It was December and I was in an elevator leaving a particularly festive party when it happened. The BBM came in from our New York-based RUSSH editor, saying simply, "Carine left Vogue Paris!" For a moment, I thought she'd been drinking too. Could it be true? The departure of Carine Roitfeld, the Editor in Chief of the iconic French glossy, a former fashion model at the helm for a decade, is certainly not something many outside fashion's inner sanctum could have predicted. I turned with this news to the person next to me, they looked at me in equal doses of confusion and amazement, and ran off on the phone to confirm the fact.
For many of us, too young to know much of her predecessor Joan Juliet Buck, this woman defined the 91-year-old French edition of the infamous masthead. We got to know her through the pages and she inspired sites like I Want To Be A Roitfeld. She introduced us to Terry Richardson and asked a Gainsbourg to guest-edit her tome, influencing us more than we will never truly know.
And so it began. First with the bloggerati, then feverish emails from every fashion-literate acquaintance. Why? Was she fired? Will she go to Tom Ford? It was all so top-secret even Tom Ford didn't admit to knowing anything. Among hints of scandal were the more pressing suggestions as to who would replace her. Would it be Emmanuelle Alt, the woman Karl Lagerfeld describes as "handsome French woman", the woman working by Roitfeld's side at the title for a decade? Or well-respected author and Le Figaro's Fashion Director Virginie Mouzat? It was kind of exciting; here we were, from the beaches of Byron Bay to ice-covered London, all equally transfixed. It's no surprise the word secret derives from French; there's nothing like a French scandal.
It was last Friday when the ultimate in fashion news arrived. Alt, 43, was to start her new role on the first day of February. The airwaves were full. Designers and industry heavyweights were all asked: 'for or against?' Valli spoke bravely with praise, Lagerfeld reserved judgment and the Conde Nast honchos made their statements. Sometimes it's the opinions of the people around you that matters the most. And so, I went back to the same people who sent those emails. "For me, she is a young Roitfeld perpetuating the popular 'black' movement our generation. She is Europe's new fashion rock-chic as Roitfeld ages impeccably through her 50s," wrote one. "I want to be her," wrote another with some insider information. Adding, "So Carine has gone to Tom Ford!!!" So Ford did know? Or, as one member of our fashion team said shrewdly: "A smart move as one would assume she will continue along the same path and no doubt the readers don't like change. But then, I am just speculating."
Among it all I questioned myself what I admire. Yes, I like that Alt turns up to work in a motorcycle jacket, but most of all, it's that after a 10-year commitment she got the top job. How many people does that happen to? Especially in the so-called fickle word of fashion.
As the woman who doesn't wear skirts rocks out in Balmain to the headquarters attached to the Hôtel de Crillon next month, we're wishing her luck. But one thing may be rest assured: may the speculation continue.
See Emmanuelle and Carine at the SS 11 shows on Russhmagazine.com here
Follow Jess Blanch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/russh_magazine