Exclusive! We speak to Carine Roitfeld about her special M.A.C collection

Carine Roitfeld
Photography by Lars Beaulieu
Carine Roitfeld
Photography: Roitfeld by Lars Beaulieu; products by Carlo Mendoza.

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In the fashion realm, Carine Roitfeld looms large. Her styling work—for French Vogue, Chanel, Givenchy—is memorable, and her role in the rise of talented designers and photographers like Tom Ford and Mario Sorrenti has been well documented. But her beauty influence has mostly been limited to those who obsessively follow fashion week street-style shots of her, with her smudged-black eyes and unbrushed hair falling over her face. So it’s a pleasant surprise that M.A.C, a company known for thinking well outside the model/pretty celebrity box, has asked the 57-year-old stylist and editor to compose a collection of cosmetics (from $18, maccosmetics.com) and pose for its campaign. “I think it is smart, because to be beautiful is not just about being a classic beauty. There is something subtler but more touching in you that is beautiful too,” says Roitfeld when we meet at the New York flagship bookstore of Rizzoli, the publisher of Irreverent, her glossy scrapbook memoir of last year. Wearing a camouflage Junya Watanabe sweater, YSL pencil skirt and bright green Balenciaga stiletto sandals, with that smoky liner and no lipstick, she’s typically un-“done” and exudes cool, though her warm manner is far from the frosty fashion stereotype.

The M.A.C collection is a tightly edited mix of black, black and more black, with a little taupe and caramel thrown in—the sole splash of colour is a deep red nail polish. In an unexpected twist, there’s a small star-shaped stencil intended to be worn on the face. (Her explanation: “Because I don’t have a beauty spot.”) Roitfeld takes her smoky eyes seriously—after giving birth to both of her children, she applied black liner before receiving visitors. “Even though I’m not a specialist, I know exactly what I want the softness and the quality of the pencil to be,” she says, “the type of black, the quality of the mascara.”

“I think the beauty of a woman is not just her parts—her hair, the way she’s standing, what she’s wearing—its the whole person.”

She was exposed to the vagaries of liner formulas early on, when she was enlisted to paint on her mother’s cat eyes in the early ’70s. “It was liquid, but from a long time ago. It dried very strangely and it was not nice at all.” She admits that she now does everything with her fingers. “I don’t know how to do my makeup very well—it’s always a bit messy. Maybe in a nice way, like you forgot to take off your makeup before you went to sleep at night and the next morning it is a bit destroyed.” Of course, nothing concerning aesthetics is really an accident where  Roitfeld is concerned. She relates a story about how Liz Taylor would take a bath after she did her makeup because the steam made it look more natural. “That’s why she was always late,” she says. “I think that is a good reference for my makeup.”

Carine Roitfeld
Photography by Lars Beaulieu

Though surprised when she was asked to be a M.A.C face, Roitfeld’s response was a characteristic “Why not?” The image, shot by Sorrenti, is unusual—Roitfeld calls it “risky”—for a makeup campaign. It’s a moody black-and-white, three-quarter-length portrait of her in a slinky slipdress, staring down the lens like a more fashion-y, more French Patti Smith. This departure from the classic zoomed-in, technicolour shot of larger-than-life lashes or juicy pouting lips was Roitfeld’s decision. “I think the beauty of a woman is not just her parts—her hair, the way she’s standing, what she’s wearing—it’s the whole person.”

As anyone who follows fashion blogs knows, Roitfeld is a newly minted grandmère: Her daughter, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, gave birth to her first child, Romy, in May. This role doesn’t seem to sit too comfortably just yet. “‘Grandmother’ always reminds me of old ladies,” Roitfeld says. “But my daughter loved my mother because she always said, ‘You’re beautiful, you’re amazing,’ whereas I was always, ‘bad, bad, bad.’ I’m not sure I can give my granddaughter as much time as my mom [gave Julia], but I hope that she will love me the same way.” The time they do spend together sounds like a treat for both of them. “When you have the baby with you, you have to be very quiet and careful not to wake her up. It’s very relaxing because I can leave when she starts to cry. It’s very calming. It’s like having a joint or something.” This family bonding time must be a respite from the chaos of putting together the first issues of Roitfeld’s hotly anticipated magazine, CR Fashion Book. A much smaller operation than French Vogue, it’s run out of a hotel room at the East Village Standard provided by owner Andre Balazs. “I have a lot of pressure because everything has to be finished within a month, and we are behind schedule,” she says. Yes, there will be a beauty section. “I think women are more into beauty than fashion. They spend a lot of money on beauty creams.”

Having spent years working with models who fall definitively into the “super” category, Roitfeld has developed a healthy perspective on any notion of comparison. “When you spend your time with all these beautiful 20-year-olds, you have to be yourself. You’re not going to be able to be like them,” she says. “I am a different category of woman and I am confident in myself. I’m different but I still have a lot to give, much more than those 20-year-olds. People invite me because of what I bring to the table, because I have done a certain sort of work and I have experience and perspective. I can talk and think—I’m not just a beautiful flower on the table.”

Carine Roitfeld
Photography by Lars Beaulieu

SKINCARE: “I try to be good but honestly, during my time skincare was not such a big deal. We didn’t really talk about sun spots or how to remove your makeup. We didn’t know about manicurists, massages or facials. I never put sunblock on my face.”

HAIR: “My idea of beauty is with my hair in my face. It’s like sunglasses—it’s a little bit of protection.”

FOUNDATION: “I don’t like foundation. I don’t like powder. I don’t think you would like to kiss foundation when you go to kiss a person, and it just sticks in the wrinkles.”

LASHES: “I use mascara, then I curl. It curls better, but it is more dangerous. You have to clean the curler very well so the old mascara won’t stick to the new, causing you to rip out your lashes. I’ve always done it like this so I think it’s OK, because my lashes are still here.”

BROWS: “I used to do something very bad—I would pluck all my eyebrow hairs. I’m very lucky that they came back. Last year, all the makeup artists bleached the models’ eyebrows. I hated it. I never liked that alien look…the trend is over.”

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