>> Carine Roitfeld speaks frequently through the images she creates for Vogue Paris, but the new, erotic-themed issue of Acne Paper provides us with a fly-on-the-wall spot at a candid conversation with the editor.
The woman who will "never wear miniskirts because they make me look older" talks pushing limits — "Never before in Conde Nast's history has there been a transvestite on the cover, and [Andre J.'s cover] sold so well. You think you are going to get into trouble but in the end people are more open than you think" — and dressing demure — "it's always subtle."
But even Carine aspires to be somebody else.
You know the idea of the Saint Laurent woman. What a dream she was: wearing trousers, hand in the pocket, no handbag, transparent shirt. I love that woman. It is exactly who I would have loved to be if I could choose. So I would have to go blonde because he loved the blondes, and I would have to have bigger breasts. But it's the idea of the woman I love, and I try to repeat this in my magazine.
"Jeans are for my assistants." »
You won't catch her in jeans . . .
I only wear jeans and flat shoes when I am on holiday, never for work. Jeans suit me very well but it's not for me anymore. It's horrible to say but it has something to do with age. I have good legs, so I prefer my skirt lengths and my high heels. It's like my uniform. I never wear jeans. Jeans are for my assistants.
. . . Or with labels on her clothes.
If people ask me to describe my look I always say: quite classic with an edge. Look at my [Balenciaga] dress. It doesn't look like I have on anything special, it's more the way you mix the clothes and how you move, how you open your bag, how you cross your legs — just little things that make a difference. With French women you first see the woman and then you see the clothes. Imagine countries like Russia or China, even Eastern Europe. They don't have the culture of clothes so they want to show that they can afford to buy a Dolce & Gabbana bag, they want to show labels. In France you cannot see what labels we are wearing. It is very snobby.
But she does love Cartier.
Do you know why? Because Cartier is the jewelry you give to your mistress. It is not the jewelry you buy for your wife. I heard that and it might be totally wrong, but it is this idea and I love Cartier because of that.
She doesn't weigh her editors.
In France we drink wine and eat cheese and bread and finally we stay slim. I am skinny, and all my girls are skinny. People think I weight my girls in the office but I do not. We have a scale in the office because we travel a lot and sometimes you can't bring more than 25 kilos a case. It's just to weigh my luggage, not to weigh my editors. Still, you know it's easier to look great in a dress when you are skinny. But I like a bit of curves and I like to do stories with different kinds of women because I see beauty in everyone.
She feels unrecognized . . .
It's funny, because I never get awards for fashion. I've got an award for being the best-dressed person. I got an award for amfAR. I was on the Time magazine list of the most influential people last year. But I never got an award for my fashion pictures.
. . . But knows she has power . . .
It's great to have the power. I understood some years ago that we have a lot of power. I never thought I would get power before. The power to make everyone you want successful. You have the power to make a photographer a big photographer. You have the power to make a designer a top designer. You have the power to make a model a supermodel. It is great this power, so you have to use this power in a good way.
. . . And a subconscious thing for knives.
I think sometimes I need a psychiatrist just to understand what I did in my pictures. You know, I have been repetitive about eroticism. And knives. Why do I put knives in the pictures? I hate knives. So it would be very interesting to ask a psychiatrist to understand what you are doing in a picture.
She used to do very sexually charged images, but now "it's too much."
Now we have to put the foot on the pedal [with sexually charged images]. We can't go as strong as [Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin] did back then. When I started doing all the Gucci campaigns with Tom Ford and Mario Testino we pushed so much and after that everyone copied it. Everyone tried to be this Gucci girl that we created. So I am sure we were part of this tendency. It was good at the time because we were the first ones to do these kinds of images to sell a product, and after that everyone kept on doing it. I think now it's too much. It's no fun. It's not chic. We always had a chic eye on everything, even when we shaved the G on the girl. A lot of girls started shaving their p*ssy in different ways after that so it really became a trend. Many artists played with the pictures too, so it was fun.
People thought she was a nymphomaniac.
There was a moment when I was working a lot with Mario Testino and people thought I was a nymphomaniac. I said: Why? And they said: Because your pictures are always about sex. But Mario and me are just great friends. When we finish a story that might have been very sensual and erotic, we go back to the hotel for a cup of camomile tea. So finally we have a very normal life.
"Each issue of Vogue is like a lunch."
Do you remember the film Babette's Feast? Babette spends many weeks and all her money on preparing one meal. And it's a little bit the same with Vogue. It seems simple when you look at it but if you look behind, it's a big process to give you this magazine. Okay, we are in good business condition but we also do it out of pleasure. It's not just the money. We take pleasure in making a wonderful lunch, with the appetizers, the main course, a bit of alcohol, dessert, and coffee. Everything is there to make you have a great lunch.
She never refers to archives for inspiration.
Of course, I am full of images, from TV, the movies, the newspapers. I am exposed to images all the time but I am not searching for special things. They just pass in front of me and subconsciously I must pick things up, naturally and instinctively.
And advertisers will never get the best of her.
Everyone is just anxious. Now it is product, product, product. We were big dreamers, and it made all the difference. When I am doing a story I try to be a dreamer. Now I have a market and I have advertisers but we still have freedom because we are talking to our readers, not the advertisers. Of course, when advertisers come into our magazine they become partners but not on every level. They do not carry the magazine. So I keep on being a dreamer in the stories that I'm doing.