Few have influenced fashion with the fearlessness and force of Karl Lagerfeld. Although he famously refuses to look back, his work for Chanel has become an indelible part of our culture, changing the way that even those who have never heard of him, or his brand, dress themselves in the morning. Lagerfeld’s fantastic means of revealing his ideas—on a carousel! in a swimming pool! on an iceberg!—have become bona fide moments that transcend the fashion-sphere and enchant people all around the world who experience his collections online.
You are the ultimate fashion icon, and the most legendary designer of our time. How does it feel to have replaced that other legend, Coco Chanel, and make her legacy your own?
I never analyzed that situation. It would be dangerous. I would end up with a big hat!
Just like a great actor who inhabits different characters, you exist in different worlds when you create collections for Chanel, Fendi, and Karl Lagerfeld. How do you manage to travel among them so seamlessly?
I have no personality, I have three!
What does it take to be a truly great fashion designer?
There are no rules; if not, everybody would be a great fashion designer!
What does it take to be a truly great photographer?
To have the right eye.
What does it take to be a truly great fashion editor?
It is not my job.
Which clients do you most enjoy—couture or ready-to-wear?
I enjoy everything I do. But I have very little to do with the clients.
Which forms of social media do you rely on most?
All of them, but I still like print best.
You’ve shown in Salzburg, Vienna, Saint-Tropez, and soon, you’ll show in Cuba. Where else would you like to show in the future? Has any venue eluded you for logistical reasons?
Any place where I can imagine Chanel, even if she had never been there. Because my job is to make believe it is Chanel, even if it was never like this.
You’ve been taking your runway bows with Hudson Kroenig for the past few seasons. What makes him such a special kid?
Hudson is the Shirley Temple boy of fashion.
What do you make of the current exodus of creative directors at Dior, Saint Laurent, and Lanvin? Could the fashion show schedule be partly responsible?
I don’t think so, and you know I have no time to think about this kind of problem, because it is not my problem.
Why do you connect with Stephen Gan?
I’ve know him for nearly 20 years, so we had time to build a good connection.
What makes Carine Roitfeld such an effective collaborator?
Carine’s secret is that she gives people more talent than they have.
This is your first cover shoot with Carine, which you did exclusively for The Daily. The photo looks incredible. Does she make a great model?
She is not a model, she is Carine Roitfeld!
Have you ever thought about getting your cat, Choupette, a feline companion?
Choupette hates other animals, cats especially.
Why did you appoint Willow Smith as your latest brand ambassadress?
Because she has the face of future beauty.
When was your most recent visit to L.A., and what brought you there?
It is not that recent, I regret. Because I hear it is becoming better and better. I came for a fashion shoot and for Chanel’s Cruise show.
What’s your favorite way to spend time in Los Angeles?
To show a collection or to take photos.
What are the best new films you’ve seen recently?
Mustang and Carol.
Your work is always future-oriented, but does anything in your personal life make you nostalgic?
I hate nostalgia.