EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Next Wednesday, the couturier will present a Chanel collection for the first time in Germany. On the occasion of this return to...
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Next Wednesday, the couturier will present a Chanel collection for the first time in Germany. On the occasion of this return to Hamburg, his hometown, he talks about his roots and his vision of fashion in an interview with the Figaro.
A few days before his parade of crafts for Chanel in the decor of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the Kaiser maverick receives in his bookstore 7L, rue de Lille in Paris. While his longtime collaborators are busy (Virginie viard, his right-hand man at the Chanel studio, Éric Pfrunder, his accomplice for the image, Amanda Harlech, his "external eye", the sound illustrator of his shows Michel Gaubert), he talks about his German identity and his work at Chanel.
LE FIGARO. – On Wednesday, you present crafts in Hamburg, your hometown. A way to close the loop?
Karl Lagerfeld. –No no no! That's a cliché (laughs). I chose Hamburg because the Elbphilharmonie is one of the most surprising buildings of our time. I admire its architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Besides, I am not a Berlin fanatic, whereas the new capital of Europe, as Der Spiegel recently titled it, is Hamburg! I happen to be born there. There is another reason: I was not very happy that during the G20 summit, security protected important guests, but not locals. The extreme left broke everything, people were injured, the current mayor was not up to it. Moreover, it was his predecessor who initiated the Philharmonie project.
This parade in Germany therefore has a special flavor.
You want me sentimental! (laughs) No misguided patriotism! I like Hamburg, which belongs to the Hansa like Bremen and Lübeck, independent trading cities. It only became a Land of the Federal Republic after the war. Besides, I feel more Hanseatic than German. At the end of the 1980s, I bought a pretty house there, next to the one where I was born. I loved the Elbe, the noise of the boats… Shortly after, I sold it: I had become a stranger in an all too familiar place.
Lately you have been indulging in a more pronounced German tropism.
Mostly since the AfD entered the Bundestag. There, I got out of my hinges. Imagine that I don't want to see neo-Nazis in Parliament again. It was like that, in 1931, with Hindenburg, the general-in-chief of the war of 1914, who had become president of the Reich and completely dopey.
You follow the news, you are an assiduous newspaper reader and sign, each month, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a drawing with a political tone.
It sure doesn't look like fashion sketches! I caricature what scandalizes me. Like the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Reformation is the Thirty Years' War, Saint-Barthélemy, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes... There is nothing to celebrate. While no one – not even the smart newspapers – reported that Luther unified the German language by translating the Bible!
Does your criticism resonate in Germany?
Some say I'm right, others say a fashion personality shouldn't speak on these topics.
If you built cars, would you be more believable?
Maybe. Anyway, the negative opinions are less numerous than the others.
You never gave in to "political correctness".
I have a definite opinion on that. Be "politically correct" but don't knock others out with it. You are killing the art of conversation! Above all, if it's "I raise my finger and I give a moral lesson", there is nothing that exasperates me more.
Fashion, which embraces all good societal, sexual, animal causes, isn't it too “correct”?
I wonder about some fights. Parity? There are more women there than men! And at Chanel, I assure you that I have never seen anyone pinching their ass in the hallway. Likewise, we did not sign model well-being charter, because we don't know about this kind of behavior. We have never produced a size 32, we treat models well who do not wait on a staircase until 5 am.
Do you impose limits on your freedom of speech?
Absolutely not. I am lucky to be completely free. And no intention of "conforming": it starts with con... I paid for this freedom! When I started out, the term "politically correct" didn't even exist. Today, people are shocked when they hear stories about the 1970s. When Marie Ottavi's book (Jacques de Bascher, dandy in the shadows, devoted to the companion of Karl Lagerfeld who died of AIDS in 1989 and the origin of the falling out with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé), some were shocked. But that was another era! Personally, I have always been outside of these excesses, I am a Calvinist with myself, indulgent with others. When I leave the room, what people do no longer concerns me.
The fashion industry has a reputation for being self-destructive.
It must be said that many have abused! I am a prize of virtue without merit. In the new generation, there are very good people: Jacquemus, Jonathan Anderson, Marine Serre, Christelle Kocher… They know their job, they are smart and they love fashion for the right reasons.
When you took over Chanel in 1982, you largely invented the system that has governed the industry ever since.
"I'm the blueprint" (I am the original) as the English say! At that time, I already had a good reputation, I was doing Fendi and Chloé. I was warned: “Don't take Chanel, it's awful” – at the end of her life, Coco Chanel said that miniskirts and jeans were despicable! When I arrived, she had been dead for ten years, and everyone lived in respect of her memory. If you want to kill a house, show it respect! When I met the owner (Alain Wertheimer) he just said, “It's not very exciting, do what you want. And if it doesn't work, I sell." I said, "Put me that on paper."
The best contract in the world: no one can bother me. And I am well surrounded. Bruno (Pavlovsky, president of Chanel's fashion activities) has done an exceptional job over the past ten years. In luxury ready-to-wear, no one sells as much as Chanel! But I don't go over the list of my successes. It doesn't make the next one. I live in a state of dissatisfaction. I hate retrospectives, I don't bring out my old dresses. The most important collection is the following.
You say you have carte blanche at Chanel. Didn't you have to compromise at the start?
Thanks to the owner family, I didn't need it. They are charming, come to see me at the studio during collections to chat a little, that's all. A leader once said to me, "There aren't enough little black dresses." "It's not the season, but how many do you want and what number do you think you will make?" I complied and as I had anticipated, the dresses did not reach the objectives. I replied: "To each his own job, I draw, you sell."
You have a brand in your name, but your notoriety comes from your work for Chanel and Fendi (LVMH group).
Working in my own name, I don't care. When I was younger, I had to invent a job, but I never wanted to be CEO, I don't like numbers. But for example, it was I who gave Chanel the idea of buying back endangered crafts, in a move towards the past to ensure a future for couture, embroiderers and feather workers. And since I'm not crazy about producing in third world countries where people are exploited, I prefer to push the "made in France".
This vision of fashion – waking up a sleeping house, promoting know-how, elevating fashion shows to the rank of performance – has become a model followed by the entire profession.
Nothing was premeditated. It's like a puzzle: when you've finished it, you don't know how you fit the pieces together. I was given a free hand and I don't do marketing meetings. For the rest, I work at home, I am artisanal. Unlike the others, I draw well. When I return my sketches, the studio premieres don't need to ask me questions. Everything is indicated on the drawing. Azzedine (Alaia) reproached me for not sewing my dresses myself. But, in this case, one cannot create many collections. And then he couldn't draw. Each his own.
Alaïa has just disappeared, a month earlier, it was Pierre Bergé. The rivalry that existed between you, on the one hand, Bergé and Saint Laurent, on the other...
There were no more. They disappeared from the radar for a long time!
But did this youthful rivalry have an influence on your career?
We'll never know. But these circumstances force you to be stronger and that's a good thing. I reproach Pierre Bergé for not having paid attention to Yves. Especially since he allowed himself to give lessons. He said, "My strength is my contempt." Must we still be a client of his esteem! I knew Yves before him. In his youth, he was so funny, adorable, kind, often without a circle.
His legend and yours are linked.
In other people's minds, not mine. When people tell me about the books dedicated to me, I have the impression that it's not about me. I'm detached from that; I am “jenseits von Gut und Böse”, beyond good and evil.
Did you aspire to this notoriety?
Fame doesn't do my job. And then it has its drawbacks: wherever you go, you are asked for a selfie. Fortunately, you no longer need to be physically in the world to participate.
I am 90% virtual.
What still interests you in fashion?
The job. Do. But it's not a need. Well, let's say it's like breathing, you don't tell yourself you need it, but you do it.
You claim to be happier now with your books, your drawings, your cat…
It's never too late for a new life. As the song says: “Another spring, another love” (Marlene Dietrich). I have found a path and walk along it with ease. I have a principle… Do you know the story of Lady Mendl? As she presents her decoration project for the Frick Collection in New York, Mr. Frick approves but asks her, “Do you have another idea?” “No second option.” You have to have the courage of only one option.
Before taking Chanel, it is said that you were a great connoisseur of the house.
I'm a fashion dictionary in general. But especially from Chanel…
Because I liked his character and his look in the portraits of Horst P. Horst and Man Ray. She was prettier than Madame Grès and Madame Lanvin! I thought she had similarities with my mother. My mother destroyed almost all the family photos but a distant relative sent me this portrait: look, she had that same nasty brunette look… but funny!
The face of fashion would have been different if your mother had looked like Schiaparelli!
Chanel was not an obsession after all. The great luck of my life was to cross paths with the Wertheimer family and that of Bernard Arnault (CEO of LVMH).
Source: © The politically incorrect truths of Karl Lagerfeld
Christian Victor Jean Bru
no the guerfelde is not Dali,
and Hamburg so far from Perpignan.
he is not Grand Delirium, this guss