Sunday, September 07, 2008

Queen Carine speaks

When those who are top of my list in my fashion brain make it into the pages of the monthly magazines, I get an excited tingle and know I'm in for a good read.

But it's a different matter completely when the goddess bursts out from the pages of one of the weekend supplements. Amid the usual sunday afternoon routine of going through the papers with the family I let out a little squeal of satisfaction as I flicked onto an interview with Carine Roitfeld. Slight frustration at the lack of appreciation from the others in the room (equal gasps would have been substantial) was overshadowed by some golden quotes from the Paris Vogue editor.

Quote of the day week month ? has to be when she was questioned about the other leading vogue editions.

hell, she comes up with such spectacular editorials, and she mirrors our views on the other vogues to a tee.

i'm gushing. dangerously. read on..

French Dressing

Above the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris, an assistant leads me along a winding corridor of glass cubicles into an entirely white room. This is the office of the editor of French Vogue, but how one might do any editing in it is beyond me. There are no flatplans on the wall or overflowing in-trays. There isn’t even a computer. Instead, there is a desk, two chairs, some white roses, a white scented candle, three white books and an unnervingly aggressive black-and-white Robert Mapplethorpe print of a woman’s quivering thighs. The only colour comes in the form of accessories. On the desk sit a discarded hat and handbag — relaxed, summery-looking efforts in brown felt and washed-out blue denim respectively.

This is the war room of Carine Roitfeld, 53, a perennial on the world’s best-dressed lists, who has taken the magazine (in terms of buzz, at least) to the top of the pile of international Vogues during her seven years at the helm. What about American Vogue, I asked a fashion insider. “Sterile,” she sniffed. British? “Low impact.” German? “Don’t make me laugh.” Vogue Italia? “Fabulous, but a tiny circulation.” And Paris? “Oh, darling — it’s heaven.”
Roitfeld’s trick was to take a magazine that had focused on the fustier half of haute couture and make it all about, well, Roitfeld. A typical Carine issue features women (not girls) accessorised in bondage, 4in heels and red lipstick, smoking cigarette after cigarette while covered in pig’s blood, all the time reclining on a chaise longue and sporting a diamond the size of an apricot on a leather choker. Yet somehow, the shoots — most of which Roitfeld directs herself — all come off as desperately sophisticated. Think Charlotte Rampling, not Miss Whiplash — though, of course, Roitfeld says her real muse is herself.

When I see her coming through the door, my first glimpse is of shoes — suede, spike-heeled, Alaïa — and then the ankles. Mon dieu! I can see why Roitfeld’s ankles are nearly as revered as she is: tiny, sculpted and just the right side of bony. She must know this, as, while she isn’t a great believer in accessories (previously declaring that most designer bags are “hugly”), she is obsessed with showing off her ankles in the best footwear going.
Lifting my eyes, I take in the elongated calves, the denim skirt hugging her thighs (she loves minis, but won’t wear them any more because of her age) and a cap-sleeved Margiela T-shirt that shows off her sinewy arms. There isn’t a lick of make-up on her face (save for her signature heavy mascara), which is shrouded in poker-straight hair that reminds many of Iggy Pop. For a thin gal seven years shy of 60, she is extremely sexy, and blonder than she used to be (her friend Tom Ford told her women need to go blonder as they get older).

As she perches on the seat opposite, the Helmut Newton facade suddenly cracks and she confesses to being in a tizz. Her August issue has hit newsstands complete with a shoot she did with Mario Testino in which a model is photographed in outrageously enormous animal skins while a gaggle of extras dressed as Peta activists harass her with banners reading “FUR IS DEAD”. In one shot, the fur-clad glamazon is giving them the finger.

“Do you think I will get a pie in the face?” she asks, surprisingly nervous. Yes, I say — never a good accessory. “Maybe they think it’s not funny to talk about dead animals,” she concedes, “but I like pushing ideas. I love clothes, but it’s not enough for me. I like to reflect life, society, and in my world, there has to be fun.” W It has always been this way. “If you give my stories of the past 20 years to a shrink, he would say, ‘She’s a bit dangerous, she is smoking, she has a knife, she’s in bondage.’ He would say I have a secret to say because, in my real life, I am quite reserved.” Hardly. She makes all the women in her shoots look just like her. “Well, if people think I’m sexy, I’m very happy,” she says, smiling. “But it’s horrible, because people are very disappointed when they meet me. I think maybe I look good from two metres away.”

Roitfeld was born and raised in bourgeois splendour on the outskirts of Paris. After a few early gigs as a model, she landed a job as a junior writer at the French magazine 20ans. She later progressed to Elle, where she was a mid-level stylist, but spent most of the 1980s raising her two children. She has never married their father, Christian Restoin, because this way, she reasons, they will never divorce. They have been together for nearly 30 years, during the first two-thirds of which he ran a successful business making shirts, meaning Roitfeld has never had to take a job for the money.

Her career took off when, in the late 1980s, Testino was looking for some kids to shoot for Vogue Bambini. “Because I am very selfish, I said, ‘Yes, of course. What a pleasure to see my daughter in the magazine.’ ” she laughs. Soon after, the pair started shooting together, knocking out glossy editorials and advertising campaigns. “Then I meet Tom Ford and he make me international,” Roitfeld says. The designer had been promoted by Gucci to energise the then flagging brand. Testino started shooting the campaigns, and Roitfeld became Ford’s muse, working with him to tweak collections and style the shows. “They reveal something in me,” she says of the pair. “They make something in me phenomenal.”

When, in 2001, she got the French Vogue gig, Restoin quit work to support her and the children. Now Roitfeld’s life is seemingly fabulous. The party pages of her own magazine feature pictures of her with her beautiful twentysomething son and daughter, she travels the world shooting with the best photographers, and she is plagued by delicious rumours linking her to the editorship of a big New York magazine — perhaps Harper’s, perhaps American Vogue.

Like most fashion editors, Roitfeld is an anxious woman at heart. Unusually, however, the insecurity is something she is happy to talk about. There is no Anna Wintour freeze-out here: “When I first get this job, suddenly everyone takes pictures of me. I smile — ’cause the picture is better, and I want to be good-looking — but I’m shy.

The reason I wear my hair in my face is because I’m not very self-confident. All the time I think this could be my last season because it’s fashion. People are not very faithful.”
To combat this, she visits an acupuncturist and is on drugs to help her sleep (“I love a little pill”). If it’s so stressful, why bother? “I love to have money to buy Balenciaga jackets, but it’s not the engine that drives me. It is for my father. He was my dream, my prince, my everything. He was a Russian film producer, very charming, all the girls were in love. I want to seduce my father” — she doesn’t mean sexually: too risqué even for her — “It was my ambition to make something he could be proud of. But he died 10 years ago, so he never see me get this job. But that’s life.”

So, is this the secret of her success? A daddy complex? “Mais non,” she laughs. “I’ve been with the same person for more than 25 years, my kids are working and not totally crazy, my skirts are not too short, and though I am very serious, I try not to take myself seriously. If there is a secret to me, this is the trick.”

interview from the sunday times

ps, remember the guest collaborator i mentioned? the post is up tomorrow..!


WendyB said...

Ha ha! I laughed at the "two metres away" line. That "seven years shy of 60" is the weirdest description of an age, particularly when they already came out and said 53!

María said...

I'd never have guessed she was a shy person!

Thanks for posting this interview ;)

KATLIN said...

Good find!! I wish they really went deeper though because I feel like we got exactly what we we see, you know? We know she's chic, who her kids are, what she does... I wanna know more than that!

1234 said...

carine carine carine. want to link up?

Rebecca, A Clothes Horse said...

LOVE this! Thanks so much for posting the entire article. I read somewhere that the leading fash mags are reflections of the editor's style, not general style...if so Carine is one amazing woman. I didn't realize she was 53...she's older than my

sophie said...

How can Carine be SO PERFECT?

I love her.

whole in. said...

oh wow thank you for posting!

i lurve carine.

Siru said...

Carine is getting so high scores at the moment, Anna is going DOWN.
Wanna trade links?

juliet xxx

Ella Gregory said...

I nearly text you yesterday morning to tell you this was in style but then I thought 'it's 9am and I'm sure she knows' luckily you did!
I loved the Karl interview too.

emsie said...

My eyes lit up when I saw this article in the Style mag. Love the quotes in this.

A La Mode said...

you wanna trade links? I've already linked you up on my blog, I love your page xox

Mimi said...

Really interesting.I didn't know anything personal about her yet.

young-shields said...

i gasped out loud at this interview too! i swear, the sunday times 'style' magazine gets better and better every week, i'd love to work for them.

i hope i look like that when i'm in my 50s...heck, i don't look as good as that now

y-s xx

Lisa said...

What a great interview. Thanks for posting this.

Lauren said...

wow! i still cant get over the fact that she's 53! its true: french women never get fat!

Alya said...

this is a great interview.. So much insight into a person's life without any facades or fakeness.

I now have an extreme respect for Carine and her work. And her overall being!

home girl said...

so inspiring for me thank u! i love that her fashion career happened post children. has given me hope - just need to find myself a mario testino equivallent...!!!

Anonymous said...

love her.

The Maximilian said...

thank you so so much!

matt williams said...

Oh gosh, I can never get enough info on Carine. Like everyone else, I must thank you for posting this article.