Carine Roitfeld is arguably one of the most important figures in the fashion world. In the ’90s, she served as designer Tom Ford’s muse at Gucci, styling some of the label’s most subversive and iconic campaigns to date. For a full decade afterwards, she reigned as Vogue Paris‘ editor-in-chief, helping shape the aesthetic and artistic direction of one of the industry’s most admired magazines. In December 2010, Roitfeld left the Gallic glossy to focus on personal projects, styling ads and guest-editing several publications and books before launching her very own magazine, CR Fashion Book, just last year.
Fabien Constant’s new documentary Mademoiselle C, out this month, focuses the lens on Roitfeld herself, following the legendary editor as she begins the next chapter of her career. The film offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at both her professional and personal life, exploring Roitfeld’s decades-old friendships with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford as well as her close family ties (she became a first-time grandmother during Mademoiselle C‘s production!). I had the opportunity to sit down with Roitfeld and discuss her famous "erotic-chic" editorials, her thoughts on social media and what it was like to relinquish her Vogue Paris crown. Read on for the scoop!
Lucky: First things first—while making Mademoiselle C, what was it like being followed around by cameras 24/7? That’s probably something you’d only experienced before during fashion week.
Carine Roitfeld: Well, I’d done a TV project for CNN before, some years ago, so I was a little used to having a micro [microphone]. But that wasn’t nearly as personal as this. This time, I’d just started a new magazine with new people—and in addition to that I had to wear a micro and be followed around by a TV crew all the time. So it was tough for me, but it was really tough for my people, for my collaborators. You try to make it work, but for me personally, I never forget about the micro, about the camera. It’s impossible. I’m much more funny without a micro!
I’ll bet! So what convinced you to agree to this film at such a busy period in your life?
I jump on things, and when Fabien asked me if I wanted to do a film, I thought, we’re about to launch this magazine, and anything to create a buzz around it, I’ll do! I’d done two small projects with Fabien before and really liked him—he already felt like part of my team. So I said, let’s do it! Not without my green tea and not without my vodka, but let’s do it!
When you screened the final product, were you surprised by how it turned out?
Honestly, I didn’t realize it would be so personal. I let Fabien do everything he wanted to—when he asked me about my ballet classes, something I was obsessed with at the time, I let him come. But it is his film, his editing. You can totally transform anything with editing. I never said, "Oh, I look terrible here, cut this!"
Thanks to social media, people want to follow everything an editor sees and does. Would you ever consider building your own online presence?
No, no, no—because I am an old editor! I think a lot of it happened because of blogs. Blogs are quite a new development—now, everyone wants to know you, everyone wants to know everything about you. And you can build a following that way. In a way, it’s a good thing if you want to create a buzz around yourself. But I never search for myself online. A lot of times, what they write about you is not very nice! I try not to take it too seriously.
How do you react when fans approach you during fashion week or out on the street? You’re certainly a recognizable figure!
When I see all these kids in front of the tents at fashion week, it makes me happy! They’re just nice people who love fashion—and to them, I’m fashion! So I always try to smile for them, talk with them, take pictures with them. And every time, I try to bring someone into the tents with me. They’re the ones who build the buzz, who really die for fashion. Fashion’s about extravagance, and everyone needs a bit of that. Two people is usually the maximum—but I try to use my power to do that. Any way I can help them, I will.
I think you’re the only editor I’ve ever met who helps people sneak into fashion week. Does it ever get annoying having to be "on" all the time during the shows, when you’re being photographed constantly?
You know, it’s a good idea to befriend the photographers, because that’s what earns you respect. One time I was leaving the Marc Jacobs show, and I missed a step—and I fell! And instantly [instead of snapping away], everyone lowered their cameras. Now that’s chic. That’s respect.
In the film, you compare exiting Vogue Paris to "leaving your crown." Can you expand on that a little bit more?
Of course! Vogue‘s one of the biggest titles in the world, and when you get that title, you automatically get a sort of "crown" along with it. Not because of who you are, but because of the title you carry. So when I left Vogue, I gave back my uniform, my crown. But I’m not sad about it! I was there 10 years, and now, if I ever get another crown, it’ll be because of me—not because of where I work. Maybe this crown won’t be as beautiful, as full of diamonds…but I think it’ll be more personal, because I will have done it myself.
Have you received different treatment from designers and other industry people since leaving?
It makes you recognize your real friends. You learn a lot—but in a way, it’s really healthy. You know, when you’re at a big title, everyone’s always nice to you. Everyone says you’re a genius, that you’re amazing—but it’s not reality. Now, I call people myself, I catch my own cabs in the street…and it sounds so stupid, but I really like it.
Let’s talk about CR Fashion Book—the movie captures all of the preparation that went into that important first issue. I loved the focus on rebirth…
The timing was perfect. My daughter was pregnant at the time and I was totally obsessed with the idea of pregnancy, so it was a rebirth for her, and a rejuvenation for me. Because of my contract from Vogue, I had to find new people to work with me. It was great to find those young talents—new photographers, new models, new graphic designers—and to give them their chance, too. That’s what keeps me young…being around kids! That’s what gives me my energy.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I take a risk in everything I do. I am who I am—I’m a bit fearless, and I don’t get anxious. With my work, I always try to be respectful—I never want to shock people with my pictures, just to create beautiful images, but I guess some people do get shocked by them. But fashion is supposed to change minds. People always tell me, "You have a look." And maybe it’s not a beautiful look, but at least it’s different. It’s like what Steve Jobs said about "thinking different." There are so many magazines and so many editors out there that you have to be different.
Mademoiselle C opens on September 11 in limited release.