To celebrate her recently opened Paris flagship store, Tory Burch designed the Paris Capsule Collection. And to fete that range of fun and flirty sportswear she, along with Glee actress and now writer/director Dianna Agron and The Leftovers actress Margaret Qualley collaborated on a feel-good short film titled L’Américaine, debuting Aug. 31.
As all great things do, this project came about quite naturally. Agron, who polished her behind-the-camera chops directing a music video last year, was having lunch with a friend at the company who asked her advice on short film budgets since they were being pitched by production companies. “I said, ‘I can do it for this,’” recalls Agron, “I was [sort of] joking — not pitching myself, not ‘you have to hire me.'” But a week later, she tells Pret-a-Reporter, “They said, ‘we’re really quite interested in your take and what you would do.’ I wrote a couple pitches and it ended up working.”
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From Burch’s perspective, she went with Agron’s vision for An American in Paris–inspired short (a modern reimagining of the scene in which Gene Kelly is speaking about what makes Lesley Caron so special) in part because “Dianna is smart, talented and incredibly creative. She also shares my passion for Paris and I knew that as an actress and a director she would bring a unique point of view to the project and have a fresh take on our collection.”
Upon first meeting Burch last year, Agron found her to be “a very smart, confident, successful woman and mother.” She also felt the script — one of four treatments she wrote — was perfectly suited to their goal of showcasing the capsule. “I think fashion films are quite popular these days, and I think the trick is more than anything to keep it simple. If you want people to be looking at the clothes you can’t have an overly complicated story,” says Agron.
In two-plus minutes, viewers are taken on a lovely little journey into the meeting and subsequent wooing of a beautiful American ingenue (Qualley, who is Andie MacDowell’s daughter and the subject of Vanity Fair’s September Vanities feature) and dashing young Frenchman. He describes her to his dubious friend as exciting, sweet and shy, beautiful, vivacious and modern. Says Agron, “I love that message. It still rings true: Sometimes people — men — want to put girls in a box. We are multifaceted, and there is no one quick way to summarize what a woman is like.”
And indeed, Qualley — decked out in covetable combinations of ladylike blouses and pleated skirts, and chic, colorful feather-trimmed frocks — embodies all those attributes. “I loved Margaret,” says Agron. “I think she’s so fresh and just has a lovely quality to her. You can tell she’s going to have a wonderful career, she’s so passionate and charming.” Adds Burch, “she has extraordinary joie de vivre. There is a wonderfully fresh spontaneity to the way she acts.”
Qualley’s spirit brought the film to life. “I was really excited about the idea,” says the 19-year-old. “Going to Paris and hanging out, working with a cute boy — it wasn’t that difficult of a sell.” It was far from the former model’s first experience in the City of Lights. She did her first Chanel show there, and says, “I love just walking around, I could walk in Paris for hours.” Her favorite spots they filmed during the relatively quick two-day skeleton-crew shoot she described as “fun, spontaneous and easy-going” were by the river Seine and “in the beautiful little intimate alleyways with the boy, cause he was so cute.”
As for the wardrobe, aka the other star of L’Américaine, Qualley says, “I felt very comfortable in the clothes. They were so feminine and sweet and I don’t tend to wear things like that so much, so it was really fun for me to just be girly.” Adds Agron of the filming process, “My first and only concern was making sure the story was coming through and the clothes were being beautifully depicted.” Done and done.