Me and the Kaiser
The interview I did with Karl Lagerfeld has spread like wildfire on the fashion blogosphere, which surprised me a little bit as I didn't really feel like there was anything too sensational about it. Although I suppose my idea of what's sensational and what isn't is probably different from a lot of people's.
I knew I had to be well-prepared going into the interview, but I also didn't want to concentrate too much on fashion, which is kind of ephemeral and less interesting to me than the man behind the designs. I arrived at Lagerfeld's atelier with Roe Ethridge--the photographer Vice had flown in from New York to shoot the Kaiser--who had a ton of camera equipment and lights in tow. Lagerfeld's longtime manager Caroline Lebar was not under the impression that Lagerfeld, who was in the middle of designing his new couture line, was to be photographed, so there was a miscommunication that created s little bit of tension. Roe, who is very sweet, was nonetheless trying to be firm to get his way, but Caroline was emphatic, saying that Karl only does self-portraits now. I didn't want to get too involved as it might have soured the interview, and also I had brought along my own little posse for amoral support: Mecca Revlon, of the House of Revlon, previously of the House of Ninja, a friend of mine who was living in Paris at the time and doing some modeling and who has a floral tattoo across his face; and Rory of the band the Grammatics, also a part-time cumdumpster, I mean model.
After the photography imbroglio ended, my posse and I sat and talked with Caroline for about an hour and a half before Karl arrived. A striking, no-nonsense woman with short grey hair, Caroline seemed to be vetting me before the interview, no doubt making sure that I was up for the challenge and not up to no good. We got along famously as we chatted over expresso about a wide range of topics. Karl's manservant preceded him (he was an hour and a half late) and began to prepare for the interview. When Karl arrived, he and Caroline and I went into an anteroom and sat at a table. Caroline sat through the entire interview but remained largely silent, although she was obviously engaged.
Photo by Karl's manservant. We had to threaten to run these horrible, mis-scanned, disposable-camera shots just to get Karl's people to send us the high-resolution version of the self-portrait at the beginning of the actual article (and which they'd claimed was "for momento purposes only"). It was the most literal definition of "image control" we've ever experienced.
About half way through the hour and a half interview, the manservant came in, just as I had read in Karl's New Yorker profile, with a tray and proceeded to pour a green powder into a cup of water and stir it for Karl--his lunch, apparently. Karl was very engaging and polite and the atmosphere was relaxed. He even took off his sunglasses while showing me the nude portfolio he'd published which included his nude photo of Carla Bruni. The atelier itself is a stunning room with thirty foot high bookshelves completely covering all four walls, stuffed completely with books and rare editions. It's supposed to be one of the best collections of books in the world. The interview was so convivial that I asked Karl if he would pose with me for a couple of snapshots, which he did. Mission accomplished, my posse and I headed out into the cool Parisien night.