My Life In Fashion: Carine Roitfeld
My Life In Fashion: Carine Roitfeld

My Life In Fashion: Carine Roitfeld

Former editor of French Vogue, renowned stylist and Tom Ford muse – Carine Roitfeld is an iconic figure in fashion. Ahead of the latest launch in her seven-part fragrance series, she sat down with us to talk about her time in the industry, how her personal style has evolved over the years and the advice she received from Karl Lagerfeld…
By Elaine Lloyd Jones

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I wanted to work in fashion from quite a young age. At that time, it wasn’t the most respected career. If you worked in fashion, people just thought you were superficial. Today, it’s not the same. Now, everyone wants to work in fashion – it’s the dream.

My mum would get French Elle each month and I remember how much I loved looking through it. I started modelling a little when I was younger, although not for long, but that’s when I really discovered clothes and fashion. Even then I had my own style. After that I started writing and then I became a fashion editor. 

Now, everyone wants to work in fashion – IT’S THE DREAM.

The thing I’m most proud of in my life is my children. First of all, I’m a mother and then I’m a stylist. When my son Vladimir was younger and I was working, there were no iPhones, so he’d call the studio or wherever I happened to be shooting, and we would stop so I could speak to him. Then I’d hang up, and we’d work again.

Both my children know the industry well. My daughter has modelled and worked in fashion, and Vladimir has always come with me to shows and met so many designers – he’s very comfortable in this world. He was an art dealer first, he has his own style and a good eye, but he’s also a businessman. I feel very lucky to have him working with me as president of CR Studio.

I’ve just launched a fragrance called Forgive Me. I went into the fragrance business because I’m crazy – I didn’t realise how complicated it was going to be! But I also wanted to do something unexpected and surprise people. That’s the advice Karl Lagerfeld gave me: “Don’t repeat yourself and make sure you surprise people.” 

Perfume is like a second skin – it’s who you are. I start each day deciding who I want to be and my fragrance choice reflects that. If I want to be boyish, I go for George. If I want to be more daring, it’s Carine. If I want to be feminine, I choose Forgive Me.

Forgive Me is a feminine, sensual, sexual and naughty fragrance. I’ve had ten years to work on it, and I didn’t want to regret anything, so I gave it a lot of time and thought. It’s inspired by Gypsy Music, a song by Gainsbourg, and has notes of patchouli, ylang ylang and tuberose. 


I love the idea that a perfume stands the test of time. Coco Chanel has such a legacy in this world, and I wanted that for my children and my grandchildren. Although Karl said I’m much nicer than Coco... 

Working for Tom Ford was such a career highlight for me. He was modelling everything on me at the time, whether it was the way I wore my jacket or the way I crossed my legs – everything was exceptional and to be his muse was just the best title I could have had. We worked together for 27 years and we had a lot of fun. 

My birthday always fell in the middle of Milan Fashion Week. Often, I’d spend it with Tom and his team and we’d have so many fabulous moments celebrating. It’s one of my favourite fashion memories. 

I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many talented designers. Occasionally, I'm fortunate enough to have dresses made for me. For my 69th birthday, I wore a beautiful couture dress by Givenchy. You wouldn’t believe how simple it is – it’s perfect. It was bias cut in black with a beautiful back and the neckline had little weights in it, so it draped perfectly.

There’s a new designer I have my eye on at the moment called Duran Lantink. He shows in Paris and I think he’s going to be a name to remember. 

I always want to be fearless. There are more and more restrictions coming into place, both in life and fashion, but I still want to push boundaries in my magazine and in my work. I always promote diversity – whether that’s putting someone who is transgender on the cover, or a man wearing a minidress. 

No one influences my style. I’m not being pretentious, but I never look to archives or for inspiration. Of course, I love Helmut Newton and his images, but it’s not about the style – it’s about the way Newton’s girls looked. They looked tough and I like tough women – even if she happened to be naked in the middle of the street, she’d have heels on and an attitude. She isn’t trying to please anyone – she’s there because she wants to be and she likes it. That’s the kind of spirit I find so inspiring.

There’s definitely a Carine uniform. When I was working at Vogue, most of the team wore jeans. I like jeans, but I had to be different because I was the boss, so I started to wear skirts with dark sweaters and a jacket with either big or small shoulders, and with a waist to accentuate the body. You have to show off your best assets, and I know I have good legs, so I always have bare legs.

There are more and MORE RESTRICTIONS COMING INTO PLACE, both in life and fashion, but I still want to PUSH BOUNDARIES in my magazine and in my work.

I don’t think style is something you can buy. You either have it or you don’t. It’s not just about clothes, it’s the way you sit, the way you talk, it’s the way you interact with other people. It’s not just the dress you’re wearing, it’s your character. Someone who talks the same way to the King of England as they would to an assistant – that’s the definition of chic. 

The way I dress is very spontaneous. I watched the David Beckham documentary and I thought it was funny that he had this rail of all the looks he’d wear for a week. I also thought it was fantastic because I would never be able to do that. I decide what to wear each day depending on my mood, the moment – and the weather! 

I’m not a person who likes shopping and I don’t have a lot of clothes. People are always surprised to hear this. I have maybe five coats, five or six jackets, 15 skirts, maybe five black sweaters, some black t-shirts… A lot of black. But also khaki because it suits me. My wardrobe is very simple and if I’m travelling, I only need a carry-on. 

Follow @CarineRoitfeld on Instagram.

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