Fashion

09.11.13

Carine Roitfeld Documentary ‘Mademoiselle C’ Offers Intimate Look

The former editor of French Vogue is the subject of a documentary, ‘Mademoiselle C,’ about the making of her new magazine. She tells Isabel Wilkinson that most of all, it’s a film about friendship.

Carine Roitfeld is everywhere.

Making the rounds at New York Fashion Week, she chatted with Kanye West at the Alexander Wang show Saturday afternoon, visited her son’s gallery opening on the Upper East Side an hour later, and later that night, after an outfit change, made her way downtown for a private performance by Lady Gaga. On Sunday night she was at a Tribeca dinner hosted by MAC Cosmetics, and on Monday morning she caught up with Terry Richardson in the front row at the Theyskens’ Theory show.

She’s everywhere in the media, too. A new documentary about her, Mademoiselle C, opens Wednesday. And this month she launches the third issue of her biannual magazine, CR Fashion Book, which made its debut a year ago.

It’s been quite a year for Roitfeld. After her acrimonious departure from French Vogue in 2010, Roitfeld returned last fall with CR, a style magazine from her perspective, with a DNA somewhere between a well-established glossy and a hungry young startup. Her first issue was dedicated to rebirth; her second was about the ballet; and her third, with Kim Kardashian on the cover, was inspired by Baroque painter Caravaggio.

When she launched CR, Roitfeld—restricted from working with many of her favorite photographers and models due to contracts that bound them to Vogue publisher Condé Nast—was forced to get creative. As is often the case, that turned out to have a silver lining.

Mademoiselle C, directed by Roitfeld’s friend and collaborator Fabien Constant, follows the editor as she puts together the inaugural issue of her magazine. The film reinforces her public image as a well connected and highly ambitious force in the fashion world. But it also introduces a more intimate side: kind and loving, vulnerable, and understanding that she’s taking risks in a high-stakes game.

Banned from using the big names, Roitfeld loaded her magazine with young talent. There is her hardworking right-hand woman, Michaela Dosamantes; her sensitive and talented go-to photographer, Sebastian Faena; and scores of young models and assistants. And she was able to enlist friends Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, and Bruce Weber to photograph stories.

The film itself is unwieldy, mistakenly following the format of the magazine, taking viewers on a behind-the-scenes look at each and every spread in the inaugural issue. It’s as if someone left the camera rolling for every photo shoot—from the campy love story photographed by Tom Ford to the playful Kate Upton cover shoot by Bruce Weber. At times the technique is hilarious and revealing. At others it’s excruciatingly boring.

But Roitfeld, ever the captivating subject, saves the film from feeling like B-roll. As she alights from a car or circulates at a party, she’s entertaining to look at and filled with sharp insights and quotable quotes that you just know some diehard fan is posting on a Roitfeld-dedicated Tumblr.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Roitfeld said Constant asked if he could make a film about her—and she opened every door, giving him unparalleled access into her professional and private life. All the creative decisions in the film were his, she says, and he had the final cut. “I’m a very control-freak person, but it was good for me to see the way he sees thinks, because maybe I see things totally differently,” Roitfeld says. “For me, it was a bit therapeutic not to be in control of the film.”

Roitfeld says seeing a film about her directed by someone else was flattering and eye-opening. Her friends—among them Ford and Donatella Versace—talk about her on camera. She says it’s a film about friendship.

“I think after this film, people will understand that you can work in fashion [and] be a real person, not to be so selfish, to be a hard worker, to have a family, and to have friends.”

“What is great is [that it shows] that friendship is very important and that it can exist in fashion,” Roitfeld says. “People think it isn’t possible, but it’s quite possible.”

Even Christian Restoin, her partner of 30 years and the father of her children, makes a poignant cameo in the film to talk about her. “I discovered in the film that my husband—he’s not my husband—but he loves me so much,” Roitfeld says now of Restoin, whom she never married. “I discovered that my kids love me so much.”

The film has already been compared to The September Issue, the 2009 documentary about Anna Wintour. But while that film featured the Vogue editor quietly prevailing over her charges, Mademoiselle C shows Roitfeld in 3-D: tearing up when she talks about her newborn granddaughter, self-deprecating while practicing ballet, cracking jokes, and at times privately questioning herself. She’s also the life of the party. In one scene she meets a group of young bloggers and makes a hilarious fuss over a bearded man in a harness. She then teaches one reserved boy how to make love to the camera.

“I think after this film, people will understand that you can work in fashion [and] be a real person, not to be so selfish, to be a hard worker, to have a family, and to have friends,” Roitfeld says, pausing. “And, OK, it’s a world of beautiful dresses, so it’s good to be able to wear them. But in other ways, it’s physical and hard work.”