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Karl Lagerfeld, Boy Prince of Fashion

Down Fifth Avenue they come, the fragrant and bejeweled hordes, having said their bons mots at Derek Lam’s cocktail party at Barneys and a Tom Ford perfume launch at Saks, and now clippity-clopping their way ever closer to the opening of the exquisite new Fendi boutique on 53rd Street. It is 8 p.m., still early enough for tourists to stroll about and city buses to zoom by, and also too early for the arrival of Karl Lagerfeld, designer of Chanel, Fendi, Lagerfeld Collection, a new Karl Lagerfeld line, and “the reason we are all here!” Half an hour before the event is supposed to end, Lagerfeld remains at his suite at the Mercer, and it’s whispered that he will not leave because he cannot find a thing to wear. Soon, Silvia Fendi, the handsome blonde daughter of the LVMH-owned house, is packed in a Town Car and sent downtown to work some magic, or at least appeal to Lagerfeld’s nobler side, because Lagerfeld is nothing if not noble.

What can one talk about while waiting for Lagerfeld? Lagerfeld, of course. “Karl has the energy of . . . what? Twenty-five thousand Turkish elephants!” says socialite Anne Slater, wearing her big blue glasses and grinning up a storm. “He’s magnetic and powerful. I think he’s absolutely, devastatingly attractive.”

“At our dinner for Karl at Schiller’s, firemen had to stand at the door to stop people from coming in because everyone wanted to see him,” says Robert Burke, the recently departed Bergdorf Goodman head of fashion. “Karl said the firemen were the best-dressed people from the whole evening!”

“Karl is a genius!” exclaims Lindsay Lohan, whose name has been lobbed recently as the new face of Chanel (“I prefer Nicole Kidman and that generation at the moment,” Lagerfeld later tells me drily). “I want to have everything that he makes. Everything! I go into stores and grab all his things.”

“Karl is the one person that makes me shy,” says throaty Bungalow 8 owner Amy Sacco. “I think I’ve conquered—I’ve run the gamut on people that I speak to, and very few times have I been shy. But Karl is beyond, and I’m afraid I’d bore him to tears.”

Giorgio Armani, André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour with her pretty daughter, Bee. “A conversation with Karl is not a fashion conversation—it’s a conversation, a conversation that embraces the culture of life,” says Talley. Amanda Cutter Brooks, Celerie Kemble, Anh Duong. “Karl defended me once. He said, ‘Do not forget that Anh is not only a beautiful woman but also an artist!’ ” exclaims Duong. Sophie Dahl, Cecilia Dean, Liv Tyler. “I’m starting to feel a little tired and overwhelmed, and I wonder if I slip out if anyone would notice,” lisps Tyler, with one of her coy half-smiles. An emissary from Planet Not Obsessed With Karl: Chuck Close plants his wheelchair two inches from the exit door. “I’m not very interested in fashion,” says Close, surveying the crowd. He sighs. “This event is making me want to start smoking again.”