Trimming the Lunatic Fringe


Is Karl Lagerfeld a genius, or just plain crazy?

Last year, when asked about his views on technology, Lagerfeld, the seemingly ageless, legendary designer for Chanel, proclaimed Facebook to be a “flawless object,” informing the stunned interviewer, who tried desperately to wrap up the interview, that it was “like a Brancusi.”

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Lagerfeld continued on this theme, claiming to have received a “Facebook” in white gold. He then proceeded to describe how, though he’s expert with the technology involved, he makes his assistants operate all his devices, because he doesn’t want their images to ruin his imagination. He added that in technology, there is no such thing as “bad taste.”

Lagerfeld seems to have a new (or reactivated) obsession with cats. He has gone on record saying that he’s hired two maids to tend to a nine-month-old kitten called Choupette. A team of servants keeps detailed logs of all the kitten’s behavior-already up to about 600 pages-which Lagerfeld intends to have made into a book. Be sure to follow Choupette’s Twitter feed!

I needed to know: Is Lagerfeld brilliant, crazy or a heaping mixture of both? No grasp of art or science, in my view, could even explain what makes Lagerfeld’s hair look the way it does (plaster of Paris and shellac? Toothpaste and turpentine? Uranium?).

But like a stopped clock that’s still right twice a day, or the prophecies of an ancient Greek oracle that seem cryptic when uttered but make perfect sense after the fact, there’s a sort of magic to Lagerfeld’s pronouncements. I had to figure out what it is.

When I was younger, my mom got me a book called The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. The peculiar title was due to it being written entirely by a software program, Racter, attempting to imitate human writing. Lagerfeld’s remarks make me think of this a bit. Sometimes, when you simulate something, you get to the root of what makes it distinct (in the case of The Policeman’s Beard, that writing is perhaps not as hard as it looks, as long as you don’t care whether or not you make any sense).

So, in the tradition of Racter, I was not physically in the room when I interviewed Lagerfeld. My aura was.

What’s your view of the events in Afghanistan and Iraq? Do you have a position on the warfare that’s been going on there, America’s military presence, or the many corporate interests behind the war effort? Cynics say these wars are fought over oil.

I love America. The spirit of it sometimes seems to me like a young man-or it could be a woman, maybe slightly older, but you know, still lovely-dressed in outrageous but tasteful garments. Yet somehow naked. You see such things on television. I don’t watch it, but I order some of my staff to do so, and they report things to me. Someone was once apparently made the desperate wife of an orange. Or perhaps she just looked orange. Shockingly, this somehow occurred both in Atlanta and New York. Someone’s hair weave was pulled to the floor in one of the incidents.

Anyway, oil is a beneficial thing. They use it in Turkey to great effect, on their skin. Perfection.

You are known to be vague about your age. Let’s just say that you’ve been around for a while. As an icon of women’s fashion, what’s your take on the evolution of feminism? How has fashion changed in this respect since you first started?

Feminists seem to me to be like a kind of bitter plant. There is something unsexy about them, and they are inevitably poisonous. But, as we know, all natural things are beautiful. I love them. Annie Liebovitz once took a photo of me, and I was compelled to destroy her camera. I loathe technology. This occurred near a beach.

Advancements in medicine are helping people to live longer. But that has also created an obsession with looking young. Do you think this is healthy? Are we losing our quality of life as we chase the illusion of youth?

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I have always thought youth is something like a piano or zither. They produce an unearthly music, but only when struck expertly. I have several hundred of them, which I sometimes command young people to play. I didn’t buy them, of course. They were gifts. Or they may have just appeared one day. They amuse me, but only in the sense that they fire my imagination. Otherwise, the sound is atrocious. It’s merely a metaphor, and I am the only one who understands. The concept of age no longer exists, and I abhor it. Do you think I look young? You dress horribly.

You’re well known for your trademark sunglasses. You once said this was because you’re slightly myopic, and you want to conceal your eyes. Is that the real reason?

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Cosmic phenomena always take place at a level human beings can’t understand. Although I understand them. For example, Madonna. She is both vile and beautiful, and I greatly mourn her death. She was an original. Only I could create another like her, but won’t, since she’s dead, and it would be tasteless to recreate her. There is no originality these days. However, I do like the films of her son, Guy Ritchie. Of course I haven’t seen any of them: I don’t sully myself with such things. I wonder who killed her. It’s a shame.

But the real issue here is the consumption of alcohol. It should be banned. Of course, then people would murder each other endlessly and then where would we be. So yes, I’m in favor of it-drugs should all be legal. It’s a matter of one’s own taste.

You’ve done many commercials and other endorsements for a number of brands. Do you think there’s a dangerous trend in corporate power and influence?

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I don’t think you can get an answer to this question. The other day, I was being carried across the street and saw a newspaper flying by. This inspired an entire line of clothing. Is that wrong? I don’t know what to do some days, yet inspiration always strikes. I won’t stop working. Of course, with technology, anyone can be anywhere, at any time, and I think this is a good thing. It leads to good taste.

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Er, what do you think of how quickly technology is evolving? They say it doubles in power every year.

To me it’s all the same. Everything is technology. We are technology. Someone invented us. Of course I’m an atheist, but you understand what I mean. People are ingenious devices. We have all the virtues of art, but we are machines.

Technology makes me so fearful. You see it done so badly, is that how we are? Anyway, we’re inventions. Somehow. I try not to think about it, but I often fail. I learned all this from a documentary I recently saw called “Prometheus.” Or rather, I had asked someone to see it and describe it to me, because I prefer to look at the images in my own mind and interpret them. Apparently someone has determined where the human race came from.

Back to fashion: is it a good thing, or a bad thing, that so many models must start their careers so young? Does that open opportunities for them, or are we damaging them in ways they’ll pay for later?

It depends on the person. I find that they are able to soothe themselves-often with drugs, for which I’m very grateful, because I hate hearing them complain-and as long as they do what I tell them, it doesn’t matter. There is no tragedy connected with youth. It doesn’t matter what they do. I don’t like old people working for me.

You seem to take a keen interest in world politics. The recent death of Kim Jong Il shook the world. What do you think will happen in that region now that he’s gone?

That place is totally devoid of interest for me. Gray and horrid. Don’t ask me about it. I think it’s terrible that they started a television show about that dictator-“living with Kim,” I think?-but tarted him up as a brainless woman. I believe it featured a basketball player.

You famously lost a lot of weight, so that you could fit into suits designed by Hedi Slimane. You’ve kept the weight off. What’s your favorite food these days?

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I subsist on brown rice, something that resembles barley (the name of it escapes me at present), and a sort of green paste that’s made just for me by someone from Peru. The thing to remember, and this is I think what my doctor told me, unless I’m remembering it incorrectly, is that all nutrition enters through the nose.

The nose?

Yes. Also ancient beliefs of nomadic people supported this idea of things entering the body that way. For this reason, I only eat things totally without scent. It is on the order of a spiritual defense. As a result, I remain thin and youthful-looking. But then this is what technology does to us.

Thank you, Mr. Lagerfeld. This has been most informative. This concludes our interview.

I have decided today to redesign windshield wipers, but now I change my mind.