Kenzo Follows Its Spike Jonze Film With a 13-Minute Surrealist Gem From Natasha Lyonne

Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen and more star in the film

Natasha Lyonne makes her directorial debut with this new film for Kenzo. Joyce Kim
Headshot of Katie Richards

On the heels of winning a Grand Prix at Cannes this summer for the “My Mutant Brain” film, directed by Spike Jonze, Kenzo is back with another stunning piece of work. This time around, the brand tapped Orange is the New Black actress Natasha Lyonne to direct a nearly 15-minute film for the brand’s new fall-winter 2017 collection.

The film, titled “Cabiria, Charity, Chastity,” marks Lyonne’s directorial debut and it does not disappoint. Lyonne wrangled a star-studded cast for her film including Maya Rudolph, who plays Chastity, a woman on a journey to discover her true self as she grapples with her past. She truly shines in the film, even creating her own language (“a version of gibberish,” according to Lyonne) which she delivers with perfect ease throughout the story.

The full cast includes Fred Armisen, Greta Lee, James Ransone, Matt Lucas, Macaulay Culkin, Waris Ahluwalia and Leslie Odom Jr. Lyonne also makes an appearance.

This marks Kenzo’s fifth film under the brand’s creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. Each of the five films have had different directors, including Carrie Brownstein and Khalil Joseph. Lyonne starred in the film directed by Brownstein, which debuted this time last year.

“We don’t like to call them fashion films,” Lim said. “I think there is a pretty free way that people will interpret the story and then take it. The clothes are almost secondary in many ways because it needs to fit with the characters.”

So what led Lyonne to make her directorial debut for a brand like Kenzo?

“It’s worth noting that the world that Carol and Humberto have created sort of allows for a freedom of expression that not many other places accept anymore. Everything has become so homogenized and assembly line propaganda is put on such a pedestal that really, their world is one of the few places that really allows for sheer liberation and inspiration and it’s something I think is sorely lacking. It allows for mistakes and trying things,” Lyonne said.

Natasha Lyonne on set of her film "Cabiria, Charity, Chastity."
Joyce Kim

To cast the film, Lyonne tapped into her own network of friends and people she wanted to work with. When Lyonne was first asked to work on the film with Kenzo, she immediately began writing the script with Rudolph in mind. “I’ve always been really inspired by her throughout our friendship,” Lyonne said.

The key to continually making these successful films, according to Lim, comes from giving the chosen directors complete freedom to tell their stories how they want them to be told.

“The show, the runway, the campaign are three different ways of communicating about the brand, but the directors we work with have the freedom to take the product and do whatever they want so it doesn’t feel forced and can just stand alone as an art piece,” Lim said.

Added Leon: “What was interesting for us wasn’t about following the commercial guidelines, but seeing what [Lyonne] would read in the clothes. It’s fascinating to see our designs reimagined and re-read by a totally different set of eyes. I’m not a fan of brands who work with directors in ways you don’t see the latter’s vision come through; we really wanted to give the power to [Lyonne] and let her show us her interpretation.”

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.