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Carine Roitfeld Talks Harper's Bazaar Coup

Her biggest project thus far as Bazaar’s global fashion director will be unveiled on Aug. 19.

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Lady Gaga

Photo By Sebastian Faena

Penelope Cruz

Photo By Sebastian Faena

CARINE’S BAZAAR COUP: Carine Roitfeld’s biggest project for Harper’s Bazaar will be unveiled on Aug. 19. It’s an important moment, Roitfeld noted from a table at Manhattan’s TriBeCa eatery Locanda Verde, as her assistant flipped through her latest portfolio of 19 images of well-known women.

“This is a portfolio I’ve been dreaming of wanting to do even over my 30 years in the business,” said Roitfeld, who noted that she began the project in March and finished in May. “You need a magazine that has big shoulders for such a project.”

Shot by Sebastian Faena, with creative direction by Stephen Gan, the portfolio, which will appear in all 30 editions of Harper’s Bazaar, includes Lady Gaga, Penélope Cruz, Linda Evangelista, Lara Stone, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Mariacarla Boscono, Joan Smalls, Stephanie Seymour, Isabeli Fontana, Laetitia Casta, Carolyn Murphy, Monica Bellucci, Gigi Hadid, Brooke Shields, Eva Herzigova, Iman, Stacy Martin and Lauren Hutton.

“It’s a huge amount of power they gave to me,” Roitfeld said, referring to the magazine’s parent company, Hearst Magazines.

She explained that her role as Bazaar’s global fashion director has allowed her to create fashion portfolios that the editors of all 30 Harper’s Bazaar editions can use. Since she started the role two years ago, about 10 to 15 of the 30 editions have been using her covers on a regular basis, although none of the editions are obligated to do so.

September’s issue in particular, which she refers to as “Icons,” marks the first time Roitfeld’s shoot has been featured on the newsstand cover of Bazaar U.S. (Images from her past portfolios were featured on the U.S. flip covers in November 2013 and May 2014, however).

When she was offered the role by Hearst Magazines International president and chief executive officer Duncan Edwards and Hearst Magazines president David Carey in 2012, Roitfeld had been in the papers for stepping down from her gig of 10 years as editor in chief of Condé Nast’s French Vogue. When she was called to a lunch meeting at the Hearst Tower in New York, Roitfeld had just unveiled plans to launch her biannual CR Fashion Book, and given her career at rival Condé Nast, she admitted that Carey’s “surprising” offer to “start something new” appealed to her.

“I think it’s a genius idea to give one editor the ability to do one story — exactly 17 pages — total freedom for the choice of the photographer, the models, the choice of the clothes. And, the same story, we give to 30 countries at the same time,” she said. “It’s the reason why I accepted. It’s not because I wanted to do more stories or it’s not like I wanted any revenge against Condé Nast. It was just something very interesting that I had never seen before.”

Fast forward two years later and Roitfeld is showing off her latest work. That includes three newsstand covers for the U.S. market of a fresh-faced Lady Gaga in a pink tweed Chanel jacket, hat and skirt, which Roitfeld herself cut shorter — with Karl Lagerfeld’s blessing; a Dior-clad Penélope Cruz, and Linda Evangelista wrapped in a twisted bundle of muted Comme des Garçons knits.

“For all the icons, I used fishnets. Fishnets are like my link,” she said, noting that in the portfolio they can be seen as tights, gloves or as part of dresses, for example.

Although that flourish isn’t exactly racy or the boundary-pushing stuff Roitfeld is known for, it’s part of her vision for Harper’s Bazaar, which includes introducing its international readers from less fashion-savvy countries such as Poland, Ukraine and Romania to her perspective on fashion.

“To have Karl Lagerfeld or Gaga in Poland is genius for them, no?” she said.

The fact that she can introduce new photographers, designers and models without oversight from the editors of Bazaar’s editions is an added bonus.

Still, she realizes that she must reel it in a bit for Bazaar’s readership — even in the U.S. market.

“I know it’s not CR Fashion Book,” Roitfeld said, of Bazaar U.S. “I know I have to be more easy to understand. The models have to be more understandable for everyone. You are talking to a lot of women who maybe don’t know as much about fashion. It’s a different conversation.”

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