In celebration of Mother's Day, let us acquaint ourselves with the few facts known about Nicola Roitfeld, mother of Carine and grandmother of Julia and Vladimir. Born in Paris, Nicola worked for a time as a script girl, likely the setting in which she first met Carine's father, a film producer. The couple reared Carine and her brother, Pierre, in typical bourgeois Parisian style. In her book Irreverent, Carine shared a bit about her upbringing: "I was raised in Auteil, in the 16th arrondissement of Pairs — a very posh neighborhood. I am the daughter of a Russian-born film producer and a Parisian mother. My father had a bit of a mad streak that I think I inherited. The legendary French actor Louis Jouvet was a witness at my parents' wedding, just to give you some idea of the bohemian chic quality of their relationship."
Carine considered Nicola well-dressed always, a "very classic Frenchwoman" who loved dressing her daughter in top designers from a young age: "My mother was a real Parisian, which makes you immediately understand fashion when you are very young. It’s the way you live and what you see in shops, even if you are not shopping at Dior or Chanel. You know it exists and it’s in your DNA, seeing beautiful people and knowing couture and parfum… My mother's elegance marked me profoundly. She dressed in couture clothing and was always impeccably turned out, even at home. She used to go to the hairdresser three times a week."
Carine fondly recollects helping her mother to apply her eye makeup: "I think I was eight or nine years old. My mother was preparing to go out and she wanted me to help her put her eyeliner on. I remember very carefully putting on her designer eyeliner for her — it is such a strong memory… It was the mid 1960s, and she was wearing a Pucci dress, and I was helping her put on her black eyeliner in a straight line. To be symmetrical can be difficult, so she asked me to do it."
One of Carine's earliest maternal memories continues to influence her work today: "As a little girl my mother would always ask me to cut up the raw meat to feed the dog… It's not starting today — I was a controversial person from the beginning." See "The Butcher" (1997), "Corps & Lames" (2005), "Plaisir Solitaire" (2009), and "Boucherie Desnoyer" (2015) as examples of the persistence of her memory. As for her formative style impressions, Carine remembers craving a close fitting Shetland sweater at the age of 14 and although her mother protested, she won in the end. This early choice epitomizes the essence of Carine perfectly — her knack for making the classic sexy with the devil in the details.
In comparing herself with her mother in the role of grandmother, Carine is most tender, speaking from the heart: "I would love it if my granddaughter loves me as much as my daughter loved my mom. The relationship my daughter had with my mother was so specific. My mother passed away three years ago, and my daughter added her name to her own name after she passed. Her grandma was so important to her. Julia told her everything, about boyfriends, hairdos, bad notes from school: everything I wouldn’t be happy with! My mother would say, ‘No problem, you’re the best.’ When Julia comes to Paris, the first place she goes is her grandmother’s grave. Can you imagine? That’s how much she loved her. And if Romy loves me as much, my God, I’ve done something great. That’s what I wish. " Note that Julia keeps this image of her grandmother on her bedside table; she also posted it to Instagram with the caption "My beauty inspiration." Trop mignon…
Carine mentions her grandfather, the father of Nicola, in Irreverent as well: "Her own father had been a leading French writer and was the editor-in-chief of the satirical political weekly, Le Canard Enchainé. He had been an important figure in the French Resistance newspaper. He was a great figure in the Resistance movement, and a great journalist and political commentator." Greatness begets greatness… Happy Mother's Day to all!
Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent images © 2011 Rizzoli. Restoin Roitfeld family photo courtesy of instagram.com.