Carine Roitfeld, queen of French fashion, reveals her rules for Parisienne chic to a terrified Sophie Heawood
Carine Roitfeld was the editor of French Vogue for 10 years, worked closely with Karl Lagerfeld, is an adviser to Tom Ford and is an absolute titan in the global fashion world. Naturally, what this means to me is that the thought of meeting her is absolutely terrifying, so I sit down in the Parisian hotel where we have arranged to do the interview and tell her this. She is dressed in black, of course, her slightly hunched posture making her look more like her 64 years. She is sipping a tiny coffee, and isnt remotely surprised Im terrified.
People think Im judging, but Im not judging, she says. Im watching. Its different. People sometimes say, My God her eyes will scan you, but its not to judge you. Its to get ideas. Its observation.
Well thats all right then. French Vogue, under her tenure from 2001 to 2011, was a force to be reckoned with. It looked like nothing else. She believed in bold ideas and she loved boobs, even naked on the cover. She loved cigarettes dangling from models mouths. She loved fur. And she loved curves. She used unskinny models Crystal Renn and Lara Stone, and did a cover with the blonde, mainstream-looking model Carolyn Murphy prancing around with Andre J, a black transgender model in a dress and a beard. Would Anna Wintour ever allow such a thing? asked the American website Jezebel at the time.
I have brought the current issue of French Vogue with me and we flick through it together. All the models are the exact same skinniness. I do not like this, she says. I like older women. I like bigger girls. I like black women. I did everything first. But people forget, because people forget everything. I feel totally comfortable with everyone. It is my strength, to be open-minded, always.
It does seem to be true she is even interested in my red handbag, which is made of fake leather, cost about 50 from a small animal-friendly brand shes never heard of, and is bursting at the seams because you put too much stuff in it, she says, as if shes my mum.
After too many years spent reading all those books about how to be chic like a Frenchwoman and hating them so much Id feel compelled to go straight out and buy one about how to date like them, too, and then how to raise children who eat like French enfants, I feel I should be expert in how to be an insouciant yet glamorous Parisian except it hasnt worked at all. I am not remotely chic. My love life is so English its practically Chaucerian. My child subsists on potatoes. So I want to ask this most Parisienne of Parisiennes for her secrets can she make me chic? I have this scarf, you see, and every time I tie it in a knot it doesnt look right. I ask her to tie it better on me, but she takes it off me and ties it better on herself by not tying it at all.