2012 December 24
Best of 2012: Carine Roitfeld Takes Manhattan!
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(NEW YORK) Time for another Daily gem from 2012! Hint: she's added a pretty major Harper's Bazaar gig to the mix since we sat down with her in September. Awaiting September's drop of Carine Roitfeld’s biannual mag, CR Fashion Book, proved to be an exercise in fervently curious patience for the style set. What’s happened since Roitfeld contentiously decamped from her EIC post at French Vogue? The grandma moniker, for starters, which might have something to do with Roitfeld’s newly-channeled “good girl” persona. Don’t worry, though: she’s still a bit crazy and, yes, irreverent. BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV
How are you feeling about your new “baby”?
The idea of the magazine actually coming out is very strange! For almost 15 years, I’ve been talking with Stephen Gan about doing a magazine together. When Stephen was at the printer seeing it actually happen two weeks ago, sending me pictures and everything, it was surreal. After 15 years of talking about this, it’s almost a joke! It’s happened very quickly. I’m excited, stressful, and very anxious. Do you think that’s a good mixture of feelings? And I’m already thinking about the next issue! You cannot stop.
You were pegged for myriad gigs across the mag industry post-French Vogue…
I was asked to do many projects, like to be a Barneys editor, special guest editor of V, special editor of Purple—working with all of my friends, basically. I don’t think that everyone who just leaves a magazine has so much support from all of those titles. Honestly, it’s quite rare, no? I wanted to keep it this way, so that when I see Stefano [Tonchi] or Olivier [Zahm] at the shows, I can have fun with them! I hope we can keep it this way; keep being friends. There is space for everyone.
Besides CR Fashion Book, what other titles were you considering?
It was very difficult to find a name that people could easily remember. I always sign everything with my initials, so it suddenly became evident. We added ‘Fashion Book’ so people would understand that the magazine is about fashion. That’s all. We had no other options. The same thing happened before with the title of my book, Irreverent.
What was the most memorable moment of putting out the first issue?
We were doing a shoot with a beautiful little girl, who was seven or eight-years-old, holding a baby. Suddenly the baby peed all over her. The little girl didn’t scream or drop the baby—she just had this expression of love on her face!
What will CR offer the fashion industry?
It’s about fashion beyond clothes; we’ve been saying that phrase a lot. It’s more of a dream magazine. I’m a dreamer! OK, yes, we work with the fashion industry, but it’s not really about, ‘I want to buy this, I want to buy that.’ CR is about being a collector: you don’t buy a new shirt each day or even month, so it’s the same for CR. There will be a lot of stories with no fashion credits: there’s nothing to buy, and those are my favorite stories! There are no credits on the cover, either. It’s very different from classic magazines.
Does CR offer you the chance to do anything you never did at Vogue?
What I didn’t do at French Vogue and always regretted was help young designers. Same for young makeup artists and hair stylists—I hope there’s more space for them in CR.
How are you going to use that space? What’s the recipe for success?
To make a magazine is to make the perfect dinner: you have amazing ‘guests,’ like Karl Lagerfeld, Bruce Weber, a dress by Mr. Armani, a Ralph Lauren bag. You want them all at your table, but you also want some trendy people, too, like Riccardo Tisci and Nicolas Ghesquière. All that talent needs to get mixed up for a beautiful dinner, and that’s the same approach we’re taking with CR Fashion Book. That would be a great dinner—and a very long evening!
Since half of the 50,000 copies are going to be sold in Europe, and the other half will be sold in America and globally, do you value one audience more than the other?
No, no! The way we were working on the first issue was not especially American or European. It’s open to everyone, and I don’t focus on one public. I’m not choosing my audience or my reader! I don’t know who’s finally going to buy and read it.
But your ideal audience?
I don’t have one. You don’t choose your public, and sometimes you’re very surprised. When bloggers first saw images from the magazine, we didn’t know who would cover it—and we were surprised! I’m sure when I meet my readers I’ll be happy because they must be nice people if they like fashion. It will be people with a certain point of view and a sense of humor. I’m sure it will be people that I’d like to have dinner with; people I could have lots of conversations with. At least I hope so!
What’s your ideal circulation? Do you eventually want to have mass appeal?
We’re always thinking about a larger audience, but when it’s too big, it’s not good. I think you lose a bit of your freedom. I would love to get bigger at some point, though I honestly don’t think it will become a mass magazine. It’s too specific. It’s more like a coffee table book; something you’ll want to collect.
What’s the learning curve been like with CR?
When I became editor-in-chief of French Vogue, I only knew fashion. I got to discover new things about jewelry, writing, things like that. And coming to CR, I had never talked to the advertisers; I’d never met them before.
How is that possible, after a decade of editing French Vogue?!
I don’t know! It’s very interesting for me. In France, everything is quite separate. Of course I knew some of those people, but with CR I had to go and explain to them what this new project, my baby, was all about.
What was that process like?
I had to ask people directly for things. At Vogue, there are many assistants and go-betweens. Here, with CR? No! It’s great, though, because it’s a very reactive and quick process. I went directly to people, and I’m sure they liked that too.
Who did you hit up for the first issue?
I called Frida Giannini directly at Gucci because one of my stories felt like it was missing one of their dresses, and it was very important to me. I asked her, ‘Please, Frida, can you make this happen for me?’ And she answered me directly! It’s a nicer, more personal conversation; you make a case for what you want. My English is not so good, as you can see. But I got my Gucci dress! I got it! Thank you, Frida!
What was it like pitching your very own mag?
It was exciting to talk about it; I like a challenge.
How is CR a challenge?
It’s very me. I thought I was me when I was in Paris at Vogue; but I finally I realized I was in a golden cage. A beautiful golden cage with a beautiful crown. Ten years was a long time, so I decided I wanted to have more freedom. Now, in front of you with CR, is me.
Yeah! In a good and a bad way. With more freedom, you become who you are.
What happens if CR Fashion Book fails?
Everyone works so hard for it be successful, so if it’s not, that will be a big disappointment. But so many people say they want to do a magazine and they never do it. We’ve but we’ve tried our best, and now we’ll see!
Has your aesthetic changed since your days at French Vogue?
I didn’t change, but my tastes changed. At the same time that I was leaving Vogue, I finished my book, Irreverent, about 30 years of my work. When you go back 30 years, it’s a bit like going to a shrink. It’s like, ‘What?! I did that...Oh, and that? Why this? Why that?’ I don’t want to annoy myself or my readers, so it’s still me. But something is different in me. Maybe it’s because I’ve become a grandma, so things change a bit.
What kind of grandma will you be to Romy?
I’ve only been a grandma for three months—I don’t think she even recognizes me yet! 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, Nicole, to her own name [Julia] 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. Did you just cry?
How have those grandma-induced personality changes impacted your work?
Even though I just became a grandma, I’ve always been a mother. So when I did stories [at French Vogue] I didn’t want to show something I didn’t want my kids to see—anything that I didn’t want them to copy. My book, Irreverent, was dedicated to my husband because he quit smoking. And I’ve never used a single cigarette in my shoots since then. Sometimes it’s difficult because a cigarette is an easy way to make a picture! It’s too easy; we have to find something new to make a picture exciting. I’ve become a good girl! Still crazy, but good. Thirty years ago, it was cool to smoke. Now we’ve realized, about 10 years ago, that it’s not good to smoke.
Do you smoke?
Me? No. But I still love the smell of the smoke.
What’s your favorite Carine Roitfeld profile?
The very first one! It wasn’t in France because you’re never queen in your own country. It was published in The Face, in England, and the English are difficult with the French. I was featured as one of the top 10 most important fashion people or something. There was a beautiful black-and-white picture of me. And I still have the dress.
Have any of your industry friends stiffened up since you decided to launch your own mag?
No, I never think I’m in competition with anyone. The word ‘competitor’ is not on my mind. Never! And never with the models, either. Can you imagine feeling competitive with 18-year-old models? I’m the way I am. I’m not better, I’m just different.
Touché! But what about other editors?
Other people like to think this way. I hope other editors don’t feel like I’m taking their advertising. I think we’re each going to be very different.
Why was Town & Country a fitting place to break the story of CR Fashion Book?
They wanted to do a story with me, and I didn’t want to do a big story—I don’t have time, and they wanted Julia [Restoin-Roitfeld] and the whole family with me. Julia’s baby had just arrived and I was working really hard. So I told them to use pieces of an interview I’d done for Harper’s Bazaar. I just saw it, actually—I did not know it would be a big piece!
Why did you put your CR Fashion Book HQ at The Standard’s East Village outpost?
Because it’s in New York! The city invited me. André [Balazs] was very nice to help us with this penthouse and the space on the 18th floor. That’s quite high! It’s a view with an office. For a French girl, that’s really beautiful.
What was the CR-crafting ambiance like?
The magazine felt like a factory: we had so many people passing through, and many of them had never done a photo shoot or styled anything before. And suddenly they became a photographer or stylist by working on this magazine.
You’ve always been very loyal to specific photographers and models throughout your career: Have you been forced to change those ways, or has the shift been intentional?
When I was at French Vogue, it took me years to build this family of photographers. Mario Testino has a contract with Condé Nast, and so does Mario Sorrenti, all of them. They’re all still my friends, even if we’re not working together. Finding new people was exciting, though. And when you find a new photographer, you have to find a whole new team! It definitely opened up my eyes to a new generation of makeup artists and hair stylists that I’d never met before. It’s been a great challenge and very positive. A breath of fresh air.
How does the work ethic differ between making a mag in Paris versus New York?
Even when you’re working at a French magazine, most of the shoots are in America. In New York, I’ve found an energy and enthusiasm that may be missing a bit right now in France. It’s too much about work, work, work in New York, and in France it’s not enough!
How do you feel about your big debut party?
I hope Stephen is going to choose my dress. This is a big problem, non? I need my ‘costume’ for the big opening! Please, Stephen, find one for me!
According to Stephen, you donned your first-ever hoodie on set for one of CR’s shoots. Explain! What does it mean to dress more American?
Sneakers, jeans, sweatshirt. I’ll keep my skirts and my silk shirts, but the hoodie was a present from Stephen, and it’s very good for traveling. I like it, I really do. Sneakers, though? I’m not really into that.
PLUS! Stephen Gan weighs in...The publishing powerhouse has added CR Fashion Book to his Fashion Media Group LLC’s stable of titles, which also includes Visionaire, V, and VMan.
How did this partnership happen?
Carine is a born performer; magazines are her stage, we are the audience, and that’s that. For the past year, I’ve kept telling Carine that I wanted to help give her a stage through one of my magazines.
How do you describe the mag?
If we had done this a few years ago, I would’ve expected something slicker, glossier, darker, and more dramatic. It’s more personal and sort of romantic! The magazine is really heartfelt. It’s the softer side of Carine—an evolution.
Are their any commonalities between CR Fashion Book, V, Visionaire, and VMan?
We’re trying to make it very much its own experience. Some people might say we have similar tastes; in some respects, we do. But it’s like watching two completely different movies coming out of the same studio.
How big of an investment has CR been?
I think Visionaire, V, and VMan are known for being pretty extravagant objects physically. CR had to arrive with fireworks. It wasn’t a launch that we wanted to scrimp on. We want the magazine to last a long time.
Like any magazine today, we had to be very responsible when it came to shooting. That said, there are 15 fashion editorials in one issue, shot all over the world. Carine had such childlike enthusiasm about everything, and that was really contagious. What could be more inspiring? Carine is the farthest thing from jaded.
What’s your biggest concern as the drop date looms?
I just want to do a good job and get it to all the newsstands on time. There are a lot of people out there waiting for copies. We have thousands of copies reserved by people who’ve pre-ordered online. So now, we’re at that point where all of the muffins are baking in the oven!
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