It's so her last season – France's style queen quits

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Given the notoriously icy "editrix" of US Vogue Anna Wintour once dismissed Sienna Miller as "toothy", it seems unlikely that she was crying into her designer water yesterday following the news that her fierce rival at French Vogue is to stand down.

Carrine Roitfeld, who became editor of the magazine in 2001, surprised the fashion world yesterday with the announcement of her departure from one of the most prestigious jobs in the industry. She will continue at the magazine until the end of January, which marks the 10th anniversary of her tenure there, but after that, according to Jonathan Newhouse, the chairman of Vogue publishers Condé Nast, she "plans to step down in order to take her life and work in a new direction".

While in charge of French Vogue Roitfeld made it the standard bearer for edgy Parisian cool. Roitfeld, 56, is a huge figure in the fashion industry in her own right. During her decade at the magazine, she has been celebrated for both her editorial work and her own personal style, thanks to an increasing focus on what fashion editors wear themselves.

Though the magazine has a much smaller audience than US Vogue, it is considered to be more cutting-edge, with a tougher, sexier aesthetic.

Inevitably, as Roitfeld's status has grown, comparing her to US counterpart Anna Wintour has been something of a sport. In an interview in 2007, Roitfeld said: "The ultimate Vogue to do would be the American Vogue, because it's huge."

In 2008 rumours swirled that Roitfeld was poised to replace Wintour, with New York Magazine referring to Roitfeld as "The Anti Anna".

The contrast in the pair's personalities is particularly noticeable: while Wintour sweeps into fashion shows wearing a stern expression behind her trademark large sunglasses, Roitfeld is frequently to be seen smiling and chatting with her equally skinny and stylish editorial team.

Then there are their respective wardrobes. While Wintour favours a polished ladylike look, Roitfeld goes for a more rock-and-roll approach to dressing. She favours an artfully dishevelled hairstyle and smoky black eyeliner, while Wintour's signature bob never has a hair out of place.

Roitfeld's entrée into the fashion industry came in her late teens, as a model, and working for French Elle, but it was in the 90s that she had a major impact as part of a dream team of image-makers – working with designer Tom Ford at Gucci, and the photographer Mario Testino, who shot the brand's influential ad campaigns.

A statement on British Vogue's website said that Roitfeld has now decided to concentrate on personal projects. In an interview with the New York Times she said: "I think it's time to do something different."

Condé Nast has said that her replacement will be announced "in the coming weeks", a subject already of furious speculation in the fashion world.