JULIA RESTOIN ROITFELD ON MAKING SUSTAINABLE CHOICES
The fashion muse dishes on art, the planet, and why her mother is her inspiration.
Even before H&M tapped her to be the face of its annual Conscious Exclusive collection, Julia Restoin Roitfeld understood that what went into her closet mattered.
A fixture of the French fashion scene and daughter of legendary editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld, Restoin Roitfeld was raised to revere gowns and T-shirts, alike. She has since grown into an art-world expert, style maven, and devoted mother, founding the site Romy and the Bunnies for modern mothers in 2012. Given her pedigree, it’s so, well, fitting that H&M handpicked her to front its latest wares.
The 2016 Conscious Exclusive collection will launch on April 7, timed to and inspired by the opening of the Fashion Forward: Three Centuries of Fashion exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Restoin Roitfeld is already counting down.
“Fashion that looks good and does good,” Restoin Roitfeld decrees. “It is such a treat.”
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS COLLECTION THAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED? WHAT MADE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WANTED IN?
”I had noticed that H&M had started to do more and more of these kinds of collections, and I felt like it was so amazing that such a renowned, world-famous brand would use its name and fame to promote conscious fashion. Really, too few brands do it. So, how could I say no? I said yes, immediately.”
I’ll see a dress in my closet and think, ‘Maybe I want that without sleeves.’ I love to recycle my own clothes. I love to recreate them.
JULIA RESTOIN ROITFELD
HOW DO YOU STAY CONSCIOUS IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE?
”For me, it’s all about little habits that you don’t even realize you do. Even just trying to do less laundry and letting your clothes air-dry and washing more by hand at home makes a difference. It all becomes part of your routine so slowly that you almost don’t notice. Obviously, I would never throw out clothes. But I’ve tried to do more as I’ve gotten older. I recycle more, for sure. I used to donate, but when I heard that H&M had put recycling bins in stores where you can actually recycle clothes, I started to do that. When I go shopping now, I try to remember to take an extra tote with me instead of getting an extra paper shopping bag. It’s all about making those little changes. It adds up. And if we all did it, we could do a lot of good.”
DO YOU EVER “RECYCLE” CLOTHES FROM YOUR MOM’S CLOSET? HOW DO YOU MAKE THEM YOUR OWN?
”Oh, all the time. And not just her stuff—I do it with my own clothes, too. I love that expression—‘shop your own closet.’ I’ll be looking for something or I’ll want to buy something and pretty soon I’ll realize I already own something similar. I’ve had so many skirts shortened. I’ve made so many dresses into tops. I’ll see a dress in my closet and think, ‘Maybe I want that without sleeves.’ I love to recycle my own clothes. I love to recreate them.”
WHICH ARTISTS DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
”I’m very into photography, maybe because I’ve always felt that photographers are artists, too. Helmut Newton is one of my favourites. I don’t have originals on my walls. I wish I did. But I have a lot of framed reproductions, and I’m just in love with the way the women look in his pictures. I am so inspired by sexy, confident women.”
AREN’T WE ALL! WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN WHO INSPIRE YOU?
”For so many reasons, my mom has always inspired me. She’s always been a working mom, taking care of my brother and me and being so involved in this work that she was so passionate about. As a woman, I just looked at her and she made me believe I could do both—have a kid and a career. She set such a good example, being super hands-on. She would take me to horseback riding and she took my brother to football practice and she still managed to get to where she is today.”
”It’s because of women like her, that I started Romy and the Bunnies. I wanted to interview other women who strike that balance to give hope to moms and tell them, you know, you don’t have to quit your career. You don’t have to think that having kids is the end of your life. And I learned that from her, really. And my daughter even learns from her. She’s really a mini-Grandma. They look so much alike, and Romy mimics her so much—the way she crosses her legs, the way she dresses. She already loves leopard print. It has to be genetic.”
HOW HAS YOUR PERSONAL STYLE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
”I went through some bad, crazy periods when I was a teenager. I really didn’t care about fashion and brands. I just wanted to dress like the kids in my school. I would wear those Dickies baggy pants and crop tops and Adidas. It was very 90s. I think we all wanted to be in TLC. I spent a lot of summers in the U.S., and I would come back to Paris dressed like this 90s, California girl.”
”I think I really started to think about clothes and how I wanted to dress when my mom started to work with Tom Ford. It’s because of him and that period that I started to enjoy fashion shows, which I had never liked. I was about 18 and I think I realized that how a person dresses says a lot about who they are. As I became a woman and grew into that, I suppose, I wanted to look good and feminine. But even now, I still just gravitate to what looks good on me and what feels the best. That’s what I always want to wear.”
She’s always been a working mom, taking care of my brother and me and being so involved in this work that she was so passionate about.
ABOUT HER MOTHER CARINE ROITFELD
WHEN YOU’RE GETTING READY TO GO OUT, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO GET IN THE MOOD?
”I love to put music on. Cheesy is best—anything that makes me smile and makes me dance. From George Michael to Madonna to Justin Bieber, it’s all good.”
AT THE FASHION FORWARD EXHIBITION, PEOPLE WILL GET TO SEE EXTRAORDINARY GARMENTS FROM THE MUSEUM ARCHIVES. ARE THERE PIECES IN YOUR CLOSET THAT YOU’RE “ARCHIVING” FOR ROMY?
”I wish I had the space to keep it all for her. I have to give a lot of it away. I am saving her all of my Chanel bags. They were a present from my grandmother to me, so I’d love to pass them on to her. And then there are the pieces that I just can’t resist, you know? I have to save the dresses I think will never go out of style—the vintage Galliano dresses, the beautiful Givenchy gowns. I’ll keep those for her. She already likes them. Whenever I go out, she always says, “No, wear the long dress!” She’s all about long dresses.”
AS SHE GROWS UP, WHAT LESSONS DO YOU WANT TO TEACH ROMY ABOUT CARING FOR THE PLANET?
”Honestly, I feel like she teaches me! If I want to take a bath and I’m multi-tasking, I sometimes forget what I’m doing and let the water run. And she’ll come to me and say, ‘Mommy, turn off the water.’ It’s so crazy that at four years old she’s already aware of that.”
”And she loves to recycle. I think it’s because kids like to sort and match, so when she has to put bottles in the blue bin or she has to put paper in the white bin, she really likes that. It becomes a game and it becomes a habit. And I think that’s true about a lot of what we do. This Christmas was the first Christmas I’ve ever spent on my own in the States, and I tried to establish some new traditions for us. I took her and a few friends to God’s Love We Deliver, which is a soup kitchen downtown. We went to deliver meals, because I wanted her to understand that not everyone has what they need and we have to help when we can. I want her to feel good about giving back. To me, that’s the whole point.”
JULIA RESTOIN ROITFELD
35-year-old Julia Restoin Roitfeld was born in France to parents Carine Roitfeld – legendary editor-in-chief – and Christian Restoin – founder of the French brand Equipment.
In 2012 she gave birth to her daughter Romy and launched the blog Romy and The Bunnies, which is a style and lifestyle blog for pregnant women.
She’s a graduate of the prestigious Parsons School of Design and consults for labels Jean-Paul Gaultier, Miu Miu, Peter Som and Zac Posen. She’s modeled for Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli, Lancôme and H&M.