Given the chance to grill Karl Lagerfeld, the king of fashion, where would you start? Is there ever a moment when it’s acceptable to lower the dark glasses? Why does he love black and white? What does he eat for breakfast? And that’s without even starting on the lifestyle secrets of Choupette the cat, star of Twitterverse. Thanks to the six collections a year Lagerfeld designs for Chanel, his influence over what we all want to wear is unrivalled. This season he’s launching the latest addition to his own empire (which already includes clothes, fragrances, eyewear, even a long-stemmed glass for his Diet Coke) – Karl Lagerfeld Paris, a collection of typically monochromatic, impeccably sharp tailoring and leather. We asked him the burning questions that have been on our minds for so long…
Where are you now and what were you doing right before this interview?
At one of the seven desks in my home in Paris, overlooking the Seine and the Louvre.
What is the idea behind Karl Lagerfeld Paris?
It is my idea of how I think this label should look, and it expresses my personal taste.
How does it differ from KARL?
The prices are different, but the spirit is from the same family.
Karl Lagerfeld Paris features a lot of monochrome. What is it about black and white that you are drawn to when designing, and why do you wear black and white yourself?
It is – and always was – my favourite colour mix. I am a black and white person, I love black and white movies. I discovered my love for monochrome as a boy with the illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley, and it influenced my taste forever.
How many white shirts, black jackets and jeans do you own?
I don’t count. I am a shirt freak. Hilditch & Key in Paris has made my shirts since I was 16. They’ve done over 300 designs for me. Black jeans and black jackets are the ‘base’ and I don’t like to wear the same clothes often. Let’s say I have a few…
A sketch for the Karl Lagerfeld Paris Fall-Winter line
Which black piece should every woman own?
A black jacket.
And which white piece?
A white shirt. The same for boys.
What’s the perfect jacket like?
You feel it on your back the moment you put it on. Fit is the secret. And the proportions have to be right. A black jacket has to be love at first sight the minute you put it on; if not, don’t buy it.
If clothes maketh the man, do accessories maketh the woman? If so, what’s worth investing in?
For women, the most important accessories are still shoes and handbags. With these, everybody is model size.
Which three things can you not get through the day without?
It depends on your day. The most important thing is to stay impeccable. I love jackets, and if there is a lot of action during the day, I will change it twice. Nobody will notice that it is not the same jacket, but they ask you how you can stay so impeccable.
Lagerfeld with his beloved cat
We’ve been following your cat Choupette on Twitter…
She gets offers for advertisements and movies, but it is out of the question. She is a princess, not working class like me.
What’s her wardrobe like?
She needs nothing. Her natural fur is impeccable. We brush it twice a day.
Tell us what is a typical evening in your life. What are you drinking, eating, reading, watching?
Diet Coke and proteins. Newspapers in French, English and German. No television; I watch Choupette and the boats going past on the Seine.
Do you prefer eating in or out?
I prefer eating at home. My cook is so good that health food tastes like the most refined French cooking.
How many iPods do you have?
Many, because I never fill them up completely and I have different iPods for different kinds of music.
What’s playing right now?
If not Patti Smith’s latest album, I also still hear a lot of Adele and Florence & the Machine.
What’s your favourite sound? And why?
I have more than one favourite sound, but I especially love Arabic music. Why? I have no idea.
You’re a fan of architecture. What are your favourite buildings?
There are several: from ancient times, the Pantheon in Rome; the Institut de France in Paris, founded by Cardinal Mazarin in the 17th century (it’s nearly next door to my home); from the ’20s I like the Einstein Tower in Potsdam by Erich Mendelsohn; from the ’30s, the villa Malaparte in Capri; and more recently, the buildings of Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando. They are so different in style, but I love the world of both.
Are you a sleep junkie, or can you survive on not very much?
If I had to, I am sure I could survive on very little.
When do your sunglasses go on in the morning? And at what stage do they come off at night?
Actually, I never wear glasses at home. That is my mask for the outside world. I am a little short-sighted, but I can read and sketch without glasses and see the Louvre clearly in front of me. Once, when I was very young, I got a glass of whisky in my face by accident. It was not even meant for me, but if I had been without my glasses I would have lost an eye, so I never go out without my trademark dark glasses. I like to watch, not to be watched. Eyes can show emotions that you don’t want everybody to see, and today with the iPhone, everybody in the streets and even in shops can photograph you without asking.
Do you have a favourite pair from the new collection?
I have so many different ones and I try not to love just one style, even if in most of my photographs, I wear the same.
Are there any moments when sunglasses should not be worn?
At home, in bed, wherever you are unwatched. Otherwise, I hide my eyes from public gaze.
How many books do you own?
Nobody knows how many books I own because I continue to buy them all the time. I cannot resist; and I want to see and know as much as possible. Books are beautiful today; the ugly books are not needed any longer with the internet, etc. I have my favourite ones on a huge shelf beside my bed.
What’s your biggest fear?
Lack of time. Days are too short for all the things I do. As I sleep at least seven hours, there are never enough hours left.
If you weren’t a designer...
A photographer, a publisher (I am both, actually), an illustrator, a caricature artist or a linguist.
And if you could own any work of art, which would it be?
I’d like The Sleeping Muse by Constantin Brancusi.