Karl Lagerfeld


TIT FOR TATKarl Lagerfeld has a piece of advice for Pierre Bergé, who in December is to start auctioning off his personal library of rare literature, manuscripts and musical scores. “He should stick with his old books,” Lagerfeld said when asked to respond to a recent interview in which the former Yves Saint Laurent boss sharply criticized two successors of the late couturier — Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati — and the German designer, long pitted against Saint Laurent throughout his career.

“Karl’s problem is the following: it’s like two starlets in the theater or cinema, when one becomes Marilyn Monroe and the other is a nobody,” Bergé told Suzy Menkes in the interview, published on international Vogue Web sites. “I like Karl a lot — I’ve known him forever. He is really cultivated and very intelligent. Karl’s big problem is that he has never been successful with his own label. And he has not been able to reach the same level of success as under the name of Chanel. It is sad.”

This story first appeared in the September 16, 2015 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Lagerfeld, in response to a question from WWD, noted that he hasn’t seen Bergé privately for 40 years — and he’s more than fine with that. “He’s from another era,” Lagerfeld said. “Times are not the same. He has to adapt to the times. The times don’t have to adapt to him. If he doesn’t like them, he should shut up and retire.”

Lagerfeld accepts that his signature house is nowhere near the scale of Chanel, but that was never his ambition. And neither did Saint Laurent approach that multibillion-dollar level with its fashion business. “He should be a little bit modest,” Lagerfeld said, noting that his own label — now positioned in the affordable luxury or masstige zone — is “exactly what I wanted from the beginning: not in ready-to-wear or couture. I wanted to have it different from Fendi and Chanel.”

Lagerfeld also defended Pilati and Ford, noting the former is doing a good job at Ermenegildo Zegna — and he appreciated his work at Saint Laurent, too. As for Ford, Lagerfeld noted that Bergé and company were “horrible” to him and it’s difficult to succeed when you only encounter “bad vibes.”

Of the two men, Bergé said: “I recognize a lot of talent from Tom Ford – but it is for marketing. And that he had, in effect, redone the Gucci brand in a spectacular fashion, and I have a lot of admiration for that. I will say to you again, ‘admiration.’ But he was incapable of succeeding at Yves Saint Laurent. Therefore it was, as you know, a flop. As for Pilati, it is better not to talk about it because it was nothing at all.”

Reached for their reactions, Ford and Pilati declined to comment.

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