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The Sydney Morning Herald

TRES CHIC

Author: DEBORAH ROSS
Date: 22/01/2011
Words: 2063
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Good Weekend
Page: 19
With her 10-year reign at French Vogue set to end, Carine Roitfeld has the fashion world buzzing about what she'll do next. Here, she gives her tips on which styles are timeless (and which are " 'orrible") and why she'll always love Kate Moss. By Deborah Ross.Okay, Carine Roitfeld, editor-in-chief of French Vogue for the past decade, iconic stylist and "best-dressed woman in the world", let's get you working here. No one likes a slacker, and I seriously need someone to tell me what's in and what's out. Ready? Let's go ... Military? "In. Always. Classic." Animal prints? "I no like for myself, but will go on forever, I think." Gladiator sandals? "I like, but must have heel." Ugg boots? "I don't like. This boot is lazy and is huggly." Crocs? "They are 'orrible!" But so comfy, non? "Non. All the nurses wear, and I think is 'orrible, 'orrible." Pashmina? "Always out." Fur? "Out." Waiting lists for $8000 handbags? "To wait

for something because it has a label on it? It's ridiculous. I don't like."

So what does she think of my outfit today? "You are trying today?" she asks. I am, I confess. "I think you are comfortable in this but it is not what I would wear," she says.

I am with Roitfeld in Paris, at her wondrous apartment overlooking Place des Invalides. It is the sort of home you see in magazines and that always makes you gasp, "But who gets to live like this? Who?" It is all spectacular architectural features - colossal fireplaces, fantastic mouldings - and very little else beyond a couple of classic Knoll sofas and a massive vase of lilies.

"Carine," I ask, "where is your stuff?" "Stuff?" she queries. You know, the pile of post that's been accumulating since God knows when. The fruit bowl with the topless pens in it, and the late tax return. The fruit bowl, even? "I have a lot of places to hide things," she says. I wonder: is it because real life, unlike high fashion, can be ugly and messy and imperfect and must be shut away? She says, "People always say to me, 'You must have such a big wardrobe', but I do not. I do not keep things. Maybe some vintage dresses because I can give to my daughter, but has to be very special. I feel happy minimal. It makes my mind more clear."

Roitfeld is wearing a peachy Hermes shirt, a sandy-coloured Balenciaga miniskirt and new-season Gianvito Rossi boots. They are grey suede, high-heeled, peep-toed and thigh-high, with ribboned laces. Astonishing. I count the eyelets: 70 per boot. "They must take forever to lace up," I say, admiringly. She says, "No. Two minutes. They stretch. Like the sock." I ask if she ever has days when she can't be bothered and just mooches about in old trackies and a big T-shirt. She says that is never her style. "I may wear the leggings on Saturday, or flat boots, but I always make an

effort because I am running a fashion magazine, so it is like a uniform, non? Also, it make me feel strong. If I am lazy, then I do not feel strong."

Described as "the tastemaker's tastemaker", "the ultimate style-setter" and "the most watched woman on the front row", Roitfeld appears to be worshipped by designers. "She's funny, she's sexy, she's perfect," says Tom Ford. "She has an eye and she has a vision," says Karl Lagerfeld. ''She's great," says Marc Jacobs, who may generally be a man of fewer words, although I couldn't say for sure. And she is great. She smiles. She is friendly. When she asked, "Are you trying today?" she did so with true concern rather than a sneer. (Is that worse? I don't know.) And she is fabulous to look at. She is 56 and terrifically sexy, with huge, smoky eyes, those famed Oliver Stone-style eyebrows and the sort of legs that go up to her armpits, although not literally, as that would be hideous.

"When you are a woman," she says, "you have to know what you have good, non? And you have to take advantage. I have two good things. I have good legs and I have good eyes." She also has lovely smooth skin. Botox? She insists not. She says she has a special kind of treatment that means she is massaged from inside her mouth. "The only thing I'm doing for my face is this inside massage. They put on gloves like the dentist and massage inside because all your stress is in your jaws." It sounds gruesome, I say. "It is very hurt," she says, "but is my beauty secret."

I ask her if she ever gets - gulp - bored with fashion. Do you ever think, "A skirt is a skirt is a skirt is a skirt. To hell with skirts"? She says no, she is still excited by it all. "I still love fashion. I love to go to fashion shows. Not all of them, because some are boring, but some are so exciting. I'm an image-maker. That is what I like. I like to think, 'How do I show this skirt?' " Is there, I ask, a new black I should know about? "Black," she says, "is the new black." Phew, I say. That's easy enough at least. "But

if you want to be trendy this season, you must wear with navy shoes and navy handbag and lacy tights and a shucker." A shucker? "Oui, a shucker. A black velvet shucker." She points to her neck and makes a garrotting motion. Ah, a choker ...

In her charming accent, "r" sometimes becomes "w", so that "really" is "willy". When I tell her I was terrified of meeting her, she says, "Willy? You think I will be bitch?" I say I have seen The Devil Wears Prada. She says, "Willy? You like? I saw on a plane. I think it is not very interesting." She did, though,

enjoy The September Issue, the fly-on-the-wall documentary about Anna Wintour and American Vogue. "Anna is very strong to accept to be filmed," she says. "Is very tough, I think. But in another way I think for people not in fashion, they willy understand the magazine quite well." I say I was struck

by two things. First, Anna's bob, which, one day, will surely join under her chin, and, second, by how bored she looks all the time. She's got the top job in fashion and yet I've seen street cleaners who look as if they're having more fun. "She is not bored," Roitfeld says. "I worked for her for many years at American Vogue before I went to French Vogue and I learnt a lot. She's very strong, very direct. If she didn't like someone or something, she would say, 'Carine, I'm sorry, I will not use it.' She said it herself, immediately, and I liked that. I have no problem with her." I ask Roitfeld, who is due to end her 10-year tenure as editor-in-chief at the end of this month, "Do you work like that?" No, she says. "I always ask advice of my team. It is very difficult to be the only one to judge and decide."

Roitfeld was appointed editor of French Vogue in 2001, but unlike Anna Wintour and Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, Carine does not come from a writing/editing background. She is first and foremost a stylist, an image-maker, as she says, and her images are extraordinary, sometimes shocking, always thrilling and, in a way, to hell with the label. "If you are selling a fashion magazine, you have to show a lot of clothes," she says. "The first thing we always think is not the brand, but the woman, the model." And like the models she features, people are always scrutinising her much-copied look.

How would she describe it? She says she hopes she doesn't have a look. "I do not like total look," she says. "I do not like conformist. I love white shoes in winter, for example, and white shoes with black tights. I like black bra under transparent shirt. I always take the opposite."

Roitfeld was born into glamour. her

grandfather Jacques Roitfeld was a Russian Jew who fled Odessa (in present-day Ukraine) and made for Paris, where he became a filmmaker. His son, Vladimir (Carine's father), then took over the production company. Carine's childhood sounds exciting. She attended Cannes and film premieres and once met the Queen. And her mother, Nicola, a one-time script girl, was tres chic. "She was always wearing the Pucci dresses," says Roitfeld.

Her first personal fashion memory, she thinks, was when she was 14 and hankered after a tight-fitting Shetland jumper. Her mother bought her one in the end, but not happily. "It was tiny, tiny, tiny and she say it will not last." It sounds like non-roomy, itchy hell, I say. She says, "Itchy? Non." She started her career as a model, but knew she would not make it to the top. "I have interesting face but I am not beautiful," she says. "I am too Iggy Pop-looking." She became a writer and stylist for Elle, then collaborated with photographer Mario Testino, producing iconic images for magazines such as The Face. One was of Eva Herzigova in a blood-splattered apron butchering raw meat.

"When I was a little girl," she explains, "my mum has dogs and I love to cut the meat of the dog." You cut up her dogs? "Non, I love to cut

the meat for the dog. I love the feeling of cutting meat and I love to touch raw meat." Why? "I don't know. Is very sensual. I think I need to see shrink!" Roitfeld later joined forces with Tom Ford as his muse for Gucci and Yves St Laurent in the '90s, and her name was established. She just made everything terrifically sexy, probably because she is just so terrifically sexy herself.

When I ask what she was like at school, she comes back with, "I was always the first, the best." In every subject? "Everywhere, the best." But you didn't go on to higher education? "No, because when I get to 18 I stop being good student." Why? "Because I discover nightclubs."

I ask Roitfeld if she has to buy her own clothes, or do the designers just unload a ton of stuff on her doorstep each day. She says she buys her own, of course. And what's the most you have ever spent? "I would not say it was on clothes. It would be on jewellery." Okay, what is the most you've spent on jewellery? "I just bought in an auction a Salvador Dali piece of jewellery. Is beautiful and I spent ?2200 [$2850]." That's not mad money, I say. "Was a lot for me," she says.

She used to hate jewellery but loves it now. "I say jewellery is better before 25 and after 60, and now 60 is not far off, I am allowed to wear again." Do you mind getting older? "Yes!" What's the key to looking good as an older woman? "You need a husband like mine. 'Orrible. He tell you the truth. Willy, he do. He say, 'Okay, you have a nice silhouette and you don't have stomach but a bikini is not good for you now. Okay, you have nice legs, but better to wear long skirt for the beach.' I cannot be in competition with a girl of 20, so I have to be the best in my category."

Our intended one hour together goes to two and then three. She shows me a photograph of herself meeting Vivienne Westwood, whom she adores. "She is older woman, but still very rock'n'roll, non?" She says the most beautiful woman in the world today is the Dutch supermodel Lara Stone. She says we will never go off Kate Moss because even though "she is not super beautiful, she is a great stylist, and she is fragile person. She like a Marilyn Monroe girl, always between laughing and crying, and we know this vulnerability." She also gives me one last piece of advice: "If you wear the heel, the man will help you with your suitcase, and if you do not wear the heel, the man will not." I thank her for this, then make for home and my Crocs.

 
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