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Interview

Carine Roitfeld on her signature look and must-have fashion buys

The former Vogue France editor and super stylist reveals her fashion tips and go-to wardrobe staples

With her impeccable Parisian uniform of pencil skirts, sharp jackets and vertiginous heels, there can be no mistaking style icon Carine Roitfeld. The former editor-in-chief of Vogue France is known the world over for her signature look and her legendary styling skills, which have seen her transform the likes of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Aniston for magazine covers. Here she talks to us about feeling young at 69, her favourite designers and why she doesn’t own many clothes.

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin
Photography: Hedi Slimane

The first thing Carine Roitfeld tells me when she answers the phone from her apartment in Paris is that she hasn’t read a single one of the questions I sent over in advance. “I never look at the questions before I speak to someone, because I prefer to be spontaneous,” she says in her thickly accented French drawl. “I’m a very spontaneous person. Even if sometimes that’s dangerous…” Roitfeld is the rarest of breeds – a woman who has climbed to the highest echelons of the fashion world, as one of the industry’s most instantly recognisable figures and the former editor-in-chief of Vogue France, yet doesn’t take herself too seriously. In fact, she doesn’t take herself seriously at all.

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin
Photography: Karl Lagerfeld

Case in point? The new lease of life she’s found in her late 60s, which has seen her move from the left bank to the right bank – “in Paris, that means a lot” – take up smoking and get her very first tattoos. “I totally changed my life five years ago. I’m living on my own, so everything in my apartment is for me – I don’t have to ask someone if they like it or not. I got my first tattoos six months ago – the initials of all the people I love, dead or alive, in Russian on my fingers – and I’m going to get more tomorrow. Everything people say no to, I say, ‘Why not?’ It’s about freedom – I feel more free now than ever.”

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin
Photography: Karl Lagerfeld

Roitfeld recently turned 69 and to celebrate she hosted a glamorous party at Parisian nightspot Raspoutine, where she was joined by the likes of Eva Longoria, Poppy Delevingne and Honey Dijon. She likes being 69 so much, she’s decided not to bother turning 70. “It’s a great number, very graphic, so I think I’ll just stay here,” she says. When I ask what it’s like working in an industry that’s obsessed with youth, she shrugs it off. “Fashion is about youth, yes, but old people are something of a trend right now. Just look at Loewe’s latest campaign [starring an 88-year-old Dame Maggie Smith]. I’ve never had as many covers as I’ve had in my 60s. And I don’t feel old. I’m always surrounded by assistants in their 20s, that’s what keeps me young.”

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin
Photography: Karl Lagerfeld

For Roitfeld, being at the centre of the zeitgeist is nothing new. The daughter of a Russian-born film producer and a Parisian mother, she grew up in the French capital, where she began her career as a model, after being fascinated by her mother’s fashion magazines as a child. She found her calling in publishing, spending 15 years as a writer and stylist for French Elle

In 1990, she met Mario Testino on a shoot, and together they went on to craft the hedonistic, high-glamour aesthetic that defined that era. She was named editor-in-chief of Vogue France in 2001, where she became known for her boundary-pushing shoots and her distinctive silhouette: pencil skirt, nipped in jacket and skyscraper heels. 

Despite being one of the most powerful women in the industry, Roitfeld admits she found it tough when she left Vogue in 2011. “When you’re there, it’s like you have a crown. And then afterwards, you just go back to being a normal stylist. But it’s at times like that you really find out who your friends are – and I have a lot of good friends.”

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin
Photography: Karl Lagerfeld

One of those friends is Tom Ford, whom Roitfeld worked closely with for many years. The pair rose through the ranks together during the 90s, and when Ford landed the role of Creative Director at Gucci in 1994, he enlisted Roitfeld to help him revive the sleepy Italian brand. As Ford’s muse, Roitfeld helped him turn Gucci into a global superbrand. The other instrumental man in her life was Karl Lagerfeld, who snapped her up as a collaborator as soon as she left Vogue. “Karl was like a second father to me; he protected me,” she says. Roitfeld relished the chance to be “thrown into the Chanel DNA”
and said the pair always had a lot of fun together.

Alongside her work with fashion greats, Roitfeld launched her own magazine entitled CR Fashion Book. which she now runs with her son, Vladimir – she also has a daughter, Julia Restoin Roitfeld, a designer and creative director. The magazine has become known for its avant-garde covers, which feature global superstars styled with an irreverent twist – Roitfeld’s trademark. Kim Kardashian recently appeared on one with a buzz cut, while Jennifer Aniston was pictured in a leather bra for the tenth anniversary issue.

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

Kardashian, who’s something of a muse for Roitfeld, also appears on the front of her latest coffee table book, Fantasies, which is made up of a selection of Roitfeld’s favourite shoots over the years. Roitfeld was the first fashion editor to take Kardashian seriously, a fact she’s proud of. “When Riccardo Tisci introduced me to her, I thought she was beautiful and lovely – I immediately knew I wanted to photograph her,” she says. “I did her first editorial fashion story, and Kim is very faithful – she’s never forgotten that.”

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

Roitfeld has also just launched a new home fragrance line and a perfume, Forgive Me, the latest addition to her eponymous fragrance collection. Her daughter, Julia, is the face of the fragrance, “because she’s beautiful, but also to keep the legacy of the brand”. She is also poised to bring out a range of her own eye makeup next year, inspired by her signature smoky eye look. There’ll be eyeshadows – in her favourite shades of black and khaki – mascara, wet-look glitter – “because I think that looks so sexy” – and eyebrow brushes, but no eyeliner pencils. “Everything is designed to put on with your fingers, because that’s how I do my own eyes. There’s no foundation or lipstick – I don’t have a nice mouth – so it’s just eyes.” 

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin
Photography: Hedi Slimane

It’s bound to be hugely popular; after all, her distinctive look is a source of inspiration to many. She doesn’t really have any style icons herself, she says, but has “a lot in common with Coco Chanel, in terms of the way we dress – though I have more waists on my jackets than she did. But she created a uniform for herself, to make life easy.
I like the fact she always had pockets – she was a bit masculine in the way she dressed, even when she was wearing skirts, and she never copied anyone else. I like to keep and rewear the same outfits. I don’t have a lot in my wardrobe, but what I do have I wear again and again. I guess I’m a bit boring in that way. That’s why I’m getting tattoos now – to be less boring!” 

Carine Roitfeld’s Classic Wardrobe Staples

People are always surprised when they find out I don’t have many clothes. I like wearing a uniform – mostly in black or khaki – because it keeps things simple. Everything I have is perfect on me, because I’m picky, but I don’t have a lot of clothes. I’m always editing my dressing room; it’s very small. And now when I travel, I just take a carry-on, even if it’s for two weeks in New York. That would have been impossible ten years ago, but now I can do it. I’ve become wiser when it comes to choosing clothes, and I like the freedom. 

One of the main items in my wardrobe is a Rick Owens pencil skirt. I have about 15 of them – some for winter, for summer, transparent ones, knee-length, long… It’s my silhouette now. People don’t think that Rick Owens does pencil skirts, but they’re the best. They’re the perfect shape on me, and they’re also cool. They don’t look bourgeois because they’re a bit punk-ish. The way they’re cut is great, with the long slit behind, and they have pockets, so it feels a bit like wearing trousers. I started wearing them when I was at Vogue France because all the girls there were in jeans and I wanted to look different. 

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

The Pencil Skirt

Rick Owens

£500

The other main thing you’ll find in my wardrobe are jackets, always with a waist – I have about six, I think. Some have bigger shoulders, some have smaller ones, but they always need to have a waist. My favourite from this season is by Saint Laurent, which has these big shoulders that are just amazing. I also have great ones from Tom Ford and a special one from Balenciaga with the fake hips, the Hourglass Jacket. Plus I have a couple of leather jackets and one in snakeskin that Riccardo Tisci gave me.

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

The Blazer

Saint Laurent

£2,520

I always tend to look a bit similar, but I play more with colour with my shoes. I like black shoes, of course, but I’ve also got glitter, silver, yellow… I just bought a greeny-yellow pair from Loewe that I love. I have a lot of Balenciaga heels at the moment, because I love pointy shoes – I think they’re very chic. I also have bespoke shoes Gianvito Rossi made for me, usually with a wrap around the ankle. That’s my signature, because I have good ankles. At Vogue I always wore high heels, because when you work with tall people, I like to be able to look them in the eye. Wearing heels totally changes the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you talk. You’re another person.

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

The Court Shoe

Loewe

£695

I’m very lucky to have had some designer friends who have made me couture gowns over the years, so I keep all of those. I’ve got an evening dress that Riccardo Tisci created especially for me, which I’ve had for maybe 20 years. It’s bias cut and is all white with a black scarf. I also have another one from his Chinese collection, which has hand-painted dragons on the top. It’s very fitted, very sexy. 

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

The Corset Belt

Alaïa

£1,720

When I don’t know what to wear, I’ll usually turn to something by Alaïa. I love their leather corsets, worn over a t-shirt with a skirt. In the summer, I wear jeans. I have two pairs of old Levi’s, which belonged to my brother when he was 18. Now he’s 70, so you can imagine how destroyed they are; they have a story. I usually finish off my look with big sunglasses. I’m not wearing the Rick Owens ones anymore, because they’ve become too popular, so I’m wearing a lot of old ones. But I’m going to buy a new pair from Porsche, because I love big glasses. 

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

The Oversized Sunglasses

Porsche

£249

Carine Roitfeld’s Favourite Designers 

There are a few designers that I always wear – Maison Margiela, Saint Laurent, Rick Owens. I’m going to the Rick Owens store soon and that’s always very dangerous. They know me there, so they always prepare what they think I’m going to like. Miu Miu is another brand I love, but I think sometimes it’s a bit too girly for me. I don’t like things that are too girly – if you give something to your daughter, never take it back. There is no sharing. If it’s good for her, that means it’s not for you anymore.

I’m a big fan of British designers. I’ve always admired Vivienne Westwood, the way she mixed punk with more classic tailoring. That’s very chic. I worked a bit with Richard Quinn, who’s totally the opposite of what I like – I don’t like print and he loves it – but his work is great, even if it’s not for me. And I really like Nensi Dojaka, particularly her very feminine dresses. But for me the real genius was Lee McQueen. I was so sad when he passed away, because he was a fantastic tailor. I love the British craziness, because we don’t have that in France. We’re more classic, but in England you have this freedom, mixing things in a way we can’t.

Carine Roitfeld Interview On Chic Style And Key Fashion BuysPin

The Vest

Rick Owens

£220

When I go to London, I always try to find time to visit Dover Street Market. It’s much better than the one we have in Paris. I always find something to buy there, and it’s a way to see the new pieces from the likes of Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe, and other designers I love. I’ll also jump on the bus to Harrods, to visit the perfume section there. It’s the best place to pick up a new fragrance. 

Carine Roitfeld’s Style Tips 

I describe my personal style as classic with an edge. I’ll always do something that changes a look, something surprising, like the colour of the shoes, or a skirt and jacket that aren’t perfect together but look great. It’s the same when I’m doing my shoots; there always needs to be something spontaneous, something that’s not quite right but still looks good. It’s how I feel about my hair too, which is why I always cut it myself, and my makeup, which I always put on with my fingers. For me, it’s the imperfect that makes it beautiful.

For French women, what you wear under your clothes is as important as what you look like on the outside. We always wear nice matching underwear, a nice slip dress, nice tights – it’s very important. It’s something we’re taught from when we’re little. French women are also very classic and modest – a lot of black, trench coats, a jacket from Chanel or Dior. When it comes to clothing, we keep things simple.

The Best 26 New Fragrances Of 2023 Chosen By Beauty EditorsPin

The Pefume

Carine Roitfeld
Forgive Me

£58

I will never leave the house without putting some black on my eyes and some perfume. Perfume is the last accessory you put on, whether it’s before going to sleep, or before going out. Always. All of my fragrances have some patchouli in them, because when I was a young girl, I couldn’t afford perfume from Chanel or Dior. So, I went to the Indian store instead and bought little bottles of patchouli. That was my first ever fragrance. 

Forgive Me by Carine Roitfeld is available at harrods.com
carineroitfeld.com

 

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