Karl Lagerfeld wants to be taken just as seriously as a photographer as he is a designer. Presumably, this is why he did quite a lengthy interview with Scott Athorne for the Times’ Sunday magazine. They met in Karl’s tennis-court-size photography studio in central Paris. His publicist asks Athorne not to write that the Kaiser arrives three hours late to the interview. “Karl has time for everyone, he is very generous, you will see,” she says. But we could not think of a wait that could have been more utterly worth it considering the new and interesting insights Karl offered on himself, his childhood, and life in general, from speaking about things as mundane as footwear and people who smell to philosophizing on death. Here are ten things we enjoyed learning about him.
1. He doesn’t like intellectuals.
“I want to know everything, but I’m not an intellectual, and I don’t like their company. I’m the most superficial man on Earth.”
2. He doesn’t buy shoes for comfort.
“I buy my shoes a size too small. I like the way it feels.”
3. He likes journalists. Except, of course, the smelly ones.
“I have no problem with journalists — many are friends,” he says. “Only if they are really stupid, or if they’ve got bad breath, or if they smell. Yesterday [at the Chanel couture show] I had a problem. I said, ‘I’m sorry, you’ve got to tell this woman that she needs to be taken away. Her smell is not possible.’”
4. His mother never wanted him to be a child.
“‘You may be six years old, but I am not,’ she used to say.” She refused to let him wear glasses although he was short-sighted, saying: “Children with glasses are the ugliest thing in the world.” She also took little interest in his schooling, never attending a parent-teacher evening. Nor did she ever attend one of his fashion shows later in life, despite his success. “She said, ‘Well, I didn’t go to your father’s office either,’” he laughs.
5. He avoided boarding school as a child because he hated the idea of dorms.
“I found out that if I didn’t create trouble, I could do what I wanted.” Did he not like the idea of boarding school? He screws his face up in disgust. “It was out of the question. I hated the idea of being in a dormitory with other people. No, no, no,” he says, hitting the table as he speaks. “My sisters were sent away because my mother thought they were boring. I was not boring.”
6. He is loath to dwell on the past.
“The worst thing is when friends say, ‘Remember the good old days?’ Forget about the good old days! That just makes your present second-hand. What is interesting is now. If you think it was better before, then you might as well commit suicide immediately.”
7. He sees himself just as we see him.
“Often things aren’t that important. I’m not that important either. I don’t take myself too seriously.”
8. He doesn’t see fashion design as art.
“I’m in a permanent bad mood with myself, thinking I could always do better, that there is more. It’s like there is this glass wall, and I can’t get through to the other side.” But he adds, raising an exclamatory finger: “I’m not one of those people who think they’re more artistic than their profession. Come on. You’re selling things that make people happy, not difficult pregnancies. I can’t stand designers who talk about their work being art.”
9. He thinks of death in a very un-scary way.
“Everything changes, except death. Billions have died before us, so it can’t be that bad. If you ask me, death and deep sleep are the same thing. And then you don’t take yourself too seriously.” He takes a considered sip of his drink before adding: “Oh, please. Don’t over-react to how I am talking. Try to keep all this abstract, huh?”
10. He is entirely nonjudgmental.
“For me, identity is a private, intimate problem,” says Lagerfeld. “Fashion doesn’t have to be your identity. Who cares what people think? As long as you agree with yourself, that’s enough, no? I judge nobody. I laugh about myself. That I can do; I know myself pretty well.”
Karl Lagerfeld: Pose maketh the man [Times UK]