Satisfying every Chanel obsessed woman’s unceasing curiosity, the king of pure unadulterated glamour Karl Lagerfeld answers questions about his life, loves, new collection and
“post-recession romanticism”. His insights breathe new life into our idea of the finest fashion…
y ou design some of the most-anticipated collections in the world for Chanel and Fendi, do you ever relax?
I’m always relaxed. I don’t call it work. Work is boring. If you are lucky to do exactly what you want in the best of conditions, it is certainly not work. I have a good time doing what I do. I always live in the moment; otherwise the present becomes useless. If you think life was better before, then something is wrong.
When Chanel first approached you, were you excited at the prospect of working with them?
Absolutely! Everyone was against Chanel, some even thought the brand was dead. I knew it would be a challenge to revive the label.
When you think of your own future, what do you think about?
Six months. I never look further than six months.
Have you ever thought about retiring?
Why should I? Coco Chanel died while creating a collection at the age of 86. So I have plenty of time.
What do you do when you’re not designing?
I absolutely adore taking photos.
Have you ever considered a career outside of fashion?
No, I have no time to think about such things. When I was 17, I took my first leap into fashion and I’ve never looked back.
What about politics? Any interest there?
There are two people in the political world I like and they are total opposites: Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy and Madame Martine Aubry. Everybody hates Martine but I think she’s fantastic. I obviously don’t care for politics much, otherwise I’d be politically active.
So how do you think you’ve personally left a mark on fashion?
I think I’ve created a very specific career path here by reviving Chanel. Now everyone is bringing old labels back to life. I think others are following in my footsteps.
Do you think most fashion designers are doing the same old thing?
No matter what, a good designer label guarantees the quality of the design. But companies like Calvin Klein, Yves Saint-Laurent, Valentino or Armani, are doing things they could’ve never done decades ago. They are very courageous in the choices they make.
What is your big secret to staying so fit besides Diet Coke?
Work, discipline and enjoying what I do. I live in a world where people are quite fit so I don’t want to stand out like a little balloon next to these gods and goddesses; so I have to be disciplined. I have a nutritionist who puts me on a plan. I take care of myself like people take care of their Ferraris’ engines; that’s all there is to it.
The current economic crisis is affecting the entire world and every industry, including fashion. How do you see the recession and its relation to fashion?
Well, I do think this is the turning point in the history of the world. If you don’t have much money to spend on fashionable expenses, I would advise people to buy something they can keep for a long time. Stick with the basics. Beautifully cut fabrics, T-shirts, jeans. Also, work on your physique, then anything you buy will look great.
You are one of the most disciplined designers in the industry, what’s your secret?
Discipline shouldn’t be something you have to make an effort for, it should simply come naturally. I don’t plan to be disciplined, it is something I naturally possess.
Who are your favourite designers?
Nicolas Ghesquière, Stefano Pilate, Ricardo Tisci and Albert Elbaz. Our futures may be the same, but our pasts are very different.
Tell us about your new Spring 2009 collection with Chanel…
I used some of the foundations of Chanel, like ruffles and beautiful fabrics with a modern gypsy touch. I created a new spirit to show that Chanel is not dead. I also created graphic prints with rubber on tweed. You’ll also see feathers, from head to toe to imitate birds with wings. The hats are an extension of the hairdo mixed with tulle and feathers and hair. I don’t like to think that much when it comes to my collections. I often see a collection in my dreams and then I create what I see. I don’t have a marketing concept; I just do what I feel without asking too many questions.
How versatile is this collection for Chanel lovers out there?
Chanel has hundreds of shops worldwide, so there must be something for everybody; yet a collection has to maintain the concept, foundation, spirit and identity. Everything for everybody doesn’t work, but something for every person, that does.
What do you think of Coco Chanel’s legacy?
Her spirit lives on because there have been so few women with her personality, looks, lovers and history.
Tell us about the staging for the show and how you used your models to showcase Chanel’s spirit…
Coco Chanel was inspired by men, the way men smoked, the jewellery they wore in the past. I took those elements and put them back on men. It was an homage to the men who inspired her, with a subtle nod to the lovers Chanel actually had in her life.
We noticed a lot of black and white on the runway, why do you think black and white endures to this day?
Black and white are the basis. I used the colours of Paris. The streets of Paris don’t have violent, bright colours, but pale greys, white and dusty colours.
What would you consider to be the theme of the collection?
Post-recession romanticism. I don’t wish to take money away from the poor, I just want to make a living and I make it with clothes. I think it’s better for money to circulate, not to be used for negative speculation. That’s why we got into this mess in the first place. Post-recession romanticism is synonymous with optimism.
Tell us what it’s like to put on the shows showcasing your collections…
I see the fittings day after day, but the collection and a fitting is something completely different. I don’t like rehearsals to show the full collection, as sometimes the rehearsal can be better than the show. At other times things are not ready for the rehearsal and it is not a good representation of the actual show. Also we have to have some sort of improvisation for a show to maintain a certain freshness. Rehearsals can kill that.