Karl Lagerfeld interview

German designer on cheap clothes, gold underwear and Cara Delevingne

Interview

Karl Lagerfeld is a sartorial force to be reckoned with. The perennially monochrome 80-year-old designer (who heads up the creative division of luxury French label Chanel) can do no wrong when it comes to couture. As well as designing for the most iconic brand on the planet, the German couturier has watched his own eponymous brand bloom. His latest creation, the Monster Choupette Capsule collection, an ode to his much-loved pet cat, is launching in Dubai early October. Earlier this year it was announced that ten Karl Lagerfeld stores will open in the UAE before 2018. That, along with the much-hyped (and uber exclusive) showing of the Chanel Cruise 2015 collection in Dubai earlier this year, suggests he’s got the region firmly in his sights. Here, he gives us the lowdown on style.

Chanel is for the mega-rich. Is the Karl Lagerfeld range more democratic?
It’s more affordable, less expensive. My business partner wanted Karl Lagerfeld to be on the same level as Chanel. But I said no. People should be able to buy fashion without being [financially] ruined.

Your face is the Karl Lagerfeld logo. We can buy Karl dolls, sweatshirts, candles. Why so much?
It’s funny. This is not supposed to be taken seriously. I don’t take myself very seriously. Do you know, they even make a Barbie dressed like me now. Not a Ken, but a Barbie, dressed like me. It’s a big compliment.

Are there Karl Lagerfeld super-fans?
More than I want. I don’t go out in the streets anymore. They even follow me into my favourite bookshop and it can be dangerous. Sometimes, when you don’t want to pose for photos, or if you’re in a hurry, they can be insulting. But you have to pay for everything in life. I made myself easy to recognise. But to myself, I look very normal. But maybe I don’t know what normal is.

Cara Delevingne is your latest muse. She’s not obviously Chanel. Why do you like her?
I was one of the first to work with her. People thought she was too much. But you know, she is a sweet, very well-brought-up girl who plays that side of herself. There will never be a second Kate Moss. But Cara is unique too.

Do you know that Lily Allen has lost the Dhs1,232,000 wedding dress you designed for her?
Her wedding dress? How can you lose a wedding dress? No, I had not read that. But I love Lily and she looks very good at the moment. She is skinnier now than when she got married. Lily is in very good shape. I know women who put their wedding dress on every year to test their figure.

What five pieces should every woman own?
A well-cut jacket, a blazer or a Chanel jacket, perfect jeans, white shirt and a T-shirt. The rest depends on your life.

What is a trend you hate?
You know, I don’t like to judge. I have my little world. I only see what I want to see. To the rest I’m blind. And the standards of being well-dressed and not well-dressed are from another era. People wear what they love, what they can afford to buy. There’s more freedom. The old idea of standards set by fashion designers has gone.

The pressure of designing for big labels has driven designers to breakdowns and worse. Why not you?
I’ve done it all my life. It’s like the Olympic Games. You can’t say it’s too much pressure. If you take the big job, take the money and then play the victim, it’s not exactly what I would call honest. You are working for a big company. They have hundreds and hundreds of shops all over the world. They can’t sit there holding the hand of the designer. Impossible.

So being a designer is a job for tough guys?
This job is for warriors. This is not for romantic softies. The day you sign a contract for a big job at a big company, you know what to expect.

Are you a workaholic?
I hate that expression. I’m lucky that I can do what I like to do. I hate the idea of work. Work is when you do a boring job to make a living. That’s work.

Do you ever buy cheap clothes?
The underwear I wear is not pure gold. But I’m in a world where I don’t have to ask myself if they’re expensive. I just get them. But ‘cheap’ is a word from another era.

Do you like any of the high-street brands?
Topshop isn’t bad at all. And I was the first designer to do H&M.

If you had Dhs50 what would you buy with it?
If you have this kind of problem, you should buy food.

Do you have to be rich to be chic?
No, if you’re not chic, all the money in the world can’t help you. There are peasants in Ethiopia who are a hundred times more chic than rich women. Elegant is an attitude. It’s the way you carry your body.

Where do you get all that energy?
I’m very curious. I want to see everything. I want to know everything. Through magazines and books. I’m a book freak.

You’re 80. Any plans to retire at some point?
So many people would love it, to get all my great jobs. But what for? I’m not tired so I don’t have to retire.
Karl Lagerfeld available at Galeries Lafayette (04 382 7333) from October 7.

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