We speak to Karl Lagerfeld, the man at the helm of luxury fashion house Chanel, who has demonstrated a whole lot of ambidexterity and versatility as he takes the brand on to new and refreshing avenues

The applause at the end of every haute couture show when the frost white, pony-tailed, black sunglasses-clad Karl Lagerfeld takes his final bow is a telling sign of the success story that he is. In fact, what is more impressive than his ability to churn out a multitude of outfits only wearing black, white and the tones in between, is his demonstration of what being a fashion designer means today. 

Fashion designers for a start are no longer the man behind the scenes, but like Lagerfeld (and many designers of his time), they represent the image of the fashion brand and all the multiple facets the brand hopes to encapsulate. In the case of Karl Lagerfeld, his roles include movie directing, interior design, photography—all in the capacity of a fashion designer.

To learn more about the man at the helm of Chanel, we speak more about his multiple talents and talk about his home country Germany and our mother country, China.


You have been directing several films and taken photographs for quite some time now. Which genre is more challenging to work in?

I have been making films for quite some time now, but directing films is still a new challenge. Now that photography is something I am used to, it is always challenging to do new things, to add elements and to put movement into my pictures.

Your film language reminds of Federico Fellini. Which filmmakers or films have inspired you?

Le Cabinet du Docteur Caligari from Robert Wiene, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne from Robert Bresson, to mention only a few.

What is your approach to photography? Do you exactly know what shot you want before you start or do you let your lens guide you as you shoot?

I am a free man. I have ideas, that I usually see in my dreams, so, when I wake up in the morning I know what I want to shoot.

Artists usually have absolute freedom in their work—do you sometimes miss that in fashion, where you have to always consider commercial constraints?

No! Not at all, otherwise, it would be horrible! I am totally free in my work, I am not a marketing person. Thank god I don’t have commercial constraints, it would be the end of creation.


What are the things you love about Germany—apart from Claudia Schiffer and Thomas Mann’s books?

It is a country I don’t have anything against. But my idea of Germany no longer necessarily corresponds to the German reality.

Rather than the cultivated Germany, I always think of someone like Walther Rathenau, the German avant-garde of Bruno Paul, and Harry Graf Kessler. That would be my idea of Germany.

Most fashion brands have their eyes on China now, but Coco Chanel was fascinated by the country long before this hype. Do you share her fascination?

You know, China, for a European, is the future and it is also mysterious. People imagine a lot of things that maybe have never happened there.

I did the Métiers d’Art Collection “Paris-Shanghai” in December 2009, so in a way, I am inspired by China, and I thought it was a great inspiration and there also was this link with Chanel and the Coromandel screens.

All the Chinese have the perfect look to wear CHANEL. All the items of the Chanel wardrobe are perfect for Asian women, as Coco Chanel herself was not too tall, had dark hair and a very tiny silhouette, like they have.

Do you expect any significant designers coming out of Asia any time soon?

Why not? Wherever you come from, if you are talented, you can succeed.

Your work has often been inspired by people. Who are your latest muses?

I am really inspired by Freja Beha and Stella Tennant.  

See also: 7 Of Karl Lagerfeld's Most Iconic Fashion Collaborations

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