photo by the sartorialist
A PRESTIGE HONG KONG WORLD EXCLUSIVE THE DOUBLE LIFE OF KARL LAGERFELD
by Stephen Short
For the full article:
here are my favorite excepts:
What’s your opinion of the so-called luxury market today as opposed to in previous times?
In the old days there was luxury but no market. Today there is all market and no luxury.
Because Chanel’s iconography was so strong, did you have a sense that no matter what you did, it would be hard to introduce new icons to the brand, so you made yourself the icon?
It’s like a game. I’m a gambler, you see. I can lose but I never ask myself those sorts of questions, they are too serious for me. May I tell you something? I like today better than before. The late ’80s were an awful time. I like today, or maybe I like my life today. I’m much happier today than I was then. And I never smoke, I never drink, I never take drugs. A lot of people today, they’re not that fresh, hmm? They don’t have that much energy. When people talk about the good old days, I say to people, “It’s not the days that are old, it’s you that’s old.” I hate the good old days. What is important is that today is good. You know my favourite line in life is from a very famous Jewish German, who said, “No credit on the past.” This is what I live with. That’s a bon idée, non? This is my vision of life.
But the photography you do, the exhibitions, must be things to keep and cherish, no?
Yes, that’s the life. I do the photos, but the minute they go to museums, it’s another me. It’s unrelated to fashion. I like to photograph architecture and architects. That was my favourite thing in a way when I was younger. But it goes through other people who do the exhibitions, and I come at it like a guest. I’m very bad with my own work. I like to be a guest at other people’s work in photography, but not in fashion. For me the photography and exhibitions are like another world, it’s like a kind of double life, but part of that double life goes into fashion, like the shoot I did just now. I have a very clear vision of what I want quite quick, no? Like I said, there is no second option. I can make a mistake, but I hate people who hesitate. I’m easily bored, so I have to fight against boredom and that’s a very healthy thing to do, I think.
Chanel’s Mobile Art Pavilion will be in Hong Kong in March. Did you ever consider becoming an architect, or are you doing any architecture?
I’m not doing architecture. I love architecture but it’s not my thing. There are so many great geniuses in architecture today that I don’t have to touch that. I hate second-rate architecture, though. I wouldn’t even design a house for myself. I could make the inside, but that’s enough. The pavilion with Zaha Hadid, they wanted me to build the pavilion but I said no. I told them it’s none of my business, I have no time. So I told them I see only one option: I call my friend Zaha and propose the mobile idea, which has never been done before, that you can build a museum you just break up and take somewhere else. A long time ago, when I was finishing school, my first project was a mobile museum, an exhibition idea, and after all this time it came back, hmm? Some things are just meant to be.[Lagerfeld is interrupted by Steidl, who shows him photos from the shoot. They talk in German.] They will take these off to Germany tonight to print them in time. C’est bien, hmm? I don’t even know what language I’m speaking. Sometimes I feel my life is like a cartoon, I’m speaking so many languages with my friends. Funny thing is, I can write better in English than in French or German. That’s very strange don’t you think, hmm?
How do you rate yourself as a photographer?
I don’t judge it. The thing is, I’m never happy, that’s why I continue. I’m in a permanent state of bad mood, because nothing is ever complete. I’d never carry on doing collections if I thought everything I did was great.
What else have you read recently?
I read 10 books at the same time. It’s hard to say. I’d have to make an inventory. I read some French and a lot in English. I don’t read French modern literature, I can read classical, but not modern. I do read newspapers, but very quickly. I want to be informed, I want to read everything, I want to see everything, I have no need to be part of it. But I’m a voyeur, you see? An intellectual voyeur.
How much isolation do you feel in your life?
Yes, I live in certain isolation. I never take appointments in the morning. I leave my house only after lunch. I don’t want to have a social life. I’ve had enough of that in my life. It’s démodé. It’s another era. Perhaps people are still excited by that era, but not me. It’s uninteresting today. It says nothing. It’s boring, pretentious and vulgar. But you have to have a certain amount of time to yourself to be informed. And you know sketching takes time. I love the physical idea of sketching, hmm? That’s why I’m now working on some illustrations for short stories by Kaiser Ling. I did one for German Vogue. [He asks an assistant to pick out a magazine from a huge pile on the floor.] You see, I have a good eye. Even with the books and magazines piled up, I still find what I want. Everything I really like is here. [Lagerfeld flicks through the magazine, showing me his work, including photographs of Claudia Schiffer on a beach.] It’s not just art for art’s sake. This is an illustration of a Kaiser Ling short story from 1912, based on a child on a beach. My photos are part of my double life, another story. I wanted to be an illustrator and cartoon artist as a child.
The model for tonight’s shoot was fairly lean. Where do you stand on the skinny model debate?
Yes, new Russian girls are like this. But this is a subject I won’t discuss. You know why? In France, there are a large percentage of young girls who are overweight and less than one percent are skinny. So let’s talk about the 25 percent who have a weight problem, or are overweight. We don’t need to discuss the less than one percent. Anorexia is nothing to do with fashion. These Russian girls are so young. Chinese ones are skinny, too, and bony. I don’t think it’s a subject to discuss. And in today’s world, many people take drugs, not only models, hmm? It’s an unnecessary subject. Let’s talk about the fat ones.
You’ve been gracious with your time. I should let you get ready for Rome in a few hours.I never look at my watch. Yes, I go to Rome tomorrow.
The good thing about private jets is that you go whenever you’re ready. That’s the real luxury of today. In all my contracts it says, if you want me, send a private jet. Also I cannot go on airlines because people stare at me, you have to be touched by people. I hate that.■