Interview: Carine Roitfeld - Mario Testino was banned from working with me

Former editor of French Vogue had a tough time setting up her own magazine

Carine Roitfeld made her name as the editor of Vogue Paris. Over a ten-year period from 2001-2011, she established herself as more than just a writer and editor becoming a doyenne of the fashion world.

There was considerable shock when she left to set up her own magazine. Director Fabien Constant, seemingly inspired by The September Issue - a documentary looking at the working life of Anna Wintour at Vogue US - approached Roitfeld about doing a film on the launch issue of CR Fashion Book. The result, Mademoiselle C, features some of fashion's biggest names, including Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld, and shows the hurdles that the 59-year-old faced launching her own magazine in New York.

Why did you make this film?

I was starting this new adventure with the magazine and anything that will do something good for the magazine, I will say yes. So I know Fabian and when he came to me and proposed following me to make a September Issue about this issue I said, "Okay, why not?" I totally gave him my confidence, all my doors were open for seven months, but at the start I didn't think it would end up being so personal.

Did you like having a camera following you around?

I hate seeing myself - of course you always hate yourself, with your voice, your hair, your look. I don't like looking at myself, I'm not an actress and I didn't want it to be like a reality show either. I don't think you get the feeling of that. I think it's more about a small team doing a magazine.

How does it feel for you to be celebrity?

You know, for me I'm not a celebrity because I have real friends around me that tell me… Everyone doesn't say, "Oh, you look amazing, you're great." No, no. They say, "This dress is horrible on you, you look like s***." There are some people who tell me the truth so I never feel like a celebrity.

The film shows your previous employers Condé Nast making it difficult for photographers to work for you, did that surprise you?

I was a bit surprised, you know, but I also knew it was the price to pay to be free. I know some photographers and of course they have contracts. Mario Testino is my oldest friend and he cannot work with me. It's okay, I understand this is business... it's a business. Sometimes I was a bit sad, but I said, "No drama".

Does it give you a sour taste about your time at Vogue?

I don't have any regrets. I had 10 amazing years with Vogue. It was very fun and I tried to make the best of it. But Vogue existed before me, and it will exist after me, that's for sure. Vogue is a bigger name than my name.

The film shows you becoming a grandmother for the first time. How important a moment was this for you?

I think when I became a grandmother my life changed a lot, and I think I changed personally. You have to open your eyes in a different way and think I'm very grateful.

You have now taken a job at Harper's Bazaar. Having talked a lot about freedom, why work for someone else again?

It took me a long time to accept, because I said, "Hmm, I want the freedom," but ultimately it is freedom because I don't have any boss. I have no editor-in-chief, it's just a contract with me as a big president, and it's not my idea, it's their idea. And I'll always follow the advice of Karl that says, "Everything you're doing, do it that no one did before you."

Mademoiselle C is out on DVD today