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Karl Lagerfeld, Boy Prince of Fashion

“You resemble an American!” he says.

She puffs out her cheeks. “When do we eat?” she asks.

“Oh, la!” laughs Lagerfeld.

Lagerfeld rarely shows up at Chanel before late afternoon, and it is eight when he begins taking the photos for the collection’s press packet in Mademoiselle’s old flat, preserved as she left it on the office’s top floor—the Coromandel screens, Oriental tables, the quilted suede sofa, a silver box lined in gold (a gift from one of her lovers, the Duke of Westminster). The models in their forties-era New York looks parade through Coco’s suites, and the shoot extends for hours, far past midnight, and afterward Lagerfeld insists on writing captions for each shot with Chanel’s Parisian publicist. “Please tell him that captions are not modern,” she begs me.

Lagerfeld summons the butler for his Pepsi Max and waits for his camera to be reloaded. “Marc Jacobs and all, they will have to wait,” he declares from the couch, sitting down for the first time all night. “This is not an easy job, because I have the understanding about Chanel and couture design that nobody has anymore. I have the training that nobody else has. This job is not free.” He takes a sip from his goblet. “I am not going anywhere.”

Additional reporting by Jada Yuan.

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