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 his return to Hamburg, his hometown, he talks about his roots and his vision of fashion in an interview with Figaro.
A few days before his parade for Chaneldans in the setting of Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie, the Kaiser franc-tireur receives in his bookstore 7L, rue de Lille in Paris. While its long-time collaborators are busy (Virginie Viard, his right-hand man at Chanel studio, Éric Pfrunder, his accomplice for the image, Amanda Harlech, his "external eye", the sound illustrator of his shows Michel Gaubert), he returns to his German identity and his work at Chanel.
LE FIGARO. - Wednesday, you present the crafts in Hamburg, your hometown. A way of closing 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 fanatic of Berlin, while the new capital of Europe, as recently titled Der Spiegel, is Hamburg! It turns out that I was born there. There is another reason: I was not very happy that at the G20 summit, security protected important guests, but not locals. The extreme left has broken everything, people have been hurt, the current mayor has not been up to it. Moreover, it is his predecessor who is at the origin of the project of the Philharmonie.
This parade in Germany therefore has a special flavor.
You want me sentimental! (laughs) No misguided patriotism! I like Hamburg that belongs to the Hanseatic as Bremen and Lübeck, independent trading cities. It did not become a Land of the Federal Republic until after the war. I feel more Hanseatic than German. I bought at the end of the 1980s a nice house next to the one where I was born. I loved the Elbe, the sound of boats ... Soon after, I sold it again: I had become a stranger in a place that was too familiar.
In recent times, you are indulging in a more pronounced German tropism.
Mostly since the AfD entered the Bundestag. There, I came out of my hinges. Imagine that I do not want to see neo-Nazis in Parliament again. It was like that, in 1931, with Hindenburg, the general-in-chief of the 1914 war, become president of the Reich and completely catsy.
You follow the news, you are a regular newspaper reader and sign, every month, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a drawing with a political tone.
It sure does not 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, St. Bartholomew, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes ... There is nothing to celebrate that. While no one - not even intelligent newspapers - has reported that Luther unified the German language by translating the Bible!
Does your criticism resonate in Germany?
Some say that I am right, others, that a fashion personality does not have to speak on these subjects.
If you build cars, would you be more credible?
Perhaps. In any case, the negative opinions are less numerous than the others.
You have never given in to "politically correct".
I have a clear opinion on that. Be "politically correct" but do not blame others with it. You kill the art of conversation! Above all, if it is "I raise my finger and give a lesson in morality", there is nothing that exasperates me more.
Fashion, which embraces all societal good causes, sexual, animal, is it not too "correct"?
I wonder about some fights. Parity? Women are more numerous than men! And at Chanel, I assure you that I have never seen anyone pinching buttocks in the hallway. Similarly, we have not signed the charter on the well-being of the modelsbecause we do not know that kind of behavior. We have never produced size 32, we treat well the models who do not wait in a staircase until 5 o'clock in the morning.
Do you impose limits on your freedom of speech?
Absolutely not. I am lucky to be completely free. And no intention to "comply": it starts with con ... I paid this freedom! In my early days, the term "politically correct" did not even exist. Today, people are shocked when they hear stories about the 1970s. Six months ago, Marie Ottavi's book was published (Jacques de Bascher, dandy of the shadow, dedicated to the companion of Karl Lagerfeld died of AIDS in 1989 and the origin of the quarrel with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé), some were shocked. But that was another time! Personally, I have always been outside of these excesses, I am Calvinist with myself, indulgent with others. When I leave the room, what people do does not look at me anymore.
The fashion industry has a reputation for being self-destructive.
It must be said that many have abused! I am a virtue prize without merit. In the new generation, there are very good people: Jacquemus, Jonathan Anderson, Marine Green, Christelle Kocher ... They know their job, they are smart and they love fashion for the right reasons.
By taking Chanel's leadership in 1982, you have largely invented the system that has governed the industry ever since.
"I'm the blueprint" (as I say the original) as the English say! At that time, I already had a good reputation, I did Fendi and Chloe. I was warned: "Do not take Chanel, it's awful" - at the end of his life, Coco Chanel had said that miniskirts and jeans were ignoble! When I arrived, she had been dead for ten years, and everyone lived with respect for her memory. If you want to kill a house, show it respect! When I met the owner (Alain Wertheimer), he simply said, "It's not very exciting, do what you want. And if it does not work, I sell. "I said," Put that on the paper. "
The best deal in the world: no one can bother me. And I am well surrounded. Bruno (Pavlovsky, president of Chanel's fashion activities) has provided outstanding work over the last ten years. In luxury ready-to-wear, no one sells as much as Chanel! But I do not go over the list of my successes. It's not the next. I live in a state of dissatisfaction. I hate the retrospective, I do not come out my old dresses. The most important collection is the following.
You say you have carte blanche at Chanel. Did not you have to compromise initially?
Thanks to the family owner, I did not need. They are lovely, come see me at the studio at the time of the collections chatting a bit, that's all. Once, a leader told me, "There are not enough little black dresses." "It's not the season, but how much do you want and how much do you think?" executed and as I had sensed, the dresses did not reach the objectives. I replied: "Each one's 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).
Work in my name, I do not care. Younger, I had to invent a trade, but I never wanted to be CEO, I do not like numbers. But for example, it is I who gave the idea to Chanel to buy endangered crafts, in a step towards the past to ensure a future for sewing, embroiderers, plumassiers. And as 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 sleepy house, valuing know-how, raising catwalks 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 do not know how you fit the pieces. I was left alone and did not 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 first workshop do not need to ask me questions. Everything is indicated on the drawing. Azzedine (Alaïa) reproached me for not sewing my dresses myself. But in this case, we can not create many collections. And then he did not know how to draw. Each his own.
Alaïa just disappeared, a month earlier, it was Pierre Bergé. The rivalry that existed between you, on one side, Bergé and Saint Laurent, on the other ...
There were no more. They have been missing radar for a long time!
But did this youth rivalry influence your career?
We'll never know. But these circumstances force you to be stronger and that's a good thing. To Pierre Bergé, I reproach myself for not paying attention to Yves. Especially since he allowed himself to give lessons. He said: "My strength is my contempt." Should one still be a customer of his esteem! I knew Yves before him. In his youth, he was so funny, adorable, kind, often without a round.
His legend and yours are related.
In the minds of others, not in mine. When I am told the books that are dedicated to me, I have the impression that it is not about me. I am detached from that; I am "jenseits von Gut und Böse", beyond good and bad.
Did you aspire to this notoriety?
Celebrity does not do my job. And then, it has its disadvantages: 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 are you still interested in fashion?
The job. Make. But it's not a need. Finally, say, it's like breathing, you do not tell yourself that 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 found a path and I walk with ease. I have a principle ... Do you know the story of Lady Mendl? While presenting her decorating project for the Frick Collection in New York, Frick agrees but asks, "Do you have another idea?" "No second option." You have to have the courage of a single option .
Before taking Chanel, it is said that you were a great connoisseur of the house.
I am a dictionary of fashion in general. But especially Chanel ...
Because I loved his character and his look on 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 the same look of evil brunette ... but funny!
The face of fashion would have been different if your mother had looked like Schiaparelli!
Chanel was not an obsession. The great chance of my life was to cross the path of the Wertheimer family and that of Bernard Arnault (CEO of LVMH).