Isabeli Fontana in a dress designed by Alexandre Vauthier on the Martinez hotel terrace, overlooking the bay of Cannes. “It is summer and some of the models want to show off their bodies,” says Carine Roitfeld. (All photos by Schohaja Photography)
A stone’s throw from the dreamy ocean scene in the sleepy Riviera town of Juan-les-Pins, Carine Roitfeld, France’s most famous fashion editor, and her team are working away in near-silent union, inside a modern hotel resembling an airport lounge.
Fontana shares a moment with Roitfeld at the fitting.
A group of older ladies chat away in the sterile lobby, eyeing diminutive sandwiches that look as if they have been designed for elves. The miniature nibbles have, in fact, been laid out for Roitfeld’s team, who sit inside an adjacent suite, sipping on warm lemon water instead.
“I think I am going to be wearing a vintage dress from my own wardrobe tomorrow,” says Roitfeld, the former editor-in-chief of French Vogue, and editor-in-chief of CR Fashion Book as well as global fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar. “I need to have my vintage stomach.”
“When you wear vintage, you belong to nobody,” she adds.
Karlie Kloss catching up with Roitfeld: “Many of the girls want to walk the carpet and go to the dinner, and they are personalities as well as models. My only two rules are no red nails or red lipstick.”
Little do the lobby dwellers know that the real treasures lie not on the buffet table but inside the suite, where Roitfeld is completing fittings for a charity fashion show for amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS gala at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc. This involves pairing an impressive selection of the world’s top models, many of whom she has discovered, with glittering designer gowns that have been custom made (with a few exceptions) for the event.
Strike a pose. Model Barbara Palvin tries out a Marchesa dress on the Martinez hotel terrace ahead of the amfAR gala at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
She has dubbed the 31 looks that will be auctioned at the gala the Disco Collection. The main inspiration was the silver disco ball. Icons and iconic locations from the 1970s era, like the legendary New York City club Studio 54, and some of its collaborators and patrons, from Jerry Hall to Diane von Furstenberg, also helped inspire the collection.
Roitfeld wearing a favorite pendant from the French artist Cesar, who compresses jewelry, or crushes one’s collection to create one object. “Feel how heavy it is,” she says. “I have one of his designs on my chimney made of forks and spoons.”
“I love the people of the ’70s,” she says. “The people were so beautiful. For my tastes, I don’t think they are as beautiful today. The hair, the looks, the music, I love it. I would love to have been born a bit earlier and been 20 in the 1970s. I never went to Studio 54.”
Karlie Kloss and Luma Grothe talk with Roitfeld. “We have amazing girls because they are from L’ Oréal — Natasha Poly, Karlie Kloss, Lara Stone, all these girls. They are the best girls. We have Jessica Hart, Izabel Goulart — more,” says Roitfeld.
She’s got the energy to lift the piece. Breakfast that morning was a double espresso, an egg, and a green juice, and she’s confident that some tricks that she and the team learned the night before from the L’Oréal models at a fitting at the Martinez hotel in Cannes have worked. “I have been doing some sports,” she says, energetically. “The models are working hard,” she adds. “They want to be like Victoria’s Secret models. They are working out twice a day.”
Natasha Poly poses for a Polaroid in custom Versace. “The girls are exercising twice a day. They want to be like Victoria’s Secret girls,” says Roitfeld.
Roitfeld looks suntanned and smiley, and she stands with such poise that she seems to greatly exceed her height. I read that she does an hour of ballet a day. It shows.
This is Roitfeld’s fifth fashion show with amfAR, which stages a major fundraiser on the fringes of the Cannes Film Festival each year. The Disco Collection has been designed for the most part by friends from the A-to-Z of fashion houses, from Chanel to Dior, as well as newer labels like Hood by Air and Alexandre Vauthier.
“This is the fifth time we are doing a fashion show, so it was hard to come up with a theme that such diverse designers could all work with,” she says. “But this is something they all got excited about and could use.”
Model Luma Grothe in a Moncler design that is part of the Disco Collection. The design is a fringed long-sleeve dress from the fall-winter 2011 collection. “Moncler looks like a fluffy bird,” says Roitfeld. “The girls have to make it work.”
Glittering gowns and shoes are everywhere you turn. Moncler, the ski brand turned fashion house, has adapted a fringed, long-sleeve dress from the fall-winter 2011 collection for the show. The design looks as if a porcupine has had its protective quills sprayed in silver and plucked to create a heavy silver jacket.
Model Alexina Graham tries on a sleeveless Tom Ford gown with corset underlay, at a fitting at the Martinez hotel in Cannes, ahead of the amfAR gala.
A floor-length Tom Ford gown hangs majestically from a silver rail. It has been created from symmetrically set rows of silver plates that lend weight to the simply structured design. A cropped-sleeve Chanel jacket has been embellished with small silver chunks that look like stones found buried in the earth. It resembles glamorous armor. It isn’t the only substantial piece.
“Balmain is like a gladiator,” she says, pointing to another look.
Model Soo Joo Park, sans makeup, in a Chanel jacket at the L’Oréal suite. “The difficult part for the show is hair and makeup,” says Roitfeld.
Roitfield is on first-name terms with all the models walking the show, many whom she discovered, such as Lara Stone and Bella Hadid. She has also helped put a few celebrities on the map, like Kim Kardashian.
Roitfeld discovery Lara Stone wearing a floor-length sequined gown, designed by Roberto Cavalli for the Disco Collection, to be auctioned at the amfAR gala.
But how has she selected these future stars? “I think it is that you fall in love. You don’t know why. It is like Lara Stone. Nobody wanted to book her because she was a bit curvy. I see with emotion. I love emotion. I gave her so many covers, and now she is a big star. There are others — Bella Hadid is here wearing Hood by Air. We were the first one to push her and Gigi Hadid on the cover. Nobody did. Then they become big stars.”
As for Kim Kardashian. “No one would look at her before. I was the first one to put her on the cover. I thought she was beautiful and interesting, and she is a lovely person,” she says.
A glimpse of the disco-inspired looks.
As we talk, she points to a half dozen sparkling outfits hanging on a long rail, waiting for the last girls to arrive and try them on for size. “When the models come here, we propose a dress. If it doesn’t fit, we offer another one. We have Gucci, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Paco Rabanne, and Chloé, still to go,” she says, pointing to the unclaimed rail.
How did Roitfeld narrow down the designers when she has so many friends in the industry? “You cannot do disco without opening with a Versace dress or having a Lagerfeld dress,” she says. “I asked all of my friends, and people are very excited about this project because it has a lot of visibility and it is a good cause for charity,” she says.
“When the models come here, we propose a dress. If it doesn’t fit, we offer another one,” says Roitfeld.
And she has thought carefully about her audience. “I wanted to create excitement and a good mood before the main auction, and a connection between fashion and the audience, many of whom are not educated in fashion. It is a dream for many to be so close to these top models,” she says.
But for Roitfeld, it is dreamlike to rework this era. “I didn’t live this moment, but for me it looked like a dream,” she says. “I worked for a long time with Gucci and Tom Ford, who references this time in his work. It was a golden era about how to dream about a girl. Someone arrived at Studio 54 on a white horse, someone else on roller skates. Everyone was mixed together, from politicians to dancers. It is my big dream,” she says.
Gianvito Rossi customized silver shoes.
She has other dreams too. “I think it is great to mix glamour and charity work and can bring a lot of money in,” Roitfeld says. “I love the work my daughter [Julia Restoin Roitfeld] does with the charity Smile Train for children with cleft lips, and Audrey Hepburn on location with UNICEF … and I would love to do other charity work in other places, something hands-on.”
She pauses: “We are lucky. A cleft lip surgery costs $250. That is a pair of shoes to us.”