Friday, January 02, 2009

FEATURE 18 - Karl Lagerfeld

I have found a new hero - Karl Lagerfeld. David and I heard him being interviewed on the Today programme on Radio Four. We were both very impressed. Looking at pictures of him you'd think him the arch poser, the most prize preening poofter in the entire fashion universe. Look at all those black close fitting clothes, the pure white hair, the pigtail. How old is this guy anyway? (76) And then there's the numerous rings, "Today I counted 19. Sometimes I go up to 23. I have only 10 fingers like everybody else, hm?" What impressed me about the interview was actually how unpretentious, grounded and simply 'sorted' he was. There was no flim-flam, self-flattery or facile self-justifications of the purpose of fashion, as art. He knows that fashion has its place in the world, but it is a small one, so he makes no unrealistic claims for either. How he dresses, reflects how he is, as someone acutely self-confident and clear about his place in it. His wealth doesn't appear to make him look down on anyone who is poorer, he wants everyone to be able to look up, to aspire. For him everyone, rich or poor, has the right to experience or know something of beauty exists - "It's great to see things you may not buy - because you don't have the money - but it is very ugly to think they shouldn't exist because you can not buy them." Whilst owning something might be an impossible dream for most of us, it was a necessary dream for people to have -"I can be interested in a $20m diamond I will never buy, without desiring the diamond. If you want only things you can afford, it's boring too" - "What is the real world? If you have no dreams, or if you don't try to improve the real life of everybody, people would ask why they get up in the morning...People want to see something they may not be, but they should or could become." Simply to be envious or resentful is uninspiring - to be a kill joy is to squeeze the energy and blood out of life.

He was asked about the credit crunch "I see it like a cleaning up - it was too rotten anyway - so it had to be cleaned up...I see it like a healthy thing - horrible but healthy, like some miracle treatment of the world." But surely this would this affect the profitability of Chanel? Well, they'd done extraordinary well in the last three years, and if their turnover dropped by 25% in 2009 - "they would not be poor." This should in no way be read as aloof indifference but a humble statement that acknowledges that a declining profit shouldn't be equated with making no profit at all. Bear that in mind when companies announce their profits in the New Year, unless they specifically say they've made a loss, they're still making a profit, however reduced it may be.

As for the importance of fashion in relation to architecture for instance - "Clothes if they are not well cut, you can kill nobody. A building poorly built can kill people. It's a much more difficult work. I would not compare myself with that."Asked about the continuing furore about fur in the fashion trade "As long as you wear leather and eat meat, don't discuss that.....In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and even clothes and handbags, the discussion of fur is childish." Be realistic and don't assume a moral position you don't exemplify - otherwise its just sentimentality. If you haven't retreated to the certainty of the pure high minded mountains - the unrepentant carnivore on one peak - the morally righteous vegan on the other - then you're somewhere along the ridges spanning between them. This place is by its very nature a hypocritical place, riddled with inconsistencies and conflicts of feeling and ethical principle. This is where most of us are, its our working ground, so we need to be careful and be considerate in what we say and do. But then that's what ethical practice is.

He no doubt has his detractors and has less flattering flaws (narcissism could well be one of them) but I'd still say this guy is a seriously cool dude.

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