December 02, 2011

Irreverent Admiration For Carine: A Controversial Decade of French Vogue

Deep down I knew there was something quelque chose de nouveau about Carine Roitfeld - one of the most controversial - [and sexual] - women in the fashion industry, the Editor-in-Chief of French Vogue.


She made French Vogue for what it's been now known for - sexual, controversial, open-minded, forward... She made Vogue for what I love the most about it - [there was nothing in the magazine publishing industry that did what French Vogue did] - it was controversial, against all the odds of what others were afraid to publish - S&M, naked models, models with cigarettes/smoking, men on men, women on women...

She was bold in approaching her editorial and visuals, and she was fierce in publishing images that went against all the 'accepted' fashion 'politics' - fur (PETA wouldn't like it), bloody images of meat eating models (vegetarians wouldn't like it), full bush (Brazilian waxers wouldn't agree with it), etc. She weren't afraid to push the envelop, and that's what sold French Vogue and made her one of the most sought after editors in the world. Even Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, could not compete with her. Against the image of Roitfeld, Wintour looked like the "Mother Theresa" of Vogue - way too conservative for Carine...

I've been a huge fan of Roitfeld's work for Vogue for years. I bought it despite the fact that I don't really speak French. While living in USA, it was the only non-English-speaking magazine that I've always browsed through every month. I knew that if anything in French Vogue appears, it would define the next few years of fashion and lifestyle trends. I knew that I should take a note.

That's why, when the book by Carine Roitfeld Irreverent came out, I was in line...  (You can get it on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble.)

To my surprise - [and to my own 'vanity'] - I've learned that her father was from Russia. She speaks quite a lot about her relationship with her Russian father throughout the book, even stating at the end that the reason she's never got married was because she had her 'father' as a role model, pointing to how perfect her relationship was and how it was impossible for find any other men like him... This - [among many of her other pointers] - I could identify with very well. My father might be the reason why I've been so picky with my relationships with the men. Having a father with great qualities makes it hard to be with someone of lesser 'statue'...

There were other details that draw my attention and made me realize why I was so driven to her work for years - the way she looked at her work, life and family. I picked a few that spoke so close to my heart and position in life:

This 56-year-old Parisienne has really defined French Vogue - the most 'prosperous' and 'fashionable' times of the magazine.

What comes across most strongly is something everyone already knows: Carine Roitfeld is a bit of a raconteur, and always has been. It’s the reason I - [and many others] - like her. She radiates 'positive' image of the life itself. She doesn't believe there is perfect fashion - [and models] - she does think that one should wear flats at home - [there's no reason to put out there your stylish yourself when no one is looking...] - she does believe that sex should not be restricted - [or, the images of sex] - and that someone who is open to put out there images of S&M and other 'soft porn' is not necessary a S&M and porno person herself, and she does believe and recognizes that the most influential people in fashion right now are - [music to my and my blog-colleagues' ears] - the bloggers!

All in all, of course, you will like her - because she is so damn cool! She is just unpretentiously, naturally cool.

“Some of my pictures have shocked people, but being provocative per se doesn’t particularly bother me provided the photos don’t have a harmful effect on younger, more fragile readers,” Roitfeld says in the book. “Just because someone is holding a gun doesn’t make an image controversial. It all depends on where you put the gun, who is holding it.” The only thing she’ll self-censor? Smoking–at least most of the time. “You can’t deny that a woman looks great when she’s smoking–so free and elegant,” Roitfeld says. “But it’s not allowed any more. I’ve convinced myself, though, that it’s just too easy to do a successful photo with a cigarette.” 

 Roitfeld doesn’t smoke–but her own style bleeds inevitably into her art: men wearing womens clothing; couture paired with the mundane (oven mitts, ash trays); turning what is classic into “not a classic;” “yellow shoes, black skirt, white bra.” 

The photos in the book are of her personal - of family and editorial pages, the invitations to runaway shows and notes from the well-known designers - are interspersed with shots from her youth (father a Russian film producer; mother the iconic Parisian housewife) and of her family–longtime partner Christian Restoin and children Vladimir, 28, and Julia, 30.

The text comprises questions from industry friends like Soffia Coppla, Rick Owens, Anna Wintour, Hedi Slimane, Natalia Vodianova and Christopher Kane. Horyn - [my other favorite - the fashion columnist at New York Times] - wrote the front essay; Zahm provided a bulk of questions (What influence did your mother have? Are you sensitive to criticism?) as well. 

Apparent is the fact that in the grand scheme of things–and not to diminish her revolutionary work there–Roitfeld’s time at Vogue Paris was relatively short. Just a decade - but seems longer because of all the great things she did for it. She'd definitely become Vogue's 'history', and we're just about to see what French Vogue does next - with the new editor.

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