industry  have been more rewarded.” Chastain responded that what she had seen onscreen throughout the festival was “disturbing.“ She continued, “For the most part I was surprised by the representation of female characters onscreen. I do hope that when we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women that I recognize in my day to day life.“