Many People Have Retired by 69—Not Editor Carine Roitfeld

From a New York Times story by Elizabeth Paton headlined “Many People Have Retired by 69. Not Carine Roitfeld”:

There are some people in fashion with such distinctive personal style trademarks that you can recognize them from their silhouettes. Karl Lagerfeld was one (remember the Diet Coke bottles?). Anna Wintour is another. And then, with her sky-high heels, narrow pencil skirts, shaggy bob and permanent presence on the front row of fashion week for more than 30 years, there is Carine Roitfeld.

The former French Vogue editor and stylist was a longtime collaborator with the likes of Mr. Lagerfeld and Tom Ford, as well as a principal architect of the hedonistic aesthetic that defined late 1990s fashion. After leaving French Vogue in 2011 she founded her own biannual publication, CR Fashion Book, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The latest cover, released earlier this week, stars Kim Kardashian with razor-thin brows, a dirty white top and a buzz-cut wig, and was shot by Nadia Lee Cohen.

Lately Ms. Roitfeld has also been busy building a lifestyle empire, branching out into everything from perfumes to housewares as well as a new coffee table book, “Fantasies,” published earlier this month by Rizzoli (with a cover also featuring Ms. Kardashian).

She now occasionally uses a cane, but after turning 69 earlier this month, Ms. Roitfeld also appears to show no signs of slowing down. At the end of Milan Fashion Week — and ahead of a big birthday bash in Paris on Sept. 27 — she sat down to discuss getting older, her hand in shaping the intersection of fashion and pop culture and why she has no regrets about going it alone.

In Milan, there were two major debuts at the houses of Gucci and Tom Ford. Given your long involvement with both of those brands, what did you think of what you saw?

The Tom Ford show was emotional for me because there were a lot of familiar faces in that room, including Peter [Hawkings], the new creative director who was Tom’s right hand man and whom I have known for a long time. It was sexy, with a lot of references to the creative force of what Tom did both at Gucci and for his own brand. With Sabato [De Sarno] at Gucci, he is also a lovely guy. He was so unlucky with the weather and the fact the show location had to change. It was meant to be held in the streets, not a big black box. But it felt like a palette cleanser, and a real fresh start. Now he’ll need to build on it.

You’ve been coming to Milan for almost 30 years. How has the way sex is presented on the fashion week runways changed since then?

I think it is more sanitized. I do think the 1990s were the best time for music and for fashion. And I think that is because people felt they had more freedom. Now we live in an age of anxiety where people are worried about everything — like if they might get photographed by a cellphone or how they look on social media. That shapes people’s sexuality and how they present themselves. There might be a lot of short shorts, but they don’t always feel that sexy, you know? There was an emotional charge to many shows back then.

But I still see good shows that touch on sex now. The oozing latex curtain wall on the Prada runway this week felt very sensual to me. That was smart.

How has fashion week changed?

Social media has changed everything. There was no Instagram. The front row is now as much for TikTokers as it is for the people who have worked in fashion for 20 or 30 years. When everything is geared to be consumed online, something gets lost in the offline experience. Everyone films at the end of a show. No one is clapping.

Things change, I know that. But there is less space for us and I think it is a bit sad. For example, I couldn’t congratulate Sabato after his show — there were so many people backstage, all not talking, just holding up their phones and blocking the way. I waited for 10 minutes. Then I just gave up.

You’ve turned 69. Not a conventional big birthday to celebrate.

It’s a good number. And I plan to stay 69 forever now, that’s my new permanent age. So why not celebrate my last birthday party. It’s going to be at Raspoutin, which is a nightclub in Paris my father used to go and sort of feels like home. Plus I have a lot going on that I feel proud of, like 10 years of CR Fashion Book. There are a lot of memories and we created a lot of great moments and careers in fashion. We, not me. I do not think of myself as a me, me, me person. Fashion is a team business. So my colleagues deserve to have a party, too.

When you look back on the last 10 years, what makes you proud?

When I left French Vogue, it was like giving back a royal crown. It’s a huge title, everyone loved you and wanted your approval. And then I left, and then there was no team, no secretary, no automatic audience. Certain photographers were not allowed to work with me anymore. But it was really good for me to break out on my own at that stage in life. It forced me to find new contacts, look for new talent and do something that was truly my own.

Kim Kardashian is your cover star for the latest CR Fashion Book.

Yes and she’s the cover of my new book, too. We have shot her before for CR Fashion Book — working with Karl Lagerfeld and Riccardo Tisci. This time round, as you’ve seen, we shot her in a very surprising way. We’ve done a second cover with Jennifer Aniston, too.

Tell me about your tattoos. Are they new?

Yes, I’ve had them for about three or four months. On one finger is an Orthodox classic cross as I was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church. Then on another it says Odesa in Russian letters, where my family is from, and another says Paris. And I have the initials of those I love, and a small red band of thorns. I waited a long time to get these done — 69 years. I had a lot of time to think about what to get.

On the subject of new things, you’ve also just started a housewares line.

Well yes, it’s candles and diffusers for now, it’s not furniture — yet. But I do think smell is very important, it’s very sensual and one of your very first impressions of a space. They’re black. They’re very chic. They’re very me.

Then there is a new fragrance.

Yes, it’s on me. Can you smell it? Forgive Me is the name. There is a lot of patchouli and white flowers. Making fragrances is very addictive, and I’d already got 7 Lovers [a perfume collection named for cities that inspire her and imaginary lovers in each of them]. Last year was Carine. And now this. The face of it will be my daughter, because she’s very beautiful. Maybe the next one will have my granddaughter in the campaign.

Is family important to you?

Very. We are a small family but a very close one. My son, Vladimir, is my C.E.O. I dream of creating a new dynasty, a family fashion business that keeps creating the Roitfeld world.

When will you retire?

I don’t have the luxury to retire. Honestly, I have too much going on and I’m not ready to stop and I am surrounded by people who are 25, which keeps me young. I think if I stopped it would just be boring.

But I have been making some life changes. I do sports and I have good DNA, and I’m lucky my body hasn’t changed that much. But my skirts are now knee length, no matter what the new trends are. In Paris, I moved from the Left to the Right Bank. Anyone in Paris will tell you that to cross the river is a huge thing to do. And I’ve had to have five operations on my back. I do get tired; I do get worried I’ll fall. So I use a cane now if I need to.

And where did you buy your cane or who makes it for you?

Amazon. 15 euros. A bargain!

Elizabeth Paton is a reporter for the Times Styles section, covering the fashion and luxury sectors in Europe. Before joining The Times in 2015, she was a reporter at the Financial Times both in London and New York.

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