THE VIEW FROM CARINE: In early October, Hearst scored a splashy coup when it convinced Carine Roitfeld, who seemed elated to be free of corporate constraints after her decade at French Vogue, to join the company as the global fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar. The job has her styling four fashion stories a year that will appear simultaneously across all international editions. But upon the announcement, it was also somewhat vaguely defined. Would individual brand editors get veto power over Roitfeld’s shoots? What if Glenda Bailey found one of the stories too risque?
Roitfeld appeared Monday night for a Q&A at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York and made it clear she won’t be reporting to Bailey or any other editors in chief. “I’m not working with [Bailey],” she said, while noting that the long-time editor in chief is “a very important part of Bazaar.” Roitfeld said she’ll develop her stories and then they’ll be given to all the international magazines. “I’m always independent. No boss,” she said. She explained she’ll be mostly working with Duncan Edwards, president and chief executive officer of Hearst Magazines International.
Edwards said Roitfeld’s mandate is to create stories that can reverberate globally. “It’s an independent story that’s really for Bazaar rather than one individual edition,” he said. “You can’t have one editor editing that story.”
Even if the brand takes precedence over an individual creative vision, editors will reap the rewards, he said.
“Of course, the magazine belongs to Hearst, not to Glenda,” he said. “It’s a smart and clever thing for all of our editors to buy into because every edition of the magazine gets the benefit of this global story, and which magazine wouldn’t want a story styled by Carine?”
Edwards wanted Roitfeld to come to Hearst soon after she left Condé Nast in January 2011, and approached her that September.
It took a year of pursuit to get her to agree.
During the Q&A, Roitfeld made clear she did not appreciate the regular fights with Condé management over her magazine’s provocative spreads. She seems to relish her freedom, taking on new advertising campaigns and started her own magazine, CR Fashion Book, where she has wide latitude to do whatever she wants and embraces her reputation as the queen of porno chic. There wasn’t an immediate impulse to work with another behemoth publisher.
But Edwards won her over with the idea that the job seems to be the first of its kind, and gives her, also for the first time, a large readership spanning several countries. “Can you imagine for me to go from so small to have so many readers?” she said.
He also assured her she wouldn’t have to give up her lucrative consulting and freelance projects. At Hearst, Roitfeld is just another freelancer, Edwards said.
With such a broad portfolio, Roitfeld understands she has limitations. “When you’re talking to a wider scale of readers, you think a bit differently,” she said. But she’s convinced her personality can break through. “You will recognize me in the pictures,” she said. “My way, my castings, the way I put clothes together, it’s very me.”