In 1992’s Orlando, Tilda Swinton portrayed a cross-dressing nobleman. In 2005’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she transformed into the White Witch. Apparently Karl Lagerfeld appreciates her versatility. Today French fashion house Chanel announced that, for her latest role, Swinton will be playing the part of Lagerfeld’s muse.
Swinton will front the campaign for Chanel’s Paris-Edimbourg collection—a pre-fall, ready-to-wear range that Lagerfeld unveiled last December at Scotland’s Linlithgow Palace. Given that Lagerfeld drew inspiration from the Scottish Highlands, dreaming up kilt-pleated coats and other garments with tweed and tartan accents, it makes sense that he chose Swinton. She can trace her lineage back to medieval Scotland, and currently lives in Nairn, in the Highland region, with her partner and their twin sons. “Tilda perfectly embodies the Paris-Edimbourg collection,” he said. “She is of course Scottish, but more than that she is a modern woman, a timeless icon of elegance.”
She’s also something of a fashion buzz word. During Fashion Week she’s a front-row fixture at Lanvin, Pringle of Scotland and Haider Ackermann. Elsewhere, Lagerfeld recently photographed her for Chanel’s “The Little Black Jacket” book and exhibition, which opens at Milan’s Rotonda di via Besana on April 6. And last October TWELV Magazine had an ice sculptor create a 533-lb. ice dress inspired by Swinton’s turn as the White Witch.
But Swinton does much more than pose. Last fall, during Paris Fashion Week, she starred in a live performance piece at the Musée Galliera, a museum of fashion. Entitled “The Impossible Dream”, the performance required her to walk down a runway carrying various garments from the museum’s collection, as if she were engaged in dialogue with the women who once wore them. “She’s like a pedestal for our collection,” the museum’s curator said at the time. Others feel the same way. She’s previously been a muse for Viktor & Rolf.
The actress—who made a name for herself in art house movies before going blockbuster and mainstream—has always had a flair for the avant-garde. She embraces her own androgyny and was an early adopter of Haider Ackermann’s fashionable pantsuits. “She’s got such a great sense of self,” burlesque star Dita von Teese once told Grazia, “and knows herself and has a great style that doesn’t look affected or like it’s trying too hard to gain acceptance.”
Swinton attributes her fashion status to the people she’s surrounded herself with. Speaking to W magazine in 2011, she explained that her foray into couture began after filming The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. The success of the movie meant that red carpets loomed, so she turned to a good friend for advice, and he introduced her to fashion A-listers like Albert Elbaz of Lanvin and Phoebe Philo of Céline. “For someone to know what you need to make you comfortable, they need to know who you are,” she said. “Having them make clothes for me is like being cooked for by someone who knows what you like to eat.”
Swinton’s campaign for Chanel hits fashion magazines in June.
PHOTOS: Tilda Swinton as Model and Muse