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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Fashion editor Carine Roitfeld is stylist to 11 million readers

Carine Roitfeld cites Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai, among others, for her sartorial inspiration
The Straits Times - May 13, 2013
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Fashion editor Carine Roitfeld is stylist to 11 million readers

Influential French fashion editor Carine Roitfeld of the artfully mussed hair and smoky eye, recalls something Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld once told her.

"'Everything you do, you have to be the first to do it', he said."

She has taken his advice to heart since taking on the newly created role of global fashion director at Harper's Bazaar magazine last year after a memorable 10-year stint heading Vogue Paris.

As global fashion director, she covers the fashion collections four times a year and styles looks that appear in all 27 global editions of Harper's Bazaar.

Her inaugural 16-page fashion spread appeared in the March issue, including Harper's Bazaar Singapore.

Paris-born Roitfeld speaks about the massive reach of her new position, which has a combined total audience of more than 11 million readers.

"It's huge, to suddenly be able to take the same moment to so many different countries and think of all these different women, in Singapore, New York and Mumbai," she says in French-accented English.

The 58-year-old was in town to attend the show for the Chanel cruise collection, which debuted on Thursday at Dempsey Hill. It is her first visit here.

She orders a dirty vodka martini during the interview with Life! at the Sky Bar in Ion Orchard and is forthcoming despite the fatigue of flying 18 hours from New York to catch Lagerfeld's show.

"Now that is proof of love," she says.

The two have collaborated closely for two years and she has styled Chanel's Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 campaigns, as well as a picture book for the brand called Little Black Jacket. She muses on his choice to set the stage in Asia. "He's saying that it's not just Paris and New York that is important, but you too."

Of the entourage and attention it brings, she adds: "This is the strength of Chanel, to bring all those people with them. Not many fashion houses have the ability to do that."

While she credits Chanel for having the power to cast the spotlight here, she also acknowledges the power of the Internet and the rise of the blogosphere in fuelling global demand for fashion.

But she says the attention may be a bit misplaced. "So many people take pictures outside the shows now. Sometimes I think it's a bit sad because for me, the more interesting thing is clothes on the runway," she says, echoing the thoughts penned by her contemporary, fashion critic Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune, in an article in February called The Circus Of Fashion.

Roitfeld adds: "I prefer the good old times. People just came to see creativity. Now they come to be seen."

She herself is a reluctant style star on the blogs, known for her trademark look of slim skirts and killer heels. She jokes that her hemlines are a little longer now that she is a grandmother. Her daughter, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, had a baby girl, Romy, last year.

Wearing a thin black sweater, a textured beige skirt and nude heels from Prada and Miu Miu, Roitfeld cuts an elegant figure. Look closely though and there are subtle nods to her French roots - her sweater has a large cutout back and the skirt has a high slit in the back.

She cites her favourite director, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai, as the source of her sartorial inspiration that day.

After seeing his films and the women in them, you want to wear a skirt and put flowers in your hair, she says, pointing to the white orchids tucked behind her right ear.

When shooting in New York before her trip here, she meet Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, who starred in Wong's most recent film The Grandmaster. She says Zhang demonstrated 64 Hands, the gongfu technique featured in the film.

Roitfeld and her granddaughter, who was on set, imitated the actress and did their own version of it, she says, smiling at the memory.

The world will get a peek at a different side of the fashion editor in a documentary this year by director Fabien Constant, who filmed her and Harper's Bazaar US creative director Stephen Gan.

Titled Mademoiselle C., it chronicles the making of CR Fashion Book, a biannual magazine that Roitfeld launched last September, which she works on twice a year alongside Harper's Bazaar.

"You'll see me running in jeans and flat shoes, carrying so many bags," she says of the behind-the-scenes angle. "It's very authentic. There are no flowers in my hair."

llim@sph.com.sg

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