Carine Roitfeld’s New ‘Baby’

The former editor of French Vogue unveils her new magazine, CR Fashion Book, this week. She talks to Isabel Wilkinson about Kate Upton, working with Karl Lagerfeld, and babies, babies, babies. 

Kirstin Sinclair / Getty Images

Carine Roitfeld is back – but she won’t let you call it a comeback. The former editor of French Vogue returns this week with CR Fashion Book – a highly-anticipated fashion bible that will come out twice a year and live online.

The truth is, she never really stopped working. After her departure from French Vogue almost two years ago, she has collaborated with Barneys, styled a book for Karl Lagerfeld, as well as several fashion spreads.

But in many ways, the magazine’s first installment will be her rebirth. At 57-years-old, she’s also the new face of Mac Cosmetics, and appears in their campaign in black silk lingerie. And just last month, her 30-year-old daughter, Julia, gave birth to a daughter, Romy Nicole. It was a perfect convergence of forces at a single moment – one that inspired Roitfeld to fill her magazine with “the promise of youth, the force of age, and the rush of all things new.”

The inaugural issue features two covers, both in black and white and photographed by Bruce Weber. Kate Upton graces one side holding ducklings – and a second cover depicts a little girl holding a baby and laughing. The ads in the magazine are organized alphabetically. Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld have each contributed photography – and Roitfeld has chosen to feature everyone from Amma, the Hindu spiritual leader, to Leslie Winer, a reclusive model made famous in the 1980s.

"I think it’s better to turn the page of the magazine with a smile on your face," Roitfeld tells us. "It’s a serious business, but at the end of the day, it’s just fashion." In an exclusive interview below, she answers our questions about CR Fashion Book, being called “babuschka” – and babies, babies, babies.

Why was the first issue of CR Fashion Book themed around the concept of rebirth?

We decided for each issue there would be a theme. When I started to work on this issue, my daughter was pregnant, so I was obsessed with pregnancy, with babies, with new life coming. It’s become an obsession. Everyone can interpret the theme in a different way: it could be birth, babies, it could be death - it could be so many different things. The next one will be totally another world.

Do you feel that there’s a particular pressure right now – and that everyone is watching your next move?

I see some things on blogs, though I’m not really into blogs too much. Sometimes pressure can be good, and it gives you a lot of energy to do something. But now, because the magazine is finished and printing is over, I feel pressure and hope people are not going to be disappointed. I had a very, very, small team and everyone worked so hard, it would be sad for me, but very sad for my team, too. I hope people are going to like it. But I’m on my own with Stephen[Gan], I just put the pressure on myself. No one put pressure on me.

How can you justify publishing a book that comes out twice a year with the fast paced feel of fashion coverage on the Web?

I’m not the generation of the Internet – I’m the generation of paper magazines – but with the new site, we’re going to do CR Fashion Book online. It’s very exciting, because it will be like a diary. I hope with the Internet, it will be quicker, and like the front of the book in a classical magazine. This is something very new for me, and very exciting. It’s a new way of thinking, a new way of looking, it’s a new way of doing pictures.

Why did you choose to put Kate Upton on the cover?

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It was an idea I shared with Bruce Weber about babies, animals, and little girls. I didn’t want a normal model. I wanted someone with a sensual body, someone who could be a mother for all these babies. Honestly, from the first time I worked with her – I saw in Sports Illustrated some pictures she did with Terry Richardson. I would not say she’s a controversial model, but she’s not a classic model. And I like that.

From the first time I met her when I did the story, she was so cool, and so good with all the baby dolls – I thought it was the best choice. It felt so natural for her to hold babies, baby pigs, baby lambs, baby donkeys. Maybe people will be surprised that she was my first cover, but you know, I always like to surprise people.

Why did you decide to put a little girl on the other cover?

This little girl was the choice of Bruce. He proposed it to me, and I said, “yes, she seems perfect for me.” She was a perfect beauty, classic age – and she was able to carry another baby. She’s under 10. For her, it was like turning the page of a fairytale.

Why did you choose to feature the model Leslie Winer in the magazine?

I don’t know if people remember her, but she was one of the biggest models in the 1980’s. She was the first model who put her hair like a boy and dressed like a boy. When I first met her 25 years ago, she was pregnant – now she has five daughters. I hadn’t seen her in 25 years!

What was Tom Ford’s contribution to the magazine?

He gave the idea of this fairytale. It was like Romeo & Juliet. It was quite quick, and everything was well-prepared in advanced. We know that Tom has lots of amazing ideas – and it was all his fantasy. When he proposed this story to me, I was in heaven. It was exactly what I was looking for.

What did Karl Lagerfeld contribute?

I’m working with him a lot – I just styled his book, The Little Black Jacket. We’ve been working together for two years now. He was the right photographer to photograph this big, American icon that I wanted to transform into a big, French icon of the 1960s and 1970s because he knew them. I think he had a lot of fun doing it – he was very happy.

What’s the most surprising thing about being a grandmother?

I was there in New York when my granddaughter was born. Immediately you feel so much love. It is very difficult to explain, but it is pure love. I’m sad I’m not spending more time with her, because I’m living in Paris and she’s in New York. Her name is Romy Nicole. ‘Romy’ because my daughter loved Romy Schneider, the French actress – and ‘Nicole’ because it was the name of my mother. Julia loved her grandmother so much. If my granddaughter loves me as much as my daughter loved my mother, it will be beautiful.

How do you feel about being called a ‘grandmother with sex appeal?’

Now, everything has changed. “Grandmother” doesn’t mean that you have gray hair and you retire and stay home cooking cakes for your grandchildren. Now, a grandmother is young, and she’s still doing a lot of things - a grandmother can wear high heels. [Julia] gave me a big, big present with this little girl. She had a baby three months ago, and now my new baby comes out in two weeks. So I’m a very happy grandma. And I don’t know what [Romy Nicole] is going to call me. I was expecting the Russian name, which is Babuschka. But she will decide, no?