She turned 58 last week and recently became a grandmother but if time is catching up with her, she’s not making it easy. If our cover portrait of a ballet-toned femme fatale, shot by a Pirelli calendar photographer, isn’t proof positive that she’s fabulous, consider that MAC is about to launch a make-up line based on her signature look. Check out her masterful styling in recent campaigns for Chanel, Givenchy and Barney’s New York. Flip through the Little Black Jacket book she co-created with Lagerfeld in homage to Chanel’s box-cut staple. Marvel that, less than two years after her break with the world’s most powerful fashion publishing stable, she has launched CR Fashion Book, a bi-annual magazine with 150-pages of advertising, contributions from Karl and Tom Ford, and her initials on the cover. Now on the verge of launching her own perfume and fielding offers to design her own clothing line, ‘Carine Roitfeld’ is becoming as covetable a brand as those that grace her pages.
Carine 2.0 is all the more impressive given her inauspicious beginnings. Roitfeld’s departure from Vogue Paris was mired in scandal. The December 2010 issue, edited by Tom Ford, included a Christmas gift guide that featured child models in adult evening wear and heavy make-up, lying on tiger-print bedding. The media reaction was outrage and extended far beyond Paris. Her resignation swiftly followed.
So did she jump or was she pushed? Roitfeld maintains that she always intended to leave after a decade in charge (and said as much in pre-scandal interviews). Certainly, these weren’t the first images to get her rapped on the knuckles. ‘Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent’, her biographical collection of images and interviews, includes magazine tearsheets that show models posing with knives, surgical instruments and bloodied slabs of beef. In a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane-themed shoot, Lara Stone is apparently crazed with drugs and alcohol. Tribal masks and fine jewellery are mixed in S&M-style images that (in the book) feature the quotation “This was another shoot I almost got fired for. It was very daring to do this with jewellery.” These pages also give you a flavour of the ‘erotic chic’ styling through which she sought to empower fashionistas.
“I don’t want to portray women as victims of male desire, to make them sex objects... Even if I do go in for a lot of bondage [the model] is always chic and doesn’t look like she’s suffering — and this makes her stronger, I think,” she tells the book’s editor.
Carine’s career may be getting a makeover but her Helmut Newton-inspired sexpot style remains intact. Her signature outfit includes a pencil skirt, a lingerie-inspired top or tailored shirt, a Cartier ‘love’ bangle and strappy stiletto heels. She doesn’t carry handbags, but loves a great coat, particularly in fur or leather. Stockings or bare legs beat tights and she doesn’t do trousers. She often hides behind her sleek brown hair. “I’m a shy person and when you have your hair in your face, it protects you. It has become my signature.”
MAC’s new collection helps you get her nude lips, up-all-night eyes and neutral or blood-red nails. Her look is undeniably sexy but not as overtly provocative as her work.
“My job allows me to give expression to erotic fantasies and depict them in pictures, to experience them through image-making but not in reality. My private life is a lot more ladylike and less sultry than the fashion photos I imagine.”
Carine grew up in Auteuil, Paris’ affluent, 16th arrondissement. Her earliest fashion memory is applying her Pucci-clad mother’s eyeliner before an evening out.
“My mother’s elegance marked me profoundly. She dressed in couture clothing and was always impeccably turned out, even at home.”
She describes her father, a Russian-born film producer and poker-buddy of Roger Vadim, as an inconsistent but God-like presence in her life.
“As the song says, my heart belongs to Daddy. It was certainly him who made me want to do something creative.” Scouted at seventeen, she began modelling and then freelance styling for French Elle magazine. When she called in a shirt from Parisian label Equipment for a shoot, she met the second great love of her life: the brand’s founder. Carine and Christian Restoin remain unmarried but have been together more than thirty years. “Sisley,” as she affectionately calls him, shuttered his company in 2001 so he could care for their two children, Julia and Vladimir, and support her as the new editor of Vogue Paris.
Carine found a creative soul-mate in Mario Testino, whom she met through friends and then brought to ELLE.
“I had my best ideas when I was working with him. I came up with my best scenarios. He really listened to me, and had the same sense of what is chic as I had.”
One of their 1994 spreads for Glamour Paris caught the eye of Tom Ford. When Carine was introduced to the then Gucci designer, he was smitten.
“She was wearing a grey jersey kind of long underwear, believe it or not, with a pair of strappy shoes,” he tells CNN’s Revealed of that first meeting. “She was stepping on the back straps of her heels. It was incredibly hot and everyone was sweating but Carine looked completely cool and immaculate.”
Testino, Ford and Roitfeld formed a creative dream team that started Gucci-mania, a decade-long fashion phenomenon. Officially, Carine was a brand consultant but her role was far more fundamental in the creation of the Gucci woman.
“I was not really working on the clothes or the materials. He was just looking at the way I was dressing [...] the way I was putting my legs and holding my bag. And he take all this from me and afterwards he put it on the runway and call me his muse,” she tells Revealed.
As an editor, she frequently became her own muse. Fashion shoots were shot in her apartment and she incorporated her family, friends and personal tastes wherever possible.
“I’ve always combined everything [...] People have held this against me but that’s just how I am. Work and family intertwined.”
This is the nurturing, less provocative side of Carine that she can indulge to her heart’s content at her new US publishing home, Visionaire.
The first issue of CR Fashion Book is titled Rebirth.
“When I learned that my daughter, Julia, was expecting, I immediately began seeing babies and new mothers on planes, at fashion shows, in New York and in Paris. Birth and rebirth all around. I became obsessed.”
The cover features Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton with arms full of chicks, shot by Bruce Weber (a Condé Nast contributor who remains loyal). Babies, children and maternity paraphernalia feature throughout. It also seems more like a joyful Spring issue, not at all in keeping with this season’s crepuscular colour palette, and is all the more directional for this. Fashion doesn’t wait for time to catch up, either.
Carine Roitfeld’s make-up collection for MAC is available at Brown Thomas from October 4. Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent, edited by Olivier Zahm and Alex Wiederin, is published by Rizzoli.