• Portrait: Carine Roitfeld
  • Ralf Würth
Portrait: Carine Roitfeld

PARIS — With her thin face and weeping hair, Carine Roitfeld has been described as the female version of the rocker Iggy Pop — and, more cruelly, as “monkey face.”

Yet even the most catty critic would have to admit that Ms. Roitfeld, the former editor of French Vogue and a pivotal figure in the fashion world, is extraordinarily elegant: the incarnation of slightly twisted French chic in her uniform of to-the-knee pencil skirts, silk blouses, leather jackets and an ever-changing roster of stiletto heels.

At the close of Paris Fashion Week, she held a party at the Russian club Chez Raspoutine to celebrate her new, appropriately titled book, “Irreverent.” The fête drew a fashion A-list that included Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy (whose dress she wore), as well as Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, Peter Dundas of Pucci, Olivier Theyskens and Karl Lagerfeld (who left his own Chanel party to attend hers). Also present were supermodels, top photographers and executives from the major fashion brands.

And all that when Ms. Roitfeld, 57, is out of a job, having come to the end of the line with French Vogue after a 10-year stint.

“Why a book — especially for someone like me who hates looking back?” Ms. Roitfeld asked. “It marks 30 years. The end of a chapter is a good moment — and they have been ‘belles années,’ beautiful years, when I have succeeded in work and with my family,” she said, referring to her partner of 30 years, Sisley Restoin, and her two children, Julia and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld. The book opens with an image of a T-shirt that says “Vogue love you mum.” It was created by Ms. Roitfeld’s son at the age of 8, long before his mother worked for French Vogue and transformed it from a mélange of Parisian culture and fashion into what Ms. Roitfeld calls “erotic chic.”

It was Ms. Roitfeld’s years styling Mario Testino’s photo shoots for Gucci in the 1990s that brought her to the forefront of fashion. The louche glamour, with more than a hint of decadence, kicked “grunge” out of fashion and made history in terms of brand identity and visual daring. Today she points to other major changes during that period, including the “editorialization” of advertising imagery and the use of handbags on the runway, starting a perpetual craze for each season’s “it” bag.

Olivier Zahm, the book’s curator and an editor at Purple magazine, attributes Ms. Roitfeld’s increasingly high profile to more than her editorial skills. “The Internet has changed the way the fashion system works,” he said. “Stylists from the fashion press, who used to be virtually unknown outside the industry, are nowadays as important in promoting fashion as the models they dress for magazines.” Although Ms. Roitfeld is not an Internet enthusiast, she thinks that her strongly identifiable imagery and visual awareness might be suitable for introducing an online magazine. For this, her personal look would be an advantage, for she is a magnet to photographers who record her every appearance.

To Mr. Zahm, how Ms. Roitfeld wears the clothes is as important as the brands and labels that she chooses. And Ms. Roitfeld explained, “There is always the same length of skirt. My silhouette has not changed; my body stayed young. But you still have to change — there is nothing more vulgar than a woman who dresses inappropriately for her age.” In her spare style, Ms. Roitfeld is Parisian, a type that tends to grow old gracefully — or in her case, maybe “disgracefully.” But the fashion world certainly believes that this book will not be her last word, and it looks forward to the next chapter.

  • Ralf Würth