CARINE ROITFELD has babies on the brain. Ever since the birth of her first granddaughter, Romy Nicole Konjic, in May, that is all she has talked about. Babies, babies, babies.
Oh, yes, and her new magazine, CR Fashion Book, to which Ms. Roitfeld is due to give birth next week. So, not surprisingly, the first issue, which has been the subject of much speculation since Ms. Roitfeld, after leaving French Vogue in December 2010, announced she would start her own title, comes with a theme of rebirth.
There are babies on each of two covers. One side shows the model Kate Upton holding a handful of baby chicks. Flip it over, and the other shows an adorable young girl caught with an enormous smile, cradling a naked baby (not Romy) in her arms. Bruce Weber shot both images, along with a big cast of baby animals: pigs, donkeys, puppies.
“This is really such a big natural laugh,” Ms. Roitfeld said recently, during a preview in her New York office. And by office, we mean the penthouse of the Standard East Village hotel, which André Balazs has lent to the editor to stage her big New York comeback.
“I can tell you this now,” she said, pointing at the baby on the cover. “She is laughing because that baby peed on the little girl at just the moment Bruce took this picture.”
It is fairly obvious that grandmotherhood has softened Ms. Roitfeld, she of the smudgy eyeliner, the haphazard hair and the look that could reduce a competitor to mush. Compared to the controversial, nearly pornographic layouts from her years at French Vogue, the first issue looks as innocent as a copy of Highlights. There are only five or six exposed breasts in the whole book. Cigarettes are verboten.
“I am very anxious whether people are going to like it,” Ms. Roitfeld said. “No one will imagine me having a cover like this, but I want to be very positive about fashion. This is the message now.”
The issue, like Ms. Roitfeld, who is 57, looks incredibly well put together. On a sweltering summer day, she arrived for work wearing a black suede jumpsuit by Balenciaga and complained that the air-conditioning was turned on. Honestly, she looked fabulous, the magazine even better.
The magazine is being published by Fashion Media Group, the company behind Visionaire and V, with 150 pages of advertising. It is not likely to turn a profit in the first year, which is why side projects, like her MAC collection in stores, are important, she said.
As she began ticking off the names of supermodels, stylists and photographers who appear in the issue, it was clear, given reports of an all-out war between Ms. Roitfeld and her former bosses at Condé Nast, that she still has a lot of powerful allies.
Karl Lagerfeld photographed Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour and Carolyn Murphy and posed them as heroines of the Nouvelle Vague. (Ms. Seymour practically is Nathalie Delon.) Tom Ford wrote, styled and photographed his own fairy tale, called “Lucho and Juliet.” Amanda Harlech styled a feature, and Michael Avedon, a grandson of Richard Avedon, photographed another.
But because many of Ms. Roitfeld’s closest collaborators, like Mario Testino and Inez van Lamsweerde, are contractually tied to Condé Nast, she also worked with a largely new cast, including Jean-Baptiste Mondino, a photographer she had not employed for decades. What is perhaps the most impressive feature, a couture shoot photographed on the bridges of Paris at night, was a result of a spontaneous decision to ask Luca Guadagnino, the director of “I Am Love,” to shoot the story, after being introduced to him by the Sergio Rossi designer, Francesco Russo.
“It was funny,” Ms. Roitfeld said. “Every time he finished a picture, he was saying, ‘Cut!’ ”
Still, a lot of people are curious about how Ms. Roitfeld dealt with what was perceived as a competitor putting up roadblocks. Asked if anyone outright refused to work with her, she said: “I hate this word banned. I think no one is banned. I worked for 10 years for the Vogue company, and when you are moving, it is good to change a bit your habits and your family, and unfortunately, some people have contracts. This is something we cannot fight.”
Though she certainly has nothing to prove, Ms. Roitfeld is doing a lot of things differently and taking risks. Besides the flip concept, all of the advertisements are spreads, rather than single pages, and they are arranged alphabetically by brand names. There is no “front of book,” the dutiful features about product news and trends; instead, that information will be presented online. That leaves more room in the 340 pages for the good stuff, like an essay by Anne Hathaway about her fertility, or a fashion feature about Elsa Peretti. On every page you can see that Ms. Roitfeld was down in the trenches; and, indeed, she was present for the shoot with Mr. Weber.
“You can imagine this day with all the baby animals, and baby humans, all of them screaming,” she said. “What do you think is the worst? The lambs. Maybe you remember this movie?”
Whether CR is a hit or not, Ms. Roitfeld is, at the very least, making a statement.
“I never think I have to prove something,” she said. “I love fashion. Now I have the luxury to enjoy it. This magazine in a way was my rebirth, too.”
I met Carine at London Heathrow airport on July 7th. I remember walking to my gate and thinking that I saw someone who really looked like her, then after taking a closer look, I recognized her and said hi, she seemed very surprised that I recognized her and she was very, very pleasant! She asked me where I was going, where I was from, what my name was and said she had to wait for two and half hours before her flight to LA would depart and whether I wanted to wait with her.
It killed me that my flight was departing in 10 minutes, otherwise I would've gladly taken her up on the offer, she's so freakin' sweet!
I did get to take a picture although she said she looked horrible, I didn't agree, she was stunning! She's such a lovely person
WOW! how lucky you are, xFashionfollower. tks for sharing your story of meeting her. she seems friendly and nice. if i were lucky to meet her in nyc, i know i would have courage to talk to her. of course if she has time.
wow lucky lol. that chance would've been worth missing a flight for imagine the things you could've talk about...
I definitely agree, but that would mean missing two flights, and it was already more than 20 hours of travelling.
Even worse.. When I arrived at my gate I saw my flight had been delayed for four hours! Carine was nowhere to be found, the heartache..
But i'm glad to have met her anyway.
Thanks for the sharing your Carine sighting with us, xFashionfollower. How nice of Carine to invite you to wait with her. And thanks for the photo also, she looks comfortable and very smart. What a nice experience you had!