If you think this is just a party, then you are mistaken. We're three stories underground at David Lynch's nightclub, Silencio, in downtown Paris, waiting for Lenny Kravitz. It's nearly pitch black in here, except for a spot-lit, elaborately-curtained stage where a DJ sombrely plays Slave to the Rhythm by Grace Jones. Tiny, wafer-thin canapes float by as white-gloved sommeliers pour flutes of Dom Perignon, which is the reason we're all here. As if he wasn't busy enough, Mr Kravitz has recently taken the role of creative director at the legendary French champagne house.
An electric vibe charges through the room when the man himself arrives, surrounded by a throng of bodyguards, publicists and assistants. You can see his hair before anything else, black, angular tubes that spike out in a wild crown almost like Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. Conversations grind to a crawl as every one of the 40-odd guests are impossibly distracted by the aura of mega-stardom over near the bar. And then he's coming my way, and he's right there, standing in front of me, sticking out his hand, jet black Saint Laurent sunglasses glinting in the gloom, his a slinky 1970s-style Dior suit leading to stacked snakeskin cowboy boots.
"Hi, I'm Lenny," says Lenny Kravitz, and it's like a waxwork figure has come to life. At 5 foot 8, he's shorter than you'd expect, but his hair makes up considerable height. His voice sounds like the sweetest syrup, calm and composed and lyrical. Time slows down, and I feel like I'm underwater as for two, maybe three minutes we exchange ice-cool smalltalk, before he's off to the next cluster sprinkling stardust in his wake before being swiftly shepherded out of the club. I have no idea what I just said. Now he's gone, it's like the aftermath of a storm, and we all agree he was very nice indeed.
The next day, the group assembles in a fancy cinema at the super-luxe Le Royal Monceau hotel, just a few steps from the Arc de Triomphe. Lenny is back, perched casually on a stool in front of the screen, wearing bell bottom jeans and a paisley shirt and his ubiquitous sunglasses.
The collaboration between the rockstar and the champagne brand has been a long time coming, as Kravitz met Dom Perignon's Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy some 12 years ago through a mutual friend. "We grew very close, and we talked about doing a collaboration for many years, not really knowing when or what it would be," Kravitz tells the crowd of scribbling journalists. "We found that we are very similar at the core in our artistry, the way we approach our artistry and our discipline and our focus. What we do is very much the same. He does it with champagne and wine and so forth, and I do it with music and art."
If you think this is just a party, I think you are mistaken.Lenny Kravitz
Kravitz's first task as creative director was to shoot an absurdly-cool advertising campaign featuring a few of his famous friends and family. On the guest list was daughter Zoe and her besties, Australian model Abbey Lee and designer Alexander Wang, Hollywood heavyweights Susan Sarandon and Harvey Keitel, dancer Benjamin Millepied and Japanese footballer Hidetoshi Nakata. "Are we gonna see this?" he says.
The cinema falls silent as the commercial rolls, featuring quick cuts of the A-list crew frolicking around a Hollywood Hills mansion built by Kravitz Design. "If you think this is just a party, I think you are mistaken," purrs Kravitz on the voice over. "In places like this, a guest list becomes a list of ingredients for making an unforeseen inspiring human blend."
When the short film is over, I put my hand up to ask my single allocated question. "How did you get this amazing group of people together?" I squeak into the microphone. "Are they all in your mobile phone?"
"Some of them were, yes," he says, and the crowd laughs politely. "My daughter was the easiest one ... I was telling her about it and she said, "I would do that." I said, "You would?" [This is] the first time we've worked together, ever."
The inspiration for the shoot came from Studio 54, Kravitz explains, more specifically from a photographer called Ron Galella, who shot beautiful black and white snaps of star patrons at the club in its '70s heyday. "They show all of these incredible people together. In so many cases, people that you wouldn't think would be together. That was the beauty of that time in that club and that whole environment. You'd have people from all walks of life, from the street to very rich, well-to-do people, celebrities, business people, people that were stars in the street, artists, and they all came together to have fun and inspire each other."
Daughter Zoe was the catalyst to get everyone in the party mood at the shoot. "She started to really engage with everybody and people started talking and laughing and eating and cooking and tasting. It turned into a real evening and then into a dance party downstairs. There's a club in the house. Everybody just started having a great time and I was just there to capture it."
Kravitz took over photography duties, proving his renaissance man talents. Though not known for taking pictures, Kravitz has been snapping photos for decades. "My father had a Leica camera in the house and I was a little kid. There were all these buttons and I used to play with it and he used to get upset. I had no idea how to use it."
Years later, Kravitz asked his photographer friend Mark Seliger to teach him the basics. "It becomes very instinctual. I don't think about the technical part of it when I'm [taking photos]. Same with music, same with acting, same with design. I feel something and I see a vision of what I want, then my job is to get it from my brain, to the design, to the photograph, to the tape, to the music. It starts with a vision."
The photographs from the collaboration will be shared through a series of exhibitions around the world, from New York to Berlin. Kravitz is signed to Dom Perignon until the end of next year, and will redesign the iconic bottle for a limited edition series. He admits he has been drinking the top shelf bubbles for longer than was probably legal. "I can't remember the exact time that I [first] had Dom Perignon but it was in high school, I remember that," he says. "We'd have parties and you'd get some bottles of Dom Perignon. It was a super big deal. At that point my mouth had developed a taste for it. It was around that time and it was always something very exotic and [when] you're a teenager, it's very expensive for you. It's this thing that you can only do a couple of times a year or something."
Journalists from all over the world continue to fire questions at Kravitz until a Spanish reporter spoils the party by asking a very off-topic question about bankruptcy which causes Kravitz's minders to wrap things up. We're then herded onto luxury coaches to travel two hours to Hautvillers in the heart of Champagne. We arrive at a soaring French abbey where a Benedictine monk called Pierre Perignon first began making méthode champenoise in 1670.
A long table is set up for lunch under the grand stone cloisters, as a fleet of waiters pour stems of sparkling rose in the sunshine. We're waiting for Kravitz, who was not on the bus, but chauffeured behind us in a surprisingly-unflashy black sedan. When he finally arrives and takes his seat at the finely-set table, the same electric ripple from the previous evening returns. Everyone is acutely aware of the diminutive rock star sitting in our midst, not eating anything, not drinking anything. Several guests have confessed a desire to get the ultimate selfie that will break Instagram, but we've been firmly told: no photos.
Kraviz doesn't stay for dessert, and after his contractual agreement has been filled he is back in the car and speeding towards Paris. Despite never considering myself a huge fan, I'm definitely buying what he's selling. If you think this was just a party, I think you are mistaken: it's a global juggernaut.
The Lenny Kravitz x Dom Perignon campaign will debut in October 2018.