En el periódico británico The Guardian han publicado esta interesante entrevista a Carine Roitfeld, editora jefe de Vogue París. Muy probablemente se trata de una de las 5 personas más influyentes en moda de la actualidad.
Su carrera empezó como modelo y posteriormente empezó a escribir para Elle Francia, tarea que compaginaba con trabajos como estilista freelance. En 1990 a través del fotógrafo Mario Testino conoce a Tom Ford, con quién empieza a trabajar en el espectacular giro de rumbo que protagonizó Gucci en los 90, covirtiéndose en su musa indescutible. En 2001 entra a formar parte de la prestigiosa Vogue París como editora de moda.
Su instinto le ha llevado a crear un personalísimo estilo dónde entrelaza couture púramente parisina, buen gusto, sexo y mucha controversia, signo de una nueva manera de entender y vivir la moda.
"Listening to Carine Roitfeld talk is like having Chanel No 5 eau de parfum dripped, very slowly, into your ear. If it were possible to bottle that accent, it would surely be found to contain the very DNA of sexy-French-womanliness. Her thickly Gallic delivery is cartoonishly seductive, but the kittenishness is spiked by the low, Gauloise huskiness of her timbre. The combination is a heady cocktail of sharp and sweet, like the salted rim of a Margarita.
Roitfeld is the tastemaker's tastemaker. The editor of French Vogue for the past eight years, she shot on to the radar of the wider world late last year when a rumour took hold that Anna Wintour was to be dethroned from her position as editor of American Vogue and replaced by Roitfeld. The moment passed, Wintour remains inscrutable behind her sunglasses and apparently inviolable in her position, but in the wake of the incident Roitfeld has gained a new status. In the boarding-school atmosphere that pervades the fashion industry, Roitfeld was already the sexiest sixth-former, the one all the other girls wanted to be; now she has got everyone wondering whether she just might be the smartest, too.
As she walks into her office six floors above the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in fresh-off-the-catwalk python boots, swinging a curtain of chic glossy dark hair, with thoroughbred-skinny legs and expensive-looking white teeth, Roitfeld looks, nonetheless, a little like Iggy Pop. She has magnetism rather than classic beauty. At 54, her face has aged in the way that a mirror foxes over the years, losing its intial lustre but developing a certain patina. In place of the Devil Wears Prada ice-queen routine one has come to associate with Vogue editorships, Roitfeld is smiley and friendly. She has long been a favourite of the bloggers who chronicle fashion, and two years ago The Sartorialist, the grandest of the blogs, published two photos of her under the heading: "Two Reasons Why Carine Roitfeld Is The Sexiest Editor In Fashion." One of the reasons was that she smiles in photos. True, Wintour sometimes smiles in photos too, but hers is a crocodile's smile, a flinty little thing that reveals a judicious number of small shiny teeth but never quite reaches the eyes. Roitfeld smiles as if she is having fun.
Today, she is dressed in a pale denim skirt, a perfectly tailored navy jacket and a cream silk blouse whose quality is obvious at 20 paces. She poses for her portrait and I compliment her on her boots. "They are good, non? [Martin] Margiela. You know, I think as you get older, the snake is more chic than the leopard."
The only three photographs on Roitfeld's office walls all show half-naked women with their hands in their knickers. When the Guardian photographer remarks on this, Roitfeld shrugs politely, as if to suggest that either (a) she has never noticed or (b) what could be more natural for a woman than to be half-naked with her hand in her knickers? One, by Mario Sorrenti, depicts a model in bridal veil and white bra, with the outline of virginal white knickers painted on her body, along with a picture of a foetus curled inside her flat stomach. In the second, a topless model wears a Minnie Mouse mask and red boxer shorts. The third is a close-up of dark, lean female thighs naked against a fur coat.
Female sexual allure has always been at the centre of what Roitfeld does. She made her name as one part of a glorious trio, alongside Tom Ford and Mario Testino, who together created a decadent aura of sexual allure around the Gucci brand in the 1990s. Ford designed the clothes, Roitfeld styled how the models wore them, Testino took the photos - the Gucci they created together tapped into a look everyone wanted a piece of. Roitfeld describes that time as the best years of her life: it was commercial gold, but it was also very personal, since it was all about her.
"Gucci was totally in my image," she says simply. "Tom used me as - how do you say? - his female half. He would design clothes, and then ask me how I would wear them. I was just thinking about me: how would I wear this shirt, which bag would I carry, which type of ear studs are best, which tights? That's what is important in a picture sometimes: the way you roll up the sleeves of a shirt, the way you handle a bag, the way you cross your legs, these can make the biggest difference."
"Fashion," says Roitfeld, "is not about clothes, it is about a look." This is a crucial and slightly risky distinction for a Vogue editor, because telling your readers they can be chic by buying a new coat brings in money for the major fashion houses, whereas telling them they can be chic by adopting a new way of crossing their legs does not. Roitfeld's idea of Vogue as a brand taps into an idea of feminine allure that is at least in part innate, and timeless, and cannot be bought on the Avenue Montaigne. She tells me that she always remembers "the way someone is dressed the first time I meet them" - which sounds very fashion and shallow, but I think it's interesting that she says the way they were dressed, rather than the clothes they wore. It is not all about labels, for Roitfeld.
She says that, recently, the looks she creates for the magazine have diverged from her personal style, because "I am getting older, and I don't want to be ridiculous." But the Roitfeld look is still very evident in the magazine. Princess Caroline of Monaco, photographed recently on a balcony in a miniskirt and zebra-print Givenchy heels, certainly appeared to be channelling Roitfeld, who styled the pictures. And the editor has her own take on growing old gracefully: "When you get older, you have to stay a bit rock'n'roll so that young people will still be interested in you. The way you move, the way you talk, maybe the way you have your hair in your face a little bit - this keeps you interesting."
It is unusual for a stylist to make it to the helm of Vogue. Most Vogue editors - Wintour in New York, Alexandra Shulman in London, Joan Juliet Buck in Paris before Roitfeld - come from a writing and editing background. "I think it's just me, and Katie Grand [of the British magazine Love] who do it this way," says Roitfeld. She still styles shoots for the magazine, which, she says, "keeps my feet on the earth". She believes in the simple power of beautiful pictures to sell her magazine: in stark contrast to Wintour's Vogue, Roitfeld's cover stars are predominantly models rather than celebrities.
French Vogue is fashion and sex, liberally spiced with controversy. "I like to have something every month that is - how you say? - not politically correct. A little bit at the limit. Sex, nudity, a bit rock'n'roll, a sense of humour. That is very French Vogue," she says. "It is the same with how I dress: I like to wear high heels with sweatpants, to wear white shoes in the middle of winter. I love when things are not quite going together. Even when I am old I will dress like that. Sometimes, when you go to airport and look at the people, you see the worst looks - but the worst looks can give you more ideas than the best looks."
But even at French Vogue, there are limits. "There are some things we never touch. I don't want pictures with violence, I don't want drugs, I don't want horrible things like that." Cigarettes have been a favourite fashion prop in the magazine, but Roitfeld says this is about to change. "Me, I don't smoke. Smoking can be a beautiful gesture for a picture. But it's easy - it's too easy - to make a beautiful picture with a beautiful girl smoking a cigarette. And what is the picture saying, when you have a beautiful girl and she has a beautiful outfit and a beautiful handbag, and a cigarette? No. We have to find a new gesture, I think. Because smoking, it is not good for you. Or for your teeth."
Smart though she is, there are two areas in which Roitfeld seems blinkered by a life immersed in fashion: money and body image. On the recession, she says, "I think differently now when I go to buy something. It's not that I don't want to spend money, but I want to know where the money's going." Which means, she says, only buying evening dresses when she goes to Roberto Cavalli, not daywear, and only buying coats from Maxmara, rather than picking up a gown as well. And sometimes wearing a Chanel jacket with jeans. None of which strikes me as a recession-beating strategy with much roll-out potential beyond the sixth floor of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. On the issue of model size, she points to the fact that her magazine often features the curvier-than-average model Lara Stone (true), but then falls back on the stale old argument about models being naturally thin because they haven't reached their womanly weight yet.
There is a long-running rumour about Roitfeld that she keeps scales in her office, on which to weigh her editors if they look like they have gained weight. (All the Vogue editors and fashion assistants are noticeably slender.) Yes, she admits, she used to keep scales in her office, but they were for weighing luggage on, to check she did not exceed the 25kg airline limit. She took them home, she said, because of people getting the wrong idea.
"I would never do that. Never. I would not be able to work in this business, with all these amazing young girls, if I did not truly believe that beauty can come in many forms. You can be beautiful with big breasts, you can be beautiful in your 40s. If you don't have perfect ankles, still you can move your legs in a certain way and look very sexy."
Roitfeld has been with Christian Restoin, her partner, for four decades; although they are not, in fact, married, she refers to him as her husband. They have two children, Julia, 28, and Vladimir, 24, who both live in New York and work in fashion; Julia, already a front-row fixture, is the subject of a profile in this month's British Vogue. The timing of the French Vogue editorship, says Roitfeld, was serendipitous for family life.
"When I was younger and the children were small, I was not working so hard. I was very lucky, because I had a husband who had a great company and was earning very well, so I had the liberty to raise my kids and not work every day." When the big opportunity came, Roitfeld had the energy and appetite for it. "I think if I had had to work too hard when I was younger, I would not love it so much now. It's like when you squeeze a lemon too hard, you run out of juice. Me, I have plenty of juice."
Indeed. Interviewed on the US television news show 60 Minutes last week, Wintour said she believed there were "probably several" successors eyeing her crown. So, is there any truth in the rumours about Roitfeld and American Vogue, I ask. "No! How you say, there is no rumour without fire? No smoke? Well, in this situation, there was no fire, because I was never, ever approached to go to America. And to be honest, if they approached me, I think it's really not me. I'm good at what I do here and I'm not sure if you put me in that world I would be as good. I think it's much easier to talk to 100,000 women than millions of women across America."
In these delicate situations, of course, an outright denial does not necessarily mean anything. If fashion, at its most basic level, is about keeping up with the Joneses, then at the Wintour-versus-Roitfeld level it is about outmanouevring the opposition, staying light on one's python-skinned heels. "I don't know what I will do next," muses Roitfeld artlessly, "but I cannot do the same for the next 10 years. I love to change. I have been here eight years; I think maybe 10 years is good. But for now, I am very happy in my little Paris."