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Fashion Earthquake Imminent

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2nd Dec 2008

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Carine Roitfeld, French Vogue
After 20 years of Anna Wintour's unparalleled reign at the helm of American Vogue, the rumor mill is rife that Carine Roitfeld will be the eventual next editor at American Vogue, the undisputed jewel of Conde Nast. Carine has been in charge of the French edition since 2001, and her highly acclaimed work (tinged with a sharp mouth) has made her a rising editorial star in a very crowded field.

Whether or not Wintour moves out of Vogue in January to take a senior role at LVMH, or (as some have imagined) a US Ambassadorship in the Circles of Obama, the fact remains that Carine's star is on the rise. Her edgy and glamourous work at French Vogue have long been the talk of the fashion elite. Her frank attitude and devil-may-care photo shoots have injected a youthful glamour to the magazine, without compromising the overall credibility of the franchise. Her French globality, with Russian, German and American influences, lend well to the new landscape of money.

But it remains to be seen if Carine can helm the mighty Vogue ship, already in trouble due to looming advertising cuts across the board that are slated for 2009. French Vogue may be edgy, but it doesn't rake in the Euros. More importantly, the French websites for Vogue and Condenet in general leave much to be desired, and the smart money would be on Si Newhouse picking a new editor that can grasp the importance of digital and print convergence to move things forward.

Is Carine that girl?

Fashion insiders have been back and forth on their opinion of her. Mouths fell open earlier in the year when Roitfeld referred to Wintour as "a puppet" in an interview with New York Magazine. There was indication that Roitfeld approached Wintour at the Spring/Summer 2009 European shows to apologize, but was icily rebuffed: "Carine, this is neither the time, nor the place."

Whether or not Roitfeld takes over in the US, the growing buzz around her potential ascension will transform her power in the fashion industry, realigning a multitude of other players on the rise. There is finally an Heir to the House of Wintour, whether it happens this January or at some point in the distant future.

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The idea that Carine is on the up recasts the die in who others look at and how seriously. And shifting the 'favour' of the editorial process to Carine's taste will mean different young designers to champion and nurture, a different vibe on the runway, and a different approach to the look of fashion.

Such changes might perfectly reflect the new austerity settling into the global psyche in the wake of the credit crashes of 2007 and 2008. Both art and fashion will have to adjust, and that may mean that the prominent faces of the last decade will give way to something new.

On the other hand, never underestimate the Wintour - unless she's moving up, she's unlikely to be moving out. Watch this space.