Fashion was not Karl Lagerfeld’s only forte. Spurred on by his insatiable curiosity, the designer remained active and engaged in society—both as observer and trendmaker, submerging himself in books and popular culture with the discipline of a high-level sportsman—strict diet, no alcohol.
“I think the worst thing in fashion — and that was very couture in the past in France — is the ivory tower. You know, that is like a cemetery, I’m very much against it,” he told WWD in 2013.
Asked where he found inspiration, he cast a broad net.
“Everything. I’m what people call a voyeur, I look at everything, remember everything, and can redo things my way. Because a bad idea of somebody else can give you a good idea….I’m like an antennae, you know, like a building with an antennae that captures everything, I want to know everything, I read every magazine, I want to be informed,” he said.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the Left Bank in Paris, was his stomping ground, where he lived surrounded by books — his library famously counted more than 300,000 volumes. In the late Nineties, Lagerfeld set up his own bookshop, called 7L, in the neighborhood, on Rue de Lille, which specializes in rare photography books, adding a publishing company soon after. Editions 7L has published works on fashion and photography, as well as the literature of Friedrich Nietzsche, in a project with German publisher Steidl.
For years, Lagerfeld was a regular at the Café Flore, but was later known to favor La Société, a modern and airy restaurant.
Managers at the right bank institution W.H. Smith recalled the designer and his entourage would sweep into the store on weekends for a browse, snapping up books as well as magazines and newspapers, which dominate from the back part of the store.
In a two-page spread on the late designer, the French sports daily L’Equipe published a photo of Lagerfeld reading the paper at an outdoor café, in front of a half-empty Diet Coke — a photo shot for an Elle magazine feature on his daily life.
Lagerfeld’s obsessions extended to his homes, and he took on the task of decorating them with the same full-immersion approach he was known to apply to other pursuits.
An earlier fixation with the plush 18th century later yielded to more modern interests — and a more purified style of opulence. His Monaco apartment in the Eighties served as a showcase of Memphis design, complete with a boxing-ring bed.
One of his homes in the Nineties was the Villa Jako, in an upscale suburb of Hamburg. It featured a grand living room that spanned the entire length of the property, with imposing columns and round-arched glass doorways leading onto a garden overlooking the River Elbe, complete with a library and an office lined with books.