Those in the fashion industry who worship at the shrine of Tom Ford's Gucci collections (secret services occur every Friday at 3 a.m., we hear, behind a wall accessible from a street in London that will open if you tap the symmetrical cobblestone 3.41 inches to the right of the ebony doorframe with a stiletto heel, first with just the weight of two lipsticks, and then a second time as though you were having sex standing up) probably never expected his relationship with Carine Roitfeld — one of seemingly perfect chemistry and unstoppable momentum — to be his undoing. And it wasn't — it was hers. That is, if you count her resignation from French Vogue as her undoing, which surely it can't be, as the woman is phenomenally successful, so cool it's embarrassing, and a recognized force in the fashion industry. Cathy Horyn's piece in the Times today on Emmanuelle Alt's succession to the French Vogue throne gives some credence to the rumors that Roitfeld was fired. Apparently the controversial December issue by Ford — which included an editorial of 6-year-olds made up like grown models, and a salacious Western-themed spread called "Pussy West" — was the culmination of a string of differences between Roitfeld and Condé Nast.
What happened to Ms. Roitfeld was this: she offered to resign, according to several individuals close to the matter. She was frequently absent from the office, on shoots, and when the issue of her management came to a head, she offered to resign. She may have been bluffing, hoping she would be asked to stay, but her resignation was accepted.
The criticism over the Tom Ford issue extended beyond the blogs, Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani's included, it seems, to the offices of executives at Condé Nast.
When asked if being away from the office was a contributing factor, Ms. Roitfeld said last month over a drink at the Ritz hotel in Paris: “Maybe, maybe. Everybody has an opinion. Before, it wasn’t a problem, and anyway the magazine was doing very well. It’s difficult to work with a big team. Maybe it’s good I go back to my roots.” She said that her bosses received complaints from advertisers over the Ford issue. “I was killed for that,” she said. “You know, it’s difficult to try to do something new each month.”
She and Emmanuelle Alt are no longer speaking, for unspecified reasons. Though Alt has said she won't make very many changes to the magazine, it sounds like that's not quite true. Some things have to change — the days of Tom Ford in Native American dress must be bygones.
Ms. Alt, who plans to attend the New York shows for the first time in years, likened the changes she wants to make to “opening a few more windows.” She wants a more feminine attitude. “I don’t mean girlie,” she said, “but less tough. And I think you can make very strong fashion pictures without shocking or being borderline.” French Vogue may display a nostalgic love for cigarettes and nude Bardot blondes, “but it’s not because everything is possible that you can do everything,” she said.
We can all learn a valuable lesson from Horyn's story: There are limits, even in France.