Carine Roitfeld: ‘I’ve Become Smarter, Wiser And Nicer With Age’

She's the woman who's both epitomised - and helped transform - French fashion. So how does Carine Roitfeld feel about her next venture?

Carine Roitfeld

by Laura Antonia Jordan |
Updated on

So vivid is the world of provocative Parisian glamour that Carine Roitfeld has conjured over the past 30 years that you might imagine she spends her evenings doing something deliciously, ridiculously French. Like reading Balzac in her lingerie. Or canoodling with a lover in a Le Bank café.

Mais non, you are more likely to find Carine in bed with a glass of wine, watching Netflix. ‘Netflix is my new best friend. It’s terrible how addictive it can be,’ she says. ‘I always have a crush on the actors. I have so many in the past year you can’t imagine; I’m not very faithful, my crush always changing,’ she adds with a flash of the devilish humour that runs through her work and conversation. Currently in Florence, she can’t get the sixth series of her latest binge-watch, The Blacklist, in Italy, which is probably no bad thing considering the mammoth scale of the task in hand. She’s here for the debut CR Runway show, which means 90 looks to fit, a host of supermodels to keep happy, and an audience of 3,700 to entertain.

Nine years after she departed Vogue Paris, where she was editor-in-chief for a decade, Carine continues to be one of fashion’s busiest and most influential players, translating her heady blend of brazen sexuality and haute bourgeois gloss to myriad projects. She has her own magazine, CR Fashion Book, and has created collections for Uniqlo and MAC; she consults for brands like Tom Ford (together they were responsible for shaving a G into a model’s pubic hair in the infamous advert from his Gucci days); and last year she launched her own fragrance collection. No wonder she struggles with the ‘occupation’ section of a form. ‘What can I say?’ she shrugs. ‘It’s difficult!’ Her latest venture is CR Runway, an annual show bringing together different designers, co-founded with her son Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld (she also has a daughter, Julia, who is equally indefinable – model-It girl-art director). The plan is that, each year, a different city will host the event; this Florence extravaganza is a collaboration with iconic Italian store LuisaViaRoma, in celebration of its 90th anniversary.

CR Runway’s blockbuster cast – Gigi, Bella, Irina – is testament not only to Carine’s star pulling power, but the affection she garners in the industry. Tonight, a ‘stressed’ Paris Jackson has agreed to make her catwalk debut for her; Lara Stone has been coaxed into latex, which she hates. Disarmingly warm with a passion for championing young talent, it’s not hard to see why she’s a hit with the girls. The feeling’s mutual: ‘I’ve never been jealous of models. I love these girls, even though I’m not model age now.’

Unbelievably, she’s 64 to be precise. Barre, facials with Hervé Hérau and good genes are her secrets, although, ‘I think the best recipe is beauty sleep, non?’ Breakfast is ‘an espresso and a cigarette. Sometimes a croissant.’ Now that is ridiculously French. Still, how does it feel to be in your sixties in an industry that fetishises youth? ‘I don’t say I’m not happy when photographer calls my name and asks for picture because I know it’s not forever! Fashion people, they’re not so faithful, even though I am a very faithful person, they want new blood all the time,’ she says. She has, however, only grown in confidence with age. ‘I’m much better as a date to go for dinner than when I was 18. Then, I was invited to be like beautiful flowers at the table because I was very good-looking and fresh. Now they invite me because they know sitting by me is going to be more fun. I’ve become smarter, wiser and nicer with age.’

She’s also a grandmother to seven-year-old Romy, Julia’s daughter, whom she spoils and shows pictures of all day long. Romy has, she laughs, inherited ‘the same bad taste as the grandmother, she likes leopard, glitter shoes’. Most would dispute her definition of ‘bad taste’; with her unapologetically sexy, sharp style, Carine’s look is so precise that she almost resembles a fashion illustration of Carine Roitfeld (and there’s definitely nothing ‘granny’ about it). Today, that means white high-waisted Balenciaga jeans – like most of us, she finds jeans a ‘nightmare’ to buy, and has hers shortened to show a flash of ankle – a black Alaïa top and those signature kohl-rimmed eyes, hidden behind her hair. A recent operation means she can’t wear heels any more. ‘What about those?’ I ask, gesturing towards her Louis Vuitton sandals, with several inches of block heel. ‘Aah, my work heels,’ she says with a grin.

The secret is to know what works for you. She would never wear a ‘total look’ because she doesn’t like to ‘belong’ to a designer. And the non-stop pace of fashion today, of constant travel and always being on a plane, have forced her to streamline her wardrobe: ‘My best friend, along with Netflix, is my trolley. I learn to travel light.’ It was her dear friend Karl Lagerfeld who encouraged Carine to keep moving, trying new things and to be fearless. ‘He told me: “Madame Roitfeld, everything you’re doing, even if it’s wrong, no one is to do it before you. You have to be the first. Never an editor launched perfume? Do it. Never anyone did such a big show? Do it.” He liked to be the first one all the time.’ Karl was, she points out, the first designer to collaborate with H&M and Carine possesses the same democratic urge. She loves that the CR Runway audience will include students from local schools, so that the show is ‘not just for the same people who see 20 shows a day and are very blasé’.

What if someone watching is inspired to get a job in fashion – what advice would she give? ‘People sometimes think fashion is about just going to the shows,’ she says. ‘It’s a lot of work. It’s a physical job, and you have to love it because there is no weekend in fashion.’ She is, however, keen to let the next generation know one thing. ‘Even though The Devil Wears Prada was fun, we’re not bitchy all the time. I carry my things myself. I get my espresso myself. Me, I am a nice person because I’m a happy person and love what I’m doing. Fashion is to be in a dream.

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