Carine Roitfeld: 'I think to stay young, you need young people around you'

Updated 10:26 AM ET, Mon September 12, 2016

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This September editor and fashion director Carine Roitfeld celebrates the launch of issue 9 of CR Fashion Book with a contributing editorship for CNN Style. See exclusive images from the issue here.

(CNN)She is kept busy as the editor in chief of CR Fashion Book and global fashion director of Harper's Bazaar, as well as muse and consultant stylist for a bevy of designers, including Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld, but Carine Roitfeld is still looking to add to her ever growing portfolio.

"I think to stay young, you need young people around you -- some of my friends are younger than my kids -- but you also need to launch new projects all the time," she says in a telephone interview from New York, having just arrived to attend New York Fashion Week.
As she prepares for the launch of the ninth edition of CR Fashion Book, themed around the ill-fated French queen Marie Antoinette and with Rihanna as her cover girl, Roitfeld is planning to further develop the Carine Roitfeld brand.
Her third collaboration with Japanese giant Uniqlo will hit US stores on October 28; she recently completed work on a perfume line (though you will have to wait until next September to discover it); and she is reviewing business plans for her magazine as she turns the leaf on her four-year collaboration with Stephen Gan, founder of the Fashion Media Group, creative director of US Harper's Bazaar, and a business partner and creative director for CR Fashion Book.
"Stephen was there from the beginning and I will never forget he helped me make my dream come true, but now that the baby is big enough, it can walk on its own. Stephen feels the same. I don't like the word 'split' and I know he will never be very far from me," she says, adding that her publisher Jorge Garcia, who has also been with her since the beginning, will remain on board.

Life after Vogue

When she left Vogue Paris in early 2011, after 10 years as its helm, Roitfeld had no clear plans beyond a desire to explore her new-found freedom.
"I knew I didn't want to go to a rehab spa; I was ready to work," she recalls. "I actually had no time to develop any Vogue blues because the day I left them officially, Barneys had already called me to put together a catalog for them and work with Mario Sorrenti. So immediately I had a new project with lots of freedom which was very exciting."
Other collaborations quickly followed, including a MAC makeup collection and two capsule collections for Uniqlo, demonstrating the bankability of her name.
Meanwhile, as global fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, her fashion spreads appear in all 32 international editions, reaching over nine million readers each month.
"Carine's aesthetic is truly global, and the images she produces resonate with our Harper's Bazaar audiences around the world, from Argentina to the Netherlands to Taiwan. She is highly talented, endlessly creative and extremely well-connected," says David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines.
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"I was very lucky that my boss at Vogue, Jonathan Newhouse, didn't have any problem making me a celebrity. Vogue really opened the door to me to become a brand," Roitfeld says. "With CR Fashion, and of course working for Harper's Bazaar internationally, my name has become bigger and bigger. Now I'm thinking about the future, and I'm thinking big. I would love to have a legacy, something I can pass on to my daughter, my granddaughter; something that can stay forever."
Part of that quest for permanence could be realized in the line of perfumes that she will launch next September, a project that has been nearly two years in the making and that she has overseen at all stages of development, from selecting the different scents (there will be seven) to designing the bottles.
"This project is very personal. Like my fashion, there is always something of me in everything I do," she says, adding she has roped in her son to help her in her new venture because, "Talking business doesn't come naturally to me, I'm really more a creative, so he's really helping me."

Room to grow

Business details may not come naturally, but even in today's tough media environment Roitfeld has made a success of the glossy CR Fashion Book, and last September she launched a men's supplement, which is bundled with the main magazine.
The latest 384-page edition of CR Fashion Book, due to be released on September 15, has 173 advertisements, compared with 156 in the 340-page debut issue in 2012. Roitfeld sees her advertisers as part of a "very private club" and is not afraid of turning some away.
"Maybe I don't have all the advertisers I would dream to have, but I don't have advertisers I don't respect," she says. "It's not a question of money, but a question of creativity and honesty. I don't want to give space to advertisers who are copying someone else."
Working with a small team keeps her overhead low, but Roitfeld admits it has not been plain sailing and she is constantly thinking about how to ensure readers continue to pick her magazine.
"They have so much choice. But for me competition is stimulation."
Roitfeld feels her main task now is to improve the visibility and distribution of the magazine. One option being considered is to increase the number of issues and move to a quarterly, reducing the number of pages per issue ("That's the dream"), while another goal is to publish CR Men's Book as a standalone ("Definitely next September").
Another challenge will be improving her online business, which is going to require further investment. She recognizes publications like hers "cannot live without a [strong] online presence nowadays. This is where my magazine has room to grow."