Mademoiselle C is a reference to Carine Roitfeld, the fashion magazine editor who is France’s equivalent of Anna Wintour. For a decade, Roitfeld was the editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris and then in 2011 she decided to quit to set up her own magazine in New York, simply titled CR. Fabien Constant’s revealing documentary covers the production and launch of the first issue.
It seems that the director approached the fashion editor at exactly the right time. “I was starting this new adventure with the magazine and I thought that anything that will be good to help the magazine I would do,” says Roitfeld. “I know Fabien and he came to me and he proposed a film that would follow me, like a September Issue, about this first issue.”
What she did not envisage was that over the seven months she was followed by Constant, he would make such a personal and intimate portrait, much more so than the 2009 documentary on American Vogue Roitfeld refers to. During the filming, Roitfeld became a grandmother for the first time. She is also shown practising ballet, at home with her husband Riccardo and interacting with a host of her friends, such as Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford. It is a life full of glamour.
Even with a sensitive and friendly director at the helm, it was tough to have a documentary crew follow her around. “To live with a microphone and camera is very difficult, not just for me, but for my team,” says the 59-year-old. “We were a very small team creating the magazine and, apart from the editor Stephen Gan, we didn’t know each other really well, so they were very nice to accept this idea.”
It turns out that big companies aren’t necessarily happy when their star editor leaves. As Roitfeld starts putting the new magazine together, she discovers that a number of the photographers she likes to employ for shoots have been warned that the Vogue publisher Condé Nast might not look too kindly on them working on the new magazine. “I was a bit surprised,” says Roitfeld. “But I also knew that was the price to pay for being free. I know some photographers and, of course, they have contracts. Mario Testino is my oldest friend and he cannot work for me. It’s business.”
She has kind words to say about her former employers, too. “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.”
Becoming a grandmother was a pivotal moment for her. “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 I think I’m very grateful. In fashion, people say we’re very superficial and we just think about the clothes and, in a way, it’s true. I think the baby gave me a lot of oxygen. It took me back to reality and that’s very important.”
After the launch of CR, Roitfeld was approached by Harper’s Bazaar to work on its magazine and to the surprise of many, she accepted a position. “It took me a long time to accept, because I said: ‘Hmm, I want my freedom.’ But ultimately it is freedom, because I don’t have any boss. I don’t have an editor-in-chief, it’s just a contract with me as a big president. I’ll always follow the advice of Karl [Lagerfeld] when he says: ‘Everything that you’re doing, do it in a style that no one else has done it before you.’”
Mademoiselle C screens on Wednesday at 9pm in Vox 3 and on Thursday at 3.45pm in Vox 1