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Looking Back: Carine Roitfeld Talks To Talk

An alternate title might have been "Carine Rottweiler Gets High On High-Heels"... In April 2001, Talk Magazine published a special issue that focused on Innovators and Navigators: 50 Risk Takers, Idea Makers, and Hell Raisers, with Carine Roitfeld obviously scoring high marks in all three categories. Carine gives a candid and charming interview in which she bums a cigarette from the interviewer and reveals that among her deepest desires she hopes to become a film star eventually. Just when I think I could not admire her more, a gem like this turns up… CR… chic, intelligente, drôle, parfaite… Merci mille fois to our visionary editor-at-large Dara Block for this wonderful look at the past.

Looking Back: Carine Roitfeld and Talk Magazine, April 2001
By Dara Block

As we all know, September marks the debut of Carine Roitfeld's most ambitious project yet: her very own fashion publication entitled CR that will most likely take style, creativity, and cutting-edge glamour to a whole new and exciting level. Carine Roitfeld eloquently stated her vision for CR in the latest issue of V and if you haven't seen the magazine yet, I highly suggest you pick up a copy before it leaves newsstands on August 30th... it is a total must have. Just in case you missed this part of the magazine, here is what she beautifully stated inside the pages:

We all love fashion. Fashion is what drives us. But lately it seems more and more difficult to express creativity in fashion — things are controlled, calculated, rarely spontaneous. Yet creativity is the root of fashion. Without it, fashion ceases to exist. What fashion needs is a new place for creative visions to unfold. Fashion beyond clothes. Fashion as a way of life. Never too serious, never dark or negative. Always full of humor, fantasy, joy, and beauty. Imagine a publication that pushes fashion forward, that celebrates the greatest creators in image-making while supporting a new guard of brilliant talent — as well as providing valuable insight into the world of fashion and beyond. This is my vision for CR, a new magazine about fashion and creativity.

Personally, I can totally understand her viewpoint and how she sees the current state of fashion! Her outlook is a bit harsh, truthful, but overall very optimistic! With all that in mind, I was recently looking through my magazine archives and stumbled upon an old issue of Talk Magazine. If you need to be refreshed, Talk Magazine was launched in 1999 by Tina Brown (former editor of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Tatler) as a joint venture between Miramax and Hearst Publishing. The magazine generated a lot of buzz for its in-depth celebrity profiles and interviews. Sadly, the magazine never became a huge commercial success and was shut down in 2002. Despite the failure, Carine Roitfeld gave a very fascinating interview with the magazine back in April of 2001 for their special Innovators and Navigators issue. The interview was published right about the time she became the editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris. For some reason, I thought now seemed like a perfect time to share the conversation especially since she is currently taking on a new adventure in her life with CR. It is interesting to see the parallels from her outlook on fashion in 2001 and today in 2012! Let's take a closer look at this intriguing interview!

Customs officials mistake Carine Roitfeld for a junkie, but the new editor-in-chief of French Vogue is a woman of cutting-edge style.

Carine Roitfeld: Give me a quick puff of your cigarette.

Talk: You don't smoke.

Roitfeld: My father smokes, my husband smokes, and I always seem to be floating around in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Not that that bothers me, as I must say there's nothing sexier than the smell of tobacco on a man's fingers. Unfortunately smoking comes accompanied with a beautiful movement as addictive as the tobacco itself, which is why I need yours. At the end of the day it's all about movement, the way you carry yourself (Roitfeld keeps the cigarette).

Talk: Now that you're editor-in-chief of French Vogue, do they stop you at customs because they think you look like a junkie?

Roitfeld: I always get stopped at the airport, and it drives me mad. I don't know whether it's because I look like a junkie or whether it's because I look different from other people traveling. Everybody else is always in jeans and sneakers, and then there's me in high heels and a skirt. Perhaps they stop me because I am more chic than the rest of the passengers. But that's no reason to hassle me and rummage through my bags. I'm sure that while they're poking their noses into my bags drugs dealers are slipping past. It's my prerogative to travel in style, and I can't help it if I look like Iggy Pop and wear high heels. I don't smoke, I don't drink, and to my knowledge nobody has ever been arrested for being too chic, so I wish they'd lay off.

Talk: So you get high on high-heels?

Roitfeld: I started wearing them when I started working with Mario Testino, because he's very tall and I hate looking up at people. Let alone looking up to people. You walk differently in heels, you feel more womanly, you get used to the silhouette, and before you know it you can't come down a single inch. It's true you can't run in heels, but a woman should never run anyway — it's sometimes moving, but never chic.

Talk: Your sharp sense of style and unerring eye have earned you the nickname "Carine Rottweiler," Do you think being editor-in-chief is going to worsen matters?

Roitfeld: No, because I've learned how to smile for the cameras.

Talk: Do you smile when you see a dress you like on the catwalk?

Roitfeld: When I see a dress I like on the catwalk I don't smile. I'm too busy imagining what I'd look like wearing it.

Talk: How long does it take you to get dressed in the morning?

Roitfeld: How long does it take me to think of what I'm going to wear, or how long does it take me to actually get dressed? They're two different things. I spend about five minutes pondering such burning fashion questions while sipping my tea in the morning, and then another 10 minutes in my closet. It's quite quick. My clothes are very neatly arranged, and I tend to opt for the same pieces, the same style, the same Manolo Blahniks. I've got a style that I stick to, and I hate not looking like myself. But that rarely happens.

Talk: While most fashion editors cut and paste looks from the catwalk onto the pages of their magazines, you've always mixed and matched clothes from different designers.

Roitfeld: I think it's a very French trait to mix and match clothes rather than blindly follow the dictates of the catwalk. I'm sure that designers would rather see total looks in magazines, and magazines such as L'Officiel are more than happy to oblige, but I like to think that a fashion editor's job is more exciting than just picking outfits off the catwalk and slapping them onto the pages of a magazine.

Talk: Why did Joan Buck's editorship of French Vogue end?

Roitfeld: The stakes were high, and I think that Joan certainly succeeded in strengthening the magazine's sales. Condé Nast is not a business run by choirboys and Joan was at Vogue for a long time (from June 1994), which means the magazine was working commercially. Joan was a fiercely intelligent and gifted editor, but perhaps she had a more intellectual than visual sensitivity. I respect and admire her, and I hope she's not mad at me. But Vogue will now be very different. I'm not saying that it will be better, but it will certainly be more focused on fashion and photography. 

Talk: Are you hoping to reconnect with French Vogue's traditional role as a photographic showcase-as in the days when Horst, Man Ray, Guy Bourdin, and Helmut Newton shot for the magazine?

Roitfeld: The features need to be strong, because French women are far from stupid. But I think that visually the magazine could do with a sharper edge. I'm going to launch a charm offensive on people like Helmut Newton to get him to contribute to the magazine. I've changed the whole of the fashion desk, and we've been compiling a dream team of photographers. Newton is the top of the list. Mario Testino, Inez Van Lamsweerde, Terry Richardson, and Nathaniel Goldberg have already shot for our February issue, but I still have to try and chat up the likes of Craig McDean and David Sims before we have a strong stable of photographers. I think my new job is going to involve a great deal of flirting.

Talk: Why did you wear Azzedine Alaïa to the Oscars, and not Gucci?

Roitfeld: Because you don't want to end up looking like everybody else on Oscar night. Besides, I've known Azzedine for ages and didn't have to wait until his "comeback" to wear his dresses.

Talk: Smoky eyes, rock & roll hair, and high heels — you've always been Tom Ford's muse and the archetypal Gucci girl. How are you going to shed this image to become the Vogue woman? 

Roitfeld: Tom Ford didn't invent me, even though my work for Gucci did put me in the public eye. I looked like this long before I started working for Gucci, so why should I change for Vogue? Although Tom sees me as his female counterpart, I'm no more the Gucci girl than I am the Saint Laurent girl or the Vogue girl. I'm me — take it or leave it. My heart belongs to Daddy.

Talk: With Kate Moss on the cover, photographs by Mario Testino, a profile of Tom Ford, and the same black-and-white theme as Ford's Saint Laurent collection inside, doesn't your first issue of French Vogue look more like a Gucci or Saint Laurent catalog?

Roitfeld: No. Look carefully and you'll see that there's also some Dior. It's a coincidence if Kate Moss is both on our cover and in the Gucci ad campaign. Besides, she's wearing Balenciaga on the cover. Balenciaga was the show of the season, Kate Moss was the face of the season, Tom Ford is staging a huge Pop Art exhibition at the Pompidou Center and has just shown his first collection for Saint Laurent. I don't see why running key stories and strong fashion means that I've sold my soul.

Talk: Are you going to continue consulting for Saint Laurent and Gucci now that you're editor-in-chief of French Vogue

Roitfeld: I'll only officially be starting at French Vogue on April 2, after the prêt-à-porter shows that I'm still under contract to consult on. After that I'll be too tied up at Vogue to work for anybody else. I like new challenges, though. Maybe one day I'll become a film star. I'd love to become a film star.

Talk: French art house or Hollywood blockbuster?

Roitfeld: Hollywood, of course! It would have to be international, though. What do you think? A remake of The Night Porter with me instead of Charlotte Rampling? One of the reasons it wouldn't be a French film is because your country of origin is always the last to recognize your talent. The English were the first to run big articles on me — funnily enough, because we all know how much the Brits hate foreigners. Mind you, I was all the more flattered.

Talk: How did you feel after the press panned the Gucci show?

Roifeld: It wasn't constructive criticism; it was sheer nastiness. When you reach the top, people are eager to shoot you down.

Talk: Why do you think critics are out to get Ford?

Roitfeld: Because in the fashion business he comes across as the man who has it all, and people don't know him. I remember when he started at Gucci and he called Mario and me to work on his campaigns. Neither of us had heard of him. He didn't become a millionaire overnight, and his success didn't fall out of a tree. If he is where he is now it's through determination and hard work. Parisians seem to have this image of a Texan galloping into town with a Stetson to lasso their best horse: Saint Laurent. But Tom knew that the Saint Laurent steed was going to be hard to harness.

Talk: Do you feel prepared for such a high-profile position?

Roitfeld: I'm not used to hogging the limelight, and I don't particularly like giving interviews, but I'd rather see something I said in a magazine than something I didn't. I wasn't surprised when Condé Nast put me at the helm of French Vogue, for instance, because I'd already read all about it in the papers.

Talk: What editorial voice do you want to give the magazine?

Roitfeld: My own. I'm the archetypal Vogue reader. I enjoy shopping, I understand fashion, I go out, so I imagine I'd be bang on target in a readership survey. My prime concern is going to be, Do I want to go see that film? Do I want to go wear that dress? Am I interested? And I want people to be able to see the clothes clearly enough in the magazine to want to buy them. They must want to look like the girl on the cover. I'm not interested in wispy haired underage nymphets in diaphanous slips sitting morosely in the corner of a page with their backs to the camera. I want to project the image of a woman who's strong, healthy, confident. A real woman. 

Talk: How can you be a style icon and a mother of two?

Roitfeld: I wouldn't say I'm disciplined, because there' s something a little sad about disciplined people. But I'm pretty organized.

Talk: Why do you think Yves Saint Laurent showed up at Hedi Slimane's first show for Dior but not at Ford's show for YSL Rive Gauche?

Roitfeld: I think that Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé, and Catherine Deneuve were at Dior to encourage their former protégé. It's Parisian snobbery. I always find it sad when fashion is reduced to petty political questions of who's sitting in the front row and where. The battle between LVMH and Gucci is looking more and more like The Empire Strikes Back, and I'm fully aware that with my new position I'm going to be caught in the line of fire. It's hard treading on eggshells when you're wearing high heels.

As we can see from this clever and in-depth Talk Magazine interview... Carine Roitfeld was the same person in 2001 as she is still today in 2012! Roitfeld's knowledge of fashion, style, and glamour, as well as her sharp sense of humor has not changed at all throughout the years. She is always herself and has never conformed to anyone else's vision. I truly believe that her new publication CR will be filled with just as much as humor, fantasy, charm, and allure much like her glory days as editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris. She definitely defined an era and she is a total breath of fresh air that is much needed in the fashion and magazine world... can't wait to see what imagination and brilliance she has in store for her publication… the countdown is on!

Carine Roitfeld photographs © 2001 Condé Nast and Talk Magazine.

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Reader Comments (6)

Interesting and marvelous as ever
11 août 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbernie
Great find, Dara! This is a great teaser for the 1st issue of CR. I love Kellina's intro - Kellina, another hell-raiser if I ever met one!
11 août 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Ditto what Mike said, I thought the same thing! I'm not salivating for the first issue of CR! Thank you, Dara.
12 août 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee
So happy you like, Bernie, thank you!
13 août 2012 | Registered Commenterkellina
Michael: yes, yes, and ha ha ha!
13 août 2012 | Registered Commenterkellina
It cannot come soon enough, Lee! Thanks so much for your comment!
13 août 2012 | Registered Commenterkellina

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