At first, I found this article difficult to start. My focus would spiral madly away into this weird confessional bit about how fashion is kind of a difficult business to identify with, being composed as it is of a glut of giant moneyspinning corporations, the rules they make and the rules they follow, and then clusters of individuals and subcultures and the rules they make and the rules they follow. It all got rather horribly complicated, until it dawned on me that it didn’t have to, this is a simple enough topic so why would it need a complicated introduction?
I hate Karl Lagerfeld. You see? Simple!
All fashion journalists seem to think of Karl Lagerfeld – the current head of Chanel, for those who might not know, and hey why should you? – as some sort of eccentric German grandfather figure of the design world, like Dr Emmett Brown from Back To The Future but with less gadgetry and more shoes. In a hyper-serious industry like fashion, his quirkiness is the only injoke. This is perhaps the first reason that I do not like him. Nobody likes an injoke that they are not part of, and the callous broadcast of injokes to the lives of people who “weren’t there” and thus do not get it is teeth-clenchingly irritating. Here at TBO, for example, we have plenty of injokes amongst the staff, but we are aware that they are of no interest to the average reader who was not present for the joke’s birth. Consequently we keep our damn mouths shut.
My main problem is that after doing my research into this joke, I still don’t think he’s a good one. I refuse to enjoy or even tolerate his “quirky” quotations, which, to the sensible mind, are not so hilarious or witty as they are bratty, banal or just plain cruel. In terms of the latter, how about the suggestion that “fashion is the healthiest motivation for losing weight”? Or “Luxury is for the rich, not the nouveau riche.” The smugness that saturates such brush-offs is, in my opinion, unbearable. Uh, hello, when has it been okay to use a phrase like nouveau riche in a context devoid of sarcasm without getting punched in the mouth? Oh, there is a world outside of the fashion industry? Poor people live there? Oh how quaint! I don’t get how anyone could find such comments endearing. I am under no illusions; if I met Karl Lagerfeld under whatever circumstances, I have no doubt that he would be cruel and dismissive of “my kind” so why should I give him the time of day? Snobby people deserve the loathing of those they look down upon because it evens the playing field, they need to be reminded that hating others is not a mark of sophistication and superiority, that we can hate you back.
I suppose I also despise what Karl Lagerfeld represents, as a part of the fashion industry. I got kinda interested in clothes through my mother, who taught me to sew and knit, but it was only when I first attended university – leaving a school with a set uniform to wear every day – that I really started to see any practical application to any of it. “Oh wait, people actually wear clothes, in the real world. Oh no, all my fellow students dress really well!” Of course, by the time I reached university I was already stuck in my weird-geeky-stubborn-misfit-y niche, so I got interested in fashion with a pre-set distaste for authority. Maybe I’m just repulsed by the idea that Lagerfeld’s persona (rather than his actual merit as a designer) is enjoyed predominantly by those cliquey types who consider themselves “insiders”, in a way, with some kind of acute awareness of how the highest echelons of the industry works. This only gives feed to the idea – in paranoid brain like my own – that their joke, their common knowledge is a way of keeping us out. It’s a party to which only the people who care and the people who are in the know get an invite.
Lagerfeld seems to enjoy painting himself as some kind of pastiche of an authoritative figure. Is the whole point of his persona an indication that in the sprawling mess of the fast-moving fashion world, the idea of an iron fist to rule it all is absurd? Nah, I wouldn’t credit him with an actual sense of humour. I mean, come on:
“I built up my own reality. I created something I can cope with in life. I enjoy luxury and being the centre of my own intact world.”