Carine Roitfeld is arguably one of the most powerful women in fashion. The former editor in chief of Vogue Paris has her own fashion magazine, CR Fashion Book, and holds the title of Global Fashion Director at Harper’s Bazaar. With her son Vladimir, she also runs CR Studio, a creative production and consulting house for brands including Chanel and Yeezy.
Roitfeld is known for her long-term relationships with designers such as Tom Ford, who she befriended back when he was working at Gucci. Her latest project is a brand-new line of perfumes dubbed 7 Lovers, and Monday evening, she’ll be honored at the CFDA Awards with a Founder Award. She lives in Paris and has two children and one grandchild. Here’s how she gets it all done.
On her ideal morning: There’s a dream morning and the regular morning. On the dream morning, I do a ballet class or Pilates class or even boxing class. But I don’t always have the time. Instead, I do a meditation app called “Pause.” Each morning, I listen to ten minutes of it. It’s what I listen to when I’m feeling nervous and I want something to quiet me, or if I’m a bit sleepy and I want something to wake me up, or if I’m a bit insecure. It puts me in a better mood for the day.
On delving into perfume for the first time: When I stopped working at French Vogue, I wanted to try something new, so I decided to launch perfume. I was a bit naïve to think that perfume or fashion are the same world — they’re not. It took me a lot of time to finish the project: eight years, because it was not my only project. I had to understand the process, to understand how to work with the Nose [the perfumer].
Perfume is very important to me — I’m a French woman. Perfume is a part of our tradition, and I like high-quality perfume. So, when I talked to my Nose, I never talked about money. I didn’t even think to talk about money. So they made a product with the best, most expensive ingredients.
My son said, “Mom, your name became a brand.” I never expected that, but I hope he was right. I hope I’m not being pretentious and that people will follow me and my new dreams, because the perfume is just the beginning.
On her approach to beauty: For me, perfume is like the last accessory when you get dressed. Even when I’m staying home, I always put some perfume on. It’s a part of me, like my makeup. It’s difficult now to imagine myself without a little black on my eyes — it’s a part of my personality. I do my own makeup. I don’t have a makeup artist coming to my place. I cannot afford it and I don’t think I would have the patience for it. Even my hair, I do myself.
On her approach to getting dressed for work: I have a uniform. I never wear jeans, I very rarely wear colors. It makes my life easier. After all these years in working fashion and seeing pictures of myself, I think I understand what looks good on me. I’ve stopped listening to people who say ‘Oh, this looks so good on you’ or ‘Oh, we designed this thinking of you,’ because you want to make them happy but you don’t feel confident. Most of the time I prefer to wear one of my old evening dresses than to try a new one. I know what my good points are — I have good legs, good ankles, so I show them.
On doing collaborations like her 2016 Uniqlo collection and her recent collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld: I want to be more well known. Not because I’m selfish. I was very well known in my little world of high fashion, of Vogue and CR Fashion Book and of some designers, but when you’re working with Uniqlo, you’re exposed to other people. I want my name to be … not bigger, but known by more diverse people, I would say.
On the difference between her roles at CR Fashion Book and Harper’s Bazaar: CR is my magazine with my name on it. It’s really more me. And we’re not talking to as many people as Bazaar, so we can be more creative, more fashionable, we can take more risks because the readers are very aware of fashion. When you’re working at Bazaar as the Global Fashion Director, you’re working for 34 countries. You have to find more understandable fashion for everyone.
On being in the public eye: Sometimes you get nervous when you go to runway shows because there are going to be a lot of photographers. I’m a shy person. People don’t know that, but I’m quite shy and not so secure. The reason I’m wearing my hair in my eyes most of the time is not because I’m not nice — it’s there to protect myself. Sometimes I put glasses on as a way to protect myself, but I always move them when I’m watching the shows because I want to see the colors.
On loyalty: I’ve had a business partner for four years: my son, Vladimir. He’s the one who makes the structure of the magazine, runs the studio, works with the lawyers, the contracts, the money, and he’s the one giving me a lot of the ideas. Of course, I always have some assistants, too. My team is fantastic, honestly, I don’t know if I deserve such a great team. They’re mostly very young, with a lot of energy.
When I trust people, I trust them with lots of things. And I’m someone who keeps relationships for a long time, not for just one season. Like those designers from 30 years ago, like Tom Ford. I’ll keep the same client for years. I keep people faithful with me and I’m faithful with them.
On finding inspiration: Lots of people, they feel anxious because they think I’m judging them. No! I’m just looking, observing what they’re wearing, what they’re doing, because my inspiration comes from the street, from other people. You know, I’m just curious and I have a good sense of observation. And I can immediately transform this observation into ideas for fashion. That’s always how I work. I’m not going to books, I’m not going to reference a vintage shop. I’m not going to the past. I’m most inspired by what’s happening around me.
On taking breaks: I’m very often tired. But I worked for so many years with Karl Lagerfeld, who was a bit older than me. He never, never said he was tired. You cannot be tired because you’re lucky to being doing something you like.
On work/life balance: The work I’m doing is creative work, so you cannot stop. You keep thinking, “What am I going to do Monday, what am I going to do for the girl, what sort of makeup am I going to put on her?” Whether it’s a fashion shoot or a show, you have so many things to prepare for in advance.
How she winds down: I’m addicted to Netflix now. Before, I was reading a lot, but when I’m reading, my brain keeps working. I think that when I’m watching Netflix, it’s the only moment my brain gets a break. It’s very a big addiction and very dangerous, because you start for half an hour, but sometimes you spend two hours in front of your computer.
On sleep: I need a minimum of seven to eight hours every night. If I’m not sleeping enough, I become nervous, I become insecure, I become not happy, and it’s not good. I really need to sleep. It’s my only secret for beauty and to not be nervous.