INTERVIEW BY BRUCE LaBRUCE
For VICE magazine
I have always had a hate love relationship towards (not with, because that would include that I actually new the man...)Karl Lagerfeld. I am still a bit confused to whether I admired him only because of Chanel, or if his black and white tailored design that each seasons manages to bring a new fash-fad to the table is legit. Either way, the man is fascinating and Vice Magazine´s latest interview with him, done by no other than the controversial Canadian film director and writer, Bruce LaBruce, is without a doubt the strangest and most wonderful portrait of the man to date:
"When Vice called me last month with an out-of-the-blue offer to fly to Paris and interview the Kaiser himself, Karl Lagerfeld—creative director of the $10 billion Chanel empire, the house of Fendi, and his own eponymous line—I jumped at the chance. I have to confess that I wasn’t an expert about the fabled fashion kingpin prior to Vice’s proposition, but I did know that for a faggot it was tantamount to an audience with the Pope! I was duly excited to meet the Man Behind the Fan (which, I would soon discover, has long since been replaced by the Collar), the guru behind the dark glasses, and to try to separate the myth from the reality.
But having now met and spent time with Mr. Lagerfeld, it seems that, as close as I can figure out, the man really is the myth. It’s not that there isn’t any there there; it’s that somehow, by some strange alchemy, the person who descends the stairway of his fashion house, infinitely multiplied by mirrors, has transcended this mortal coil to become a pure creature of creativity. Lagerfeld is a study in perpetual motion, tirelessly darting between creative endeavors while devouring both history and the ephemeral present, the zeitgeist. A voracious reader and observer of life through books and popular culture, he filters the world into his couture and other creative outlets like a sort of supercomputer. When I suggest to him in the following interview that he may have Asperger syndrome, a rare form of autism characterized by an obsessive-compulsive “disorder” manifested as a kind of genius, he concurs.
What struck me most about Lagerfeld when I was doing my research was how closely aligned many of my beliefs were with his. Despite owning a private jet and multiple luxury homes, he is anti-materialistic and remains detached from his possessions, particularly as he has become more mature. He has a healthy appreciation for what some people might consider the “low life”—prostitution, promiscuity, what have you—and he is decidedly antibourgeois, which encompasses his distaste for the idea of gay marriage.
On meeting, I presented him with a list of ten beliefs that we have in common, which acted as a nice icebreaker. From the outset, he was warm and convivial. However, I must admit he cast a spell on me. For the hour and a half that I sat with him, I felt almost as if I were in a dream or under hypnosis—relaxed but entranced, and even slightly blissed out. La Lagerfeld is a guru, all right, and not just one of the fashion variety.
Vice: So, you’re very busy as usual.
Karl Lagerfeld: I’m always busy, but this is a really busy time. I like really busy times.
I do too. I’ve been watching various documentaries about you. I’ve been kind of surprised, as I’ve learned more about you, by how your philosophy has become very distilled.
Yes, very down-to-earth.
That’s almost like a paradox, but I understand.
I love paradoxes.
Me too. I think it’s all about paradoxes. People don’t get it; they think you’re being contradictory, but two things can exist simultaneously that are opposed. There’s no mystery in that.
Truth is only a question of point of view.
I like that you make it clear that you don’t want to be photographed or filmed without your sunglasses on. I don’t either. Who would?
They’re my burka.
Exactly. A burka for the eyes.
A burka for a man. I’m a little shortsighted, and people, when they’re shortsighted, they remove their glasses and then they look like cute little dogs who want to be adopted.
I’m actually nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other.
You can’t operate at all with what you have?
No. They say I’ll never need glasses because I only use one eye for distances and one eye for close up.
That’s perfect, no? I want to stay shortsighted or else I will need glasses for reading. But I don’t want them because I sketch, I do everything without glasses, except for speaking to strangers. Especially if they wear glasses, too.
I hate it when photographers are like, “Can we have one with your glasses off?” Why? You can see me just fine.
I had an interview once with some German journalist—some horrible, ugly woman. It was in the early days after the communists—maybe a week after—and she wore a yellow sweater that was kind of see-through. She had huge tits and a huge black bra, and she said to me, “It’s impolite; remove your glasses.” I said, “Do I ask you to remove your bra?”
You have to be careful what you ask for. Something that you do, which I also try to do in my art, is to treat all aspects of creativity equally. Fashion, photography, books, whatever—it all comes from the same place.
Yes, exactly. Everything comes from the same head. The three things I like best in life are fashion, photography, and books. There are a lot of other things I may like but that I’m not gifted for. I’m not gifted for music. I’m not gifted for singing. I don’t like to act because my life is a pantomime anyway.
Well, the gifts that you do possess have certainly served you well.
I’m perfectly happy, and what makes things even better is that I can do things the way that I want to. I have no problems in terms of down-to-earth issues; I can do everything I’m doing in the best conditions. My fashion business, Chanel, is the biggest luxury ready-to-wear brand in the world. Fendi is a part of LVMH, which is very big, too.
You’ve been famous for quite some time, but the whole landscape of celebrity has changed so dramatically in recent years.
That’s part of our life, our culture.
Do you think it’s become kind of toxic?
Yes, but you cannot fight against it. There’s a price you have to pay for fame, and people who don’t want to pay that price can get in trouble. I accepted the idea of celebrity because of a French expression: “You cannot have the butter and the money for the butter.”
I like that. You have to choose one or the other.
And now I cannot cross the street. I cannot go anywhere.
But you don’t mind being alone and isolated?
I have bodyguards. I have big cars.
Do you travel with bodyguards?
Oh yes. But I don’t travel commercially. Whenever I go around the world I go on private jets.
What if you went to a nightclub or something?
I don’t. I never go anywhere, not even from here to the Quai Voltaire, where I live. Never ever. People wait in front of my house.
How long has it been that way for you, with fans outside your home?
For the past ten years. Before that, it was OK. And when I was younger, people didn’t really know me. I had the time to be young and not to be troubled by this kind of thing."
See the original article on Viceland.com here