The Untitled Magazine sat down for an interview with la reine de la mode, Carine Roitfeld, star of the new film “Mademoiselle C”. For those of you in the fashion industry, you know her as the fashion icon and driving force behind French Vogue for over 10 years. For those of you that are hearing about her for the first time, you will undoubtedly love her spirit and unstoppable, fearless attitude.
There was much speculation when the queen of Paris stepped down from her throne as Editor in Chief of French Vogue. Where do you go from the top, when you have to start over? Well if you are Carine Roitfeld you don’t stop… you launch your own fabulous magazine, and take over as the first Global Fashion Director of Harper’s Bazaar.
I got a chance to chat with with Carine Roitfeld and “Mademoiselle C” director Fabien Constant about the new film, starting over, and conquering the fashion world not once but twice.
Indira Cesarine: What was your very first reaction to the movie when you saw it?
Carine: I immediately accepted to do the documentary as a behind the scenes of the first issue of my new magazine CR Fashion Book. When I saw it for the first time on the big screen, I saw and listened to myself and I hated it. It was very difficult but I tried to get over myself and focus on the content of the film. I think it was very honest and it showed a different point of view than what I would do. The scenes were very interesting even for me as therapy. I never saw myself in this way. It was very interesting.
Fabien: And less expensive than a shrink!
Was there a mission in mind when you planned the film? Or was it purely from a documentary point of view?
Fabien: It was a documentary point of view. I was interested in capturing Carine’s amazing life but I also wanted to tell a story. The creation of this magazine was the best story I could tell. I knew a few things were going wrong with this magazine. I knew Carine and her personal life would be involved in the process because she mixes everything together. It turned out better than expected because this first issue is about rebirth and it happened that baby Romy had taken even more room in the movie than Carine. She is the center of the movie. At the end of the day, it’s about birth. It took us nine months to shoot the documentary and to plan this was like a pregnancy. It was about Julia being pregnant and the first meeting in the beginning of the documentary. Everyone was afraid of the microphone and the camera in the beginning. At the first meeting everyone was all around a table with Carine and they were talking about how obsessed they are with this baby coming. Suddenly Julia arrives just to say hello and she’s pregnant. She’s maybe carrying the next cover you see what I mean, it’s a full circle. It was meant to be a story of a magazine – which becomes the portrait of a lady.
What was the most difficult part of your transition from French Vogue to having your own publication?
Carine: It was very quick transition. It was not difficult, but it was different. French Vogue was amazing. Editor in Chief was a beautiful title to have and will keep going. There was one before me and it will keep on after me … it’s okay. When you start on your own, it’s very different. You have a very small team and you have to do everything by yourself. There is no longer an office… I had to be more strategic. There was no office! I wasn’t fearful. It’s very exciting and immediately the day I finished at Vogue, I was called to do a special project with Barneys. After Barney’s there was another project… And then it never stopped. Honestly, I never worked so much and I didn’t have the blues. I worked a lot on so many different projects. I think freedom is a luxury; it’s a genius luxury. I love it and I don’t want to leave it. Now I have two phones. Before I just had one French one. And the office was bigger but that’s about it. It’s very exciting because you’re working for yourself. You make errors for yourself and after you can decide your own project. This would be impossible if I was still at Vogue because there is no room for errors. I could not do a book with Karl Lagerfeld, the cover girl of M.A.C or be working for Harper’s Bazaar. All these projects I did … I’m very happy because it would have been impossible before. After ten years, it’s like a new life for me. It’s very exciting and finally I go back to the real me. I was more blonde before and now this is my real hair color. I get to go back to what I really was. It’s true because you change yourself and you’re not entirely you. Even your hair color changes and the way you are. Suddenly now it’s totally me for the good or the bad. It’s the real color!
A new start and new beginning! The theme of the issue was rebirth. It’s like a rebirth for me and because my daughter was pregnant, all we wanted were babies everywhere. It keeps you young. It gives you a lot of energy and I keep working really hard!
There is always obviously a lot of risk in making this decision to leave French Vogue since it was your crown as you mentioned.
Carine: This crown, a lot of people are talking about this crown. When you go to a big job like Vogue, it’s a big title. You have a crown or a team and you have a lot of respect from everyone because you have a great title. When you go away, you give back your crown. It’s normal and you have to rebuild yourself. If I have a crown today, it’s because I will make that crown myself. It will be totally different. It will be more important.
Have you ever wondered what the worse case scenario would be, venturing out on your own?
Carine: Having no work? I never think this way. I’m fearless. I always think something good is happening. I love to work. I have talent and I’m a good stylist. If you believe in yourself, there is no doubt. I had to find the right thing to do and I think I found it. I have no time to be anxious. Immediately after one day I started again. No time to go to the spa, no time for any of that!
Where do you see CR Fashion Book going?
Carine: I don’t know… it’s still a small title. There are so many magazines! It’s difficult, there are so many… I wanted to create a book that all people are going to collect. We were working to develop something online because it’s always interesting in comparison to paper. I don’t think we can grow so much with readers. We will never be like a Vogue. It’s impossible because this is a small magazine. We want to keep it exclusive. If it’s too big you can’t be creative. People that will love CR are people in fashion that understand my craziness and creativity. I hope I can keep this going for many more years. I love my team but we are very small. It can be more fun; we can have fun working together. We are full of projects. It’s interesting – there is also my position at Bazaar, which is very different as it has a huge visibility. The two balances: one creative thing for a smaller group of readers and something bigger for 11 million readers.
How does your approach differ from Bazaar to CR?
Carine: I’d say I take more risks with CR. Bazaar is more for everybody. It is to please people in China or someone in San Paolo, or maybe someone who is not so involved in fashion. We do great fashion stories as best as we can and we use great photographers. There are a lot of people to please. With CR I can take risks.
You talk in the movie about the challenges you faced with photographers that you couldn’t work with anymore – as they were on contract with Vogue – and having models cancel on you… How did you overcome this?
Carine: It was difficult because these photographers had contracts – meaning they could not work with me. I think in a way it was my great luck because it would mean I would be working with the same people still. Now I have to push myself to find new people, new photographers, new make up artists, new hairdressers, new art direction, new sets, and new, new, new people. I’m lucky because it means it is a fresh magazine. You will have big names like Karl Lagerfeld, Armani, or Givenchy. You have very young designers and very young photographers. Old mixed together with new makes a very rich magazine. I think this is a strength for CR. If I could do everything again with the same teams from Vogue it would not be as good, as new and such a challenge. I think risk is good and I love risk!
Do you ever fathom that you would ever become this big in fashion?
Carine: No, honestly no. I never planned on having this career. This happened this way because of people I met. I met some people, like Mario Testino, which was great for me because he took me to another level. After I met Tom Ford who brought me to Gucci, it made me international. I never thought I would become Editor of French Vogue and have a documentary about my work now. The big screening is on Friday, which I’m anxious about. I have never taken things seriously but I’m a hard worker and I do take some things seriously. Doing the film was tough but now we laugh about it and know that we have a good souvenir. It makes me happy because each day we work harder and I know what I’m doing. I loved working with people like Fabien. It is important to work with positive people. It’s my new way of thinking, I want to work hard and I want to be happy with the people I’m working with. It is not Star Wars on the set. There are no big egos. Everyone is working hard together. No one is fighting about when he or she can eat lunch or what time they finish. They are here to work and here to focus. I was missing the young energy, which was like a revelation to me because these people are full of energy. It’s good when you like what you are doing and meeting new people.
Do you prefer New York or Paris?
Carine: I’m very lucky because I live in both cities. It’s different because if I have a day off in Paris its delicious but here I think its good because I see my kids and my granddaughter who are full of energy. Honestly it is easier to work in New York than it is to work in Paris. I’m very happy to have my French education and background but when you want to make your dreams come true, New York is it!
Why did you decide to relocate and have the magazine offices here?
C. It’s easier for me and for the magazine CR Fashion Book. I have a long friendship with Stephan Gan. He has a lot of magazine experience. It was much easier to come here because all my team, including Stephan was here. I was always traveling and it made more sense than everyone traveling to Paris!
– Interview and portrait by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
“Carine Roitfeld ran French Vogue for 10 years, building a reputation as one of fashion’s most influential movers. Her inner circle of friends includes Donatella Versace, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Mario Testino, Riccardo Tisci, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Alexander Wang. Yet few people outside the fashion world have heard of her…until now.
Mademoiselle C chronicles Carine’s launch of her new magazine “CR Fashion Book.” It gives a rare inside glimpse at the inner workings not only of Roitfeld’s professional world but also her personal life. It is a film about transition, letting the audience watch as Carine moves to New York, starts a new business, and prepares to become a grandmother. And of course, its filled the the models, celebrities, and eccentric personalities that make the fashion world so entertaining.”