the cut on tuesdays

Hear Cathy Horyn on Seeing Another Side of Karl Lagerfeld

Photo-Illustration: by Stevie Remsberg; Photos Getty

The Cut on Tuesdays

A weekly podcast from the Cut and Gimlet Media, with host Molly Fischer.

When Karl Lagerfeld died last week, the obituaries were a blur of eccentric details, crazy quotes, and huge pronouncements about how this was the end of an era. But why exactly was that?

On this week’s show, we’re getting to the bottom of what made Lagerfeld such a big deal, with help from Cathy Horyn, the Cut’s fashion critic at large.

Cathy followed Karl’s career for decades, and she spent a lot of time with him.

CATHY: I would sometimes listen to people describe this sort of cold, brittle man — or a marionette, or cartoonish figure — and I felt like, well, no, I saw the other side of Karl. I saw someone very warm and human and funny.

In particular, Cathy remembers the visits she had with Lagerfeld at his house in Biarritz — a resort town in the south of France. This was about 20 years ago, and she was working on a profile of him for The New York Times Magazine.

CATHY: I was picked up at the Biarritz airport by an armor-plated BMW on a foggy, foggy day.

She was going to stay with him for several days, talking and seeing his home.

CATHY: The interior is all white with a lot of dark wood. Eighteenth-century French was was his go-to era. I remember that house had a room just for ironing; it was a huge room with a huge table for ironing big sheets. But he was very open about showing, you know, letting you come in and look at his incredible collection of shirts —

MOLLY: That’s so Gatsby

CATHY: Very Gatsby, but charming …

CATHY: It was an August evening, it was a little damp, and Karl is sitting there not in a jacket. It was the first time I’ve ever seen Karl wear a cardigan sweater. And he starts talking about his mother; her name was Elizabeth. She was the second wife of Karl’s father. Karl was her only child and she was tough — there was a lot of tough love. I mean, telling him that, you know, you should never smoke because you have ugly hands. … I remember I asked, did she ever go to any of your shows? And he said no. Her reply was, I never went to your father’s office either. You know, I think he learned a lot of discipline from his mother. It gave me tremendous insight into Karl.

Click above to hear more from Cathy, plus Vanessa Grigoriadis and Carl Swanson, and subscribe wherever you listen.

Hear Cathy Horyn on Seeing Another Side of Karl Lagerfeld