Dan Ahwa visits fashion icon Carine Roitfeld in Paris.
Carine Roitfeld is running late. I am sitting in her Paris apartment, which overlooks the leafy part of Les Invalides, with six other editors from around the world. A woman from Korean Vogue gets up and starts taking pictures. A Russian beauty editor re-applies lipstick for the 20th time. We're looking at each other awkwardly and around the apartment in slight disbelief. Not because Roitfeld is running late (she was rushing from the Valentino show), but the fact we are even sitting in the home of one of the world's most influential fashion figures.
As editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue between 2001-2011 and as a freelance stylist, muse and consultant for top fashion brands (most notably Gucci during Tom Ford's tenure), she has cemented her position as something of a fashion oracle: what Roitfeld says or does, people follow. And in an age of desperate street-style stars, she was the first to catch people's attention with a signature look that can only be described as being "very Carine". It's a rigorous approach to dressing that is magnified by her attitude - a combination of rock 'n' roll cool and the classic style of a coquettish Parisienne.
It's been a particularly eventful year so far for the 57-year-old, with the birth of her granddaughter Romy Nicole Konjic in May, the launch of her new magazine CR Fashion Book, the release of her makeup collaboration with M.A.C. and last week's announcement of her new role as global fashion director for Harper's Bazaar.
She rarely invites press to her home, so to be able to see it in person is just as big a deal as it is meeting Roitfeld herself. Speaking to Australian stylist and fashion blogger Romy Frydman, it's clear that even Roitfeld's apartment has a following. "I love her apartment. I've referenced it a few times and I especially love the floor," says Frydman. Ah yes, the floor. A sprawling French parquet floorboard in a blond woodgrain. The first time I'd seen this was in an editorial shot by Mario Testino at the start of Roitfeld's career for French Glamour magazine with supermodel Nadja Auermann sprawled along the same couch we are sitting on. Tom Ford, creative director of Gucci at the time noticed the editorial and along with Testino and Roitfeld, the rest is history.
Fast-track to a mild October afternoon on the second to last day of Paris Fashion Week, the apartment remains very much the same. It is sleek and uncluttered but still homely. It's fashionable, but not pretentious, a combination of modern minimalism and a frank French attitude, much like Roitfeld herself. On the mantelpiece are framed black and white pictures of her family, reinforcing her devotion to long-time partner Christian Roitfeld and two children Julia and Vladimir. A recent addition is a framed mould of her granddaughter's footprint, a gift from Julia and Romy to their beloved "Babushka" (Roitfeld is half-Russian). A vase of pink roses provides the only pop of colour in a room that is otherwise shades of white, beige and grey. Books are neatly arranged on the coffee table in front of us, including a book of photographs of Patti Smith by Judy Linn and a hefty Helmut Newton tome, a photographer Roitfeld often references in her work.
Christian walks past, unfazed by the commotion taking over his home. Julia waves on her way out the door with baby Romy in tow. Soon the sound of high heels are heard click-clacking against that floor, and the woman of the moment arrives. She doesn't disappoint. Her petite frame is dressed in a "very Carine" outfit - fitted black leather jacket, pencil skirt, white Gianvito Rossi steel-cap heels and oversized Rick Owens shield sunglasses, her biscuit-coloured hair slightly dishevelled and, of course, her signature smoky black eyes. She apologises profusely for being slightly off-schedule and touches up her makeup.
"I never like to wear too much makeup," she insists during the interview, "and sometimes the best makeup is when it's not too perfect. I like to sometimes apply my makeup with my fingers." Among the dark kohl eye pencils and a range of eyeshadows for the M.A.C range, there's even a good luck star stencil. "I never had a beauty mark and I always wanted one, so this was just to add a bit of fun for the collection," she explains.
She says she is surprised to be interviewed by a male beauty editor. I confess that I'm actually a fashion editor and a little out of my comfort zone talking about makeup with a group of women. She smiles understandably. "You know to me, makeup is fashion and vice versa. What I dress and what I wear always needs to work with my makeup, which is usually the same anyway."
I congratulate her on her new magazine and in particular, for putting Anmari Botha, a model I had worked with when she first started modelling in New Zealand, in its pages as a model on the rise. "I think she is going to be big. When we finished shooting her she sent me some flowers, which I thought was really sweet," Roitfeld says. "I want to keep pushing her, because I think she is great." If that wasn't enough of an endorsement, Botha has just finished a successful Paris show circuit, walking for Chanel, Lanvin and the newly re-branded Saint Laurent Paris.
Later that evening, Roitfeld celebrates her M.A.C. collection with "Le Bal", an exclusive black tie party held at the ornate neoclassical-style hotel, Salomon de Rothschild. The guest list includes Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquire, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, Azzedine Alaia, US Vogue's international editor-at-large Hamish Bowles and Kanye West; the dress code "black tie smoky eye". The dimly lit hotel venue features modern dancers on podiums, a candlelit garden, a baroque dance room and a hallway covered in mirrors from floor to ceiling. In one room I bump into Vogue Japan's Anna Della Russo. I ask for a photo. She says something in a thick Italian drawl; I nod and smile politely. In another room I'm relieved to hear some Australian accents. I introduce myself to Edwina McCann, editor of Australian Vogue and her fashion editor Christine Centenera, then chat to Belgian journalist Veerle Windels about how Belgian designers have influenced several New Zealand designers over the years.
DJ Nick Cohen plays a fun set that includes the Bee Gees, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac and Joan Jett. Roitfeld dances to Snoop Dogg in between chats and photos with guests. I find myself dancing alongside Windels for most of the night and, at one point, with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paola Piccioli, the designers at Valentino. It's unashamedly fun, with everyone in the mood to hit the dance floor. Unlike other fashion parties that can fall under the awkward umbrella of a pretentious DJ, Cohen plays the kind of music that you'd hear at a fun wedding or a 21st birthday. Paloma Faith gives a surprise performance, with a jewel-encrusted beehive. Models of the moment Joan Smalls and Karlie Kloss slink by and everyone cranes their necks to look up at them. Waiters top up drinks with champagne, or Roitfeld's favourite tipple, vodka. Dello Russo and her gigantic lattice headpiece decide to get up on a leather sofa to dance with L'Uomo Vogue editor and stylist Giovanna Battaglia. A willowy Alexander Wang leans against a column; photographer Mario Testino flashes a toothy grin. Later, Karl Lagerfeld shuffles in. He embraces Roitfeld, before she disappears into darkness in her custom-made Givenchy outfit and, of course, those black smoky eyes.
* To see more images of Dan's trip to Paris, visit facebook.com/nzheraldviva
AT THE SHOWS
Sitting in a transformed Cour Carre du Louvre, waiting for the Louis Vuitton show to begin, it was poignant to read in the show notes that the collection was dedicated to Yves Carcelle, the outgoing chief executive of Louis Vuitton. Philip Glass' Knee Play 5 closed the show with models solemnly ascending four rows of escalators created by artist Daniel Buren, two by two, side by side, in a display of strict duality and unity. Inspired in part by Buren's Les Deux Plateaux, a work consisting of 260 columns of different heights, arranged in a grid, this is the first collection to exclude the house monogram in favour of the square damier check. Sixties-style shift dresses featured oversized and miniature versions of the check in bright yellow and green, while slender pointed pumps, slimline handbags and diamond drop earrings reinforced the return to a more discreet and personal luxury. This delicate proposition also featured in their new fine jewellery collection entitled "Lockit", presented earlier that week to international press. The 15-piece collection is inspired by the classic Louis Vuitton padlock and also references the legend of Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, where couples attach a padlock to a bridge and throw the key into the Seine river, sealing their love for eternity.
Workers in white lab coats shuffle through the hallowed corridors of Christian Dior , as press gather to "re-see" the debut ready-to-wear collection from creative director Raf Simons, presented the previous week. Mannequins form a line-up with highlights including Dior's bar jacket re-interpreted as a fitted jacket dress, bright, sleeveless shift dresses with shimmering paillette detailing and sleek black tops worn with 1950s-style ball skirts made with an iridescent floral hand-painted fabric. Bejewelled perspex cuffs, slim metallic belts and minimalised Lady Dior handbags are indicative of Simons taking nostalgia and pushing it into the future. At the show, models strode out with no time to spare giving new energy to the Dior woman with sleek ponytails and remarkable crystal coloured eye makeup courtesy of makeup artist Pat McGrath.
The collection was a talking point throughout Paris Fashion Week, with Simons' re-setting the agenda for the house with a modern perspective on the back of his haute couture debut in July.
The grand Palais D'Iena was transformed with a wooden runway set designed by Rem Koolhaas, showcasing Miuccia Prada's presentation to full effect. Malcolm McLaren's noir-infused Miles and Miles of Miles Davis and Neneh Cherry's I've Got You Under My Skin were played on loop as unhinged femme fatale characters sauntered out in skirt suits, coloured furs, 1960s-style swing coats and oversized rhinestone jewels. Supermodel Raquel Zimmerman set the tone, opening the show in a navy blue denim pencil skirt and matching coat lined with duchess satin, reinforcing Prada's love of transforming what could be considered as bad taste into something undeniably chic.