She’s been dubbed the most stylish woman in the world. The Daily Telegraph has named her the best dressed woman, while Women’s Wear Daily, in 2002, called her “the fashion muse of the moment.” Four years later, she is still on top and maintains her reign as one of the most powerful voices in the fashion industry. She’s no Hollywood celeb or eponymous runway model, so there is no fear then of a trendy teenager imitating her look. She defines French chic but simultaneously possesses an ease and accessibility that endears her even more to her fans. If you haven’t guessed by now, she’s none other than Paris Vogue editor…Carine Roitfeld.
In any discourse about Carine, there will of course be comparisons to her American counterpart Anna Wintour. While a great number of people will become better acquainted with the fashion authority figure thanks to the summer flick â€œThe Devil Wears Prada”, there’s no doubt that to many others Carine has surpassed Ms. Wintour as the most photographed editor to watch. Anna exudes an iciness that is all but characteristic to Carine who with her smoky eyes, slightly androgynous waif-like figure, and signature straight hair that at any given moment covers about half her face and displays a casual, youthful coolness. Her penchant is for black, sharply tailored clothes and high heels. She neither overdoes nor over-accessorizes, harking instead to that cardinal rule of French style – keep it simple. She has said it takes her a mere 10 minutes to get ready. “I’m always wearing the same sort of things, a black coat, a skirt but I always put the accent on one exciting piece,” she admitted to WWD.
Surprisingly, this high powered editor says that her style is not about rules, a feature common to many magazines. â€œI hate, “Don’t do that, don’t wear white shoes with black tights.” I do the contrary and I don’t care what people think,” she told The Daily Telegraph. However, she sees no problem offering advice that she herself lives by. â€œBuy mainly classic pieces and a new pair of shoes each season. A Burberry trench-coat is always beautiful. Maybe you change the belt and this season you put an Indian scarf. This is my specialty. Simple things to make it happen, to make it different.“
This frankness too sets Carine apart from many of her fashion peers. While they may be afraid to speak ill of their advertisers or offend readers, she holds no such fears. This carefree quality combined with a boldness and singularity of vision has helped to shape Paris Vogue into a defining bible of fashion. Since her ascension to the title in 2001, the magazine’s visibility has increased. Her magazine has been praised for its unique, often controversial, editorials, a good number of which she styles. When discussing the December ’05 issue edited by Kate Moss, she told Fashion Week Daily “You cannot please everyone. I don’t talk about business; I didn’t use only advertisers that use Kate.” For someone who claims to not be a business women, Carine is nonetheless doing the right things. In 2005 alone, ad sales for the magazine increased by 60 percent from the year before. As for herself, this former runway model has appeared in recent fashion spreads as well, and at 50 still looks enviably fabulous.
A driven, competitive person since her youth, Carine left school at age 16 to pursue modeling, which was then followed by a stint as a writer and stylist for French Elle. She went on to work with famed photographer Mario Testino on numerous advertising campaigns and editorials for both French and American Vogue. Then in a definitive moment, Tom Ford got in touch with her and she became a consultant for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent for six years. She played a strong role in helping Tom Ford reposition Gucci as a key luxury brand, injecting into it a glamorous, almost decadent sex appeal. As she herself admits, â€œHe discover maybe an idea of the woman through me. His first collection was not so sexy and then when I come in it was very 1970s, very oh la la low-waist sweaters, very open the shirt.”
Despite these numerous achievements, what matters most to her is clearly not fashion-related. â€œMy kids are not into drugs, they are happy with life. I am still with Christian [her husband]. We are still a family. It is work to keep a family. This is the best.” A fashion icon with a clear mind and a level headed attitude. Now that is truly chic.