Lily Collins talks heirlooms, style and, of course, 'Emily in Paris'

The leading lady talks about her career that only seems to be going and growing from strength to strength.

Harper's Bazaar India

Lily Collins is a busy woman. The 34-year-old actor is the star of Netflix’s hit show, Emily in Paris, co-founder of production company Case Study Films, and Cartier ambassador, most recently fronting the ad campaign for the maison’s Panthère Graphique de Cartier bag. That’s what brought us both to Paris, specifically to Le Bristol hotel, where we’re drinking coffee and talking about Collins’ lifelong affinity with the house.

“It feels like it’s part of my DNA,” she says. “My mum and dad both had Cartier watches when I was younger. I remember my mum’s oversized men’s watch and being so enamoured with how beautiful it was. For my 18th birthday, (she) got me a vintage gold Panthère watch. I literally carry it everywhere.”

The luxury brand first tapped Lily in 2021 to be the face of their leather goods collection. “I was truly honoured to be welcomed into the family like that,” she recounts. “The brand is fierce, passionate, driven, independent, unapologetically itself, and those are all qualities that I either have, or want more of, or that I see in people who inspire me.”

In this latest campaign, Lily is modelling the Panthère Graphique de Cartier, a sleek, chain-handle bag crowned by the house’s emblematic panther. Dressed in a black roll neck, she bears a more than passing resemblance to a Funny Face-era Audrey Hepburn—a beauty to whom she is often compared.

Just like Audrey, Lily is both glamorous and totally down to earth, as the contents of her own Panthère Graphique bag can attest: “(I carry) my phone, hand sanitiser, a pen, and treats for my dog, Redford. Yes, little Redford. This bag also fits my mini brush—when I’m scootering around Paris, my bangs go everywhere.”

The British-American actor spends “five months out of every year in the French capital while filming Emily in Paris, the Netflix show that’s catapulted her to worldwide fame.

“Living in France, I’ve learned how chic a pair of jeans, a collared shirt and loafers can look,” she says of the influence Paris has had on her own personal style. “Here, you can look dressed up for any occasion (just) walking on the street. In L.A., it’s definitely more of a laidback California vibe. I’ve always felt more European even in L.A., because I like to get a little more dressed up.”

It’s hard to imagine the show’s title character, Emily, wearing a simple shirt, jeans and flats. Emily in Paris has become known for its more-is-more styling. How does this square with Lily’s own, comparatively more subdued style?

“I don’t always understand (the outfits) when they’re on the hanger, because that’s not how my brain works,” she admits. “But that’s what makes Marylin (Fitoussi, the show’s costume designer) so special and magical—she sees the end result in her head before she’s seen it on somebody.”

“There was an episode when we were in Provence, in the lavender fields. I had a purple dress with purple shoes and this big purple cropped jacket. When I saw it, I was like, I don’t know if that’s gonna work on me. She said, ‘Just try it’. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.”

What’s next? There is a fourth season of Emily in Paris on its way, as well as MaXXXine, Ti West’s upcoming, ’80s-styled slasher, in which Lily is set to star. And there’s more: “We just started a production company, my husband (the filmmaker and writer, Charlie McDowell) and I, and our producing partner. So we’re reading a lot of scripts right now. A lot of scripts, a lot of plays.” For someone with such a hectic schedule, Lily is the epitome of cool, calm and collected – you could say, she’s got it in the bag.

This piece originally appeared in the June 2023 print edition of Harper's Bazaar Arabia.