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Vogue Paris Intern
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: French girl living in NYC
Carine interviewed by Karl Lagerfeld for Interview magazine September 2011
Although Carine Roitfeld is no longer the editor of French
she remains steadily at the perch of the fashion world, standing atop those super-high bondage-referencing heels that she partly made a staple of Parisian style (along with close-fitting pencil skirts, black leather, cinch-waist toppers, and if any woman dared follow her dictates, a little nipple). But
la femme parisienne
, which Roitfeld very much is, makes her own ground wherever she walks. After all, it is Roitfeld who, with Tom Ford and Mario Testino, started a movement of overt sexuality in fashion with their campaign for Gucci in the '90s, which she later polemicized with her redesign for the French edition of
as the hard-edged emblem of "erotic chic" during her aughties tenure at the magazine. The Paris-born Roitfeld put in her paces first as a model before slipping behind the camera in 1975 to become a freelance stylist for French
, her home base for many years. In the early '90s, Roitfeld hooked up with Testino at French
, the just-launched and still malleable glossy, where the pair translated his iconic nudes as somewhat-more-clothed existentially bored bourgeoisie waifs with Roitfeld's deft styling. These images caught the attention of Ford, who brought the duo on board at Gucci where they created an in-your-face aesthetic of slashed-to-the-navel cleavage and racily imprinted monograms that went on to define a fashion generation. Roitfeld and Testino also brought their signature edge to editorial shoots for
The Face, Vogue,
-where Rotifeld succeeded Joan Juliet Buck as the woman in charge in 2001.
is now "so Carine" in its aesthetic that it's hard to believe she only took up the reigns 10 years ago. Her departure in January carries with it the knowledge that, though it might well retain its influence, French
will never be the same. Nevertheless, there is a silver-or perhaps, black silk faille-lining: Roitfeld has resumed her very busy freelance career, having already styled Freja Beha Erichsen for Chanel's Fall 2011 campaign. She will also offer her lacquered sophistication to Barneys New York as the fashion emporium's specially designated "guest editor," and has somehow found time to curate a visual autobiography comprised of tear sheets from her still-developing body of work with a little help from Olivier Zahm and Alex Wiederin, aptly titled
Carine Roitfeld: Irreverent
Karl Lagerfeld, long-time friend and fellow multi-hyphenate, spoke with Roitfeld in late July in Paris
KARL LAGERFELD: How far can you take an image?
CARINE ROITFELD: I think that when you're taking pictures with my principles, you can try anything. Dare to do a lot of things-dare with sexuality, dare to break taboos as long as it remains photogenic. As long as I find an elegance and beauty in it, I am not afraid to tackle anything.
LAGERFELD: I think it was Marlow who said, "There is no beauty without some strangeness in the proportions."
ROITFELD: Exactly. I think that something needs to be weird in order to have a real beauty. Beauty can be quite boring, especially if you're talking about beauty that doesn't last. And what lasts is exactly the thing that maybe wasn't pretty at first-it comes over time to be beautiful or interesting or exciting-
LAGERFELD: For example, during the golden age of movie stars, there were plenty of actresses who were deemed unattractive at the start of their careers, but struggled and finally appeared more beautiful and more iconic. Sometimes that idea of being truly iconic has something to do with not necessarily being beautiful and thus trying harder.
ROITFELD: Because they had to fight and struggle more than others. Absolutely. And there are certain models who might not be considered beautiful either
LAGERFELD: Some who aren't the most beautiful end up becoming the greatest of all time.
ROITFELD: Exactly, look today at a model like Mariacarla [Boscono]. She might not be one of the prettiest girls in the classical sense but she outlives everyone and everyone wants to work with her. I think personality is more important than looks.
LAGERFELD: When do you think a photograph become erotic? And when does it cross that boundary into the x-rated or pornography?
ROITFELD: It's very difficult to know when you're crossing the boundary. I hate the word
because I never think about it when taking a picture. Very often it doesn't mean anything because it depends on who's looking at the picture more than the content of the picture itself.
LAGERFELD: Yes. But even it's simpler than that. Take Helmut Newton. Some of his photos were shocking. But there's always a beauty in the composition. There's always an artistic interest in terms of the image.
ROITFELD: I am against absolute gratuity.
LAGERFELD: That's what I wanted to hear you say.
ROITFELD: Moreover, I think in Helmut's pictures, it's a stolen moment, like a snapshot. He didn't try too hard.
LAGERFELD: He never tried too hard, right?
ROITFELD: It was very, very, very fast.
LAGERFELD: The Germans have a saying, "Things are spicier if they're short."
ROITFELD: Well, you and I have worked together so you know this about me. I think the first picture taken is often the best one.
LAGERFELD: Oh yes. But I worked with Helmut a lot too. I was even Helmut's stylist with Caroline of Monaco. I know his work process. The rest of us were making such a fuss, trying so hard, and he'd just come in and do it. What was his secret? Even the most explicit photos were an art form.
ROITFELD: There are so many people who try to emulate him now, or draw inspiration from his work.
LAGERFELD: There are two things that are being imitated everywhere: Chanel and Newton's photos. There are photographers that I will not name who are really shameless.
ROITFELD: Yes, but I find that some do it well. The interesting thing with him is that he didn't copy anyone. It was instinctive.
LAGERFELD: It didn't exist before
ROITFELD: It lasted just for a minute and that's what's brilliant. Imitation always stinks. When I take photos, I don't go back. I don't look at the past. I'm always original. In photo shoots, I rely on instinct. Which is not to say I don't bring ideas to a project or consider it beforehand.
LAGERFELD: I don't know anyone in this job who is as prepared as you are.
ROITFELD: At the same time I do go very fast. I think if I don't go fast it's going to be boring. That's what photographers need to do. I hate people who over intellectualize. It bores me deeply.
LAGERFELD: You have a gift for bringing talent out in others. The same photographers seem more talented when they're working with you than with other editors or stylists. What do you attribute that to? Maybe it's an impossible question.
ROITFELD: It's like when you're making love to a woman. A man will say, okay, I have more fun with her than with others. [
] But, really, I am anti-boredom.
LAGERFELD: Is it a conscious or unconscious choice?
Roitfeld: It's completely unconscious. Otherwise I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have done the photos I've done. And I won't be blamed as being porno chic.
LAGERFELD: Oh, no, no, no.
ROITFELD: It's a very bad word. I like
LAGERFELD: That's its own art movement. Today there are galleries that sell photos under the name of erotic art that are very explicit.
ROITFELD: Yes, but
is not a pretty word. P
doesn't mean much. It's been sticking to me and I don't understand why.
LAGERFELD: You're photos are erotic. I want to ask you: How did you come to be the stylist you are?
ROITFELD: It's because of the encounter. There are people who give you the confidence that you're lacking and once you have confidence, you're free and finally you can let out what's inside of you. I think a lot is due to the encounters I've had.
LAGERFELD: For example, when you were with Tom [Ford], Mario [Testino] wasn't very well-known yet. It speaks to what you did with Mario that made him so famous.
ROITFELD: Yes, but Mario helped me with other things. Maybe I helped him.
LAGERFELD: It doesn't go one way.
ROITFELD: No, I helped him understand whata woman is, how she closes her legs, how she feels on high heels, how she wants to pull at her T-shirt and skirt . . . And Mario taught me to speak better English, which I was doing badly at the time. [
] He also gave me confidence. When you have confidence, when you feel loved by people, you can tell them the truth. It's important that I can say the photo isn't beautiful or the photo shoot sucks. LAGERFELD: You don't fall into the trap that a lot of stylists have fallen into of doing everything. You think about the woman first. You let the woman come out.
ROITFELD: Clothing is always a tool that helps me take a picture. But it's never about the clothing.
LAGERFELD: Although for a stylist, doing a nude is even more difficult.
ROITFELD: Mario did a lot of nudes. Every morning when we worked together, he had boys coming over and he would take naked pictures of them. I learned a lot because there's no artifice and it's all a question of position, of looks, of attitude, the way to position your legs, position your knees . . . It gives you something.
LAGERFELD: There's a big difference between photographing naked boys and naked girls.
ROITFELD: I was too shy, at first, to come close to these naked guys. I would stand a little ways away from them. With girls it's much easier.
LAGERFELD: I think it's easier because naked men are more awkward.
ROITFELD: Yes and then there is always a bit of seduction to it when one person is clothed and the other is naked, which can be a little weird. Everybody should be naked. In that case, it would be easier, wouldn't it? Let's do a huge naked photo shoot!
ROITFELD: It's very you and very me, isn't it, Karl? It would be perfect. I couldn't do things like that before with my job. Because now I have all of this freedom ahead of me. I only want to do fun projects.
LAGERFELD: I think freedom is your biggest luxury. You were literally jailed before.
ROITFELD: I am like a lemon. I'm pressed for more juice. When I have fun, there's still juice. I am not dried up . . .
LAGERFELD: I think you're more like a bird that can't be put in a cage. I don't want to compare myself to you, but it's like at Chanel, I can do what I want, when I want, where I want. And that's because I am worth more when I'm free. I think it's the same thing for you.
ROITFELD: I can never work full time for a large fashion house. I could never do it.
LAGERFELD: You can work in a big house if you stay free.
ROITFELD: Yes, I just couldn't work full time. Maybe as a freelancer.
LAGERFELD: Your talent comes from the zeitgeist. If you were locked up with an air-conditioning unit-
ROITFELD: Then it would be over. They want to own you.
LAGERFELD: What I think is particularly accomplished with you is that you always have a vision of fashion and a fashionable woman, but you also have a very successful life as a family woman. You have beautiful, intelligent children andthey give you stability and credibility in the eyes of others.
ROITFELD: It's because I'm a Virgo. Either you are a good Virgo or a crazy Virgo! The good Virgo side of me is educating and raising the children-being there for them.
LAGERFELD: Yes, no one can say that you don't take care of them. You're also lucky because they are very beautiful. It would have been difficult to have an ugly daughter.
ROITFELD: A moment ago, you said some flaws are necessary in beauty. They do have a temper sometimes. But they are very good children.
LAGERFELD: The care you take in your children gives a balance to your life. I think it accentuates your talent.
ROITFELD: Well, otherwise you're too far removed from reality. You're in your car, you're in your jet-you don't have a grip on reality. We can lose touch with reality quite easily.
LAGERFELD: I know some stylists who are like that and it's sad. If I were a woman, I would love to have lots of kids. But for men, I don't believe in it.
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