Karl Lagerfeld showing his fall 1969 collection for Chloé.

The late Karl Lagerfeld had a long-standing relationship with this publication. Here, some memorable quotes.


“I don’t like retrospectives, but the Twenties and Thirties were the last epoch near to us when things were still well made…when there was quality.”

“I like it when people say I am French, but it would be presumptuous for me to say that I am.”


“Overdressing is the greatest mistake. I design layers of clothes so that a woman can handle climate changes gracefully, so that she can add or subtract pieces depending on her whim or the weather, so that she can change her look without changing her entire outfit. My basic premise is to make fashion easier for a woman. Because a woman, especially one who is active and involved and for whom I especially enjoy designing, has to live with her clothes just as easily as she lives with her skin.”

“My life is based on fantasy. I don’t ask myself questions about what I do or what I am. I go by instinct. I follow my feelings.”

“I hate too skinny. My dresses are not for very, very skinny people. There has to be a very feminine shape under them.”

“I never fall in love. I am just in love with my job. I think it’s much more important to love your work. I think for a man to be in love with his job, that’s the real thing.”


“I am interested in what I am doing and what I will do, not what I have done.”

“When people ask me what I do, ‘designer’ seems inadequate. I tell them I’m in the fashion business. But that is what happens with ready-to-wear. You become an enterprise.”


“I do design for a special woman. She is not necessarily 17, and she is not necessarily 50. She does have style and spirit. I cannot easily classify my clientele as to type or age. But my customers range from people like Gaby von Zuylen to Veronique Peck to Margaux Hemingway.”

“New York is the most exhausting city I know, and after weeks on the road my six month-old collection looks to me as if it were slept in.”

“I love lingerie. It’s a natural for me. And I loathe hearing it called ‘underwear.’”

“I have always loved the Art Deco period, but my first, and constant love has been the French 18th century.”

“The beauty of 18th-century architecture is the perfection of the proportions — the size of the rooms in relation to the size of the human body.”


On his fashion work: “I am nothing but a streetwalker. And I say that because it is nearly impossible to be so busy always promoting one’s product. Streetwalking is the way things are done in modern life. One must always push in personal appearances, social promotion.”

“When I was 4, I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday. I wanted my clothes prepared so I could wear anything I wanted at any time of the day. I was a clothes freak. And I was mad for dressing differently at least four times a day. At 10, I was always in hats, high collars and neckties. I never played with other children. I read books and did drawings night and day.”

“What I hate are designers who make the same old jacket or sweater differently season after season and call it their personality, their evolution, their style. When I hear I’m called ‘an intellectual designer,’ I hate that. What is the worst is a fashion designer who talks all the time of his or her creativity, what they are, how they evolve. Just do it and shut up.”

“Accessories should be funny. Humor is vital, and I always make accessories that amuse me. They also aid in playing down the bourgeois aspect of the dresses.”

“If I listen to my fortune-teller, I’ll become a movie producer. I would make very sophisticated but mean, mean bitchy Marx Brothers-type comedies. They would be mean, but in a light way.”


“Beds are one of the most important things in life. Even as a child I felt the importance of beds. All I need in life is a comfortable bed and desk to work at.”

“Fashion is something you can’t command. Suddenly it is time for a change, whether you like it or not. If you don’t do it, somebody else will.”

“Fashion never repeats itself exactly. Fashions of the Fifties do not look right today.”

“How can you be securely successful in fashion? As soon as you finish a collection, you must start up again with something new.”

“Everything is the same thing — and never the same thing again. Look how people make different music with the same notes. The designer has to find his music.”

“I don’t know whether I am a success, but I don’t think I am a failure. Anyway, in fashion, success doesn’t mean anything because you have to start all over again in six months.”

“I draw like I talk, and I don’t talk slowly.”

“I do not like the idea of owning things. I like to buy things and then give them away. The discovery is the interesting moment. I do not like the effect of keeping things.”

“I am in fashion where one is supposed to change all the time. I think one’s taste should change because one changes physically. The difference between how I looked fifteen years ago and how I look now is a tremendous as the difference between an 18th century cupboard and an Art Déco Cabinet.”

“I came to Paris when I was fourteen and started working at 16. When I was really very, very young, I was very lazy and I was so tacky: I used to like convertible cars, beaches and sunbathing, body-building and nightclubs. I got enough of all that to last a lifetime. And I hope to live until very old. There will probably be extraordinary events to witness. I really would like to live to be very old.”

“I like to do every single thing myself.”

“Things go well when you really want them to go well. You have to make efforts towards that. Happiness is a question of order and discipline.”


“I’m working class, my dear. I can’t say I enjoy the simple life. But then again, we working class deserve our rewards.”

“The more people are talking about me, the more good I’m doing for everyone. When business is good, nobody comments. And besides, I like to do things I’m not supposed to.”

“I have, in fact, no responsibility but my work, and I like to do only that. It amuses me to be part of the Italian scene, to be part of the French scene. In fact, I am from nowhere.”

“If I had to sit down and do just a Karl Lagerfeld collection and nothing else, I would be bored to death. I much prefer working with many different people. I take the personality of the Fendis, for instance, and I bring it out. I’m not on an ego trip. I’m not flattered to see my name on a door, to have my own label. I prefer having the power of all the houses together behind me. It gives me great security.”

“I find it an amusing challenge to do high fashion at a house like Chanel. Someone had to design the collection. Why not me?”

“It’s the way I like to work, to change constantly. One has to have a style, but you can create many images. Life changes and fashion must change too. There have to be waves in everybody’s career.”

“In fashion, it’s best to be today or tomorrow. When you are alive and working, who cares what you did? Dresses should be worn by live women, not be put in a museum. Fashion is a trade, not an art.”

“We fashion designers are pretty lucky. We don’t really make any great contributions, but people all over the world pay such attention to us. When I arrived on the Concorde the other morning and went through customs, the customs man looked at my passport and said, ‘Oh, Karl Lagerfeld. I’m wearing it. Go through.’ Amusing, don’t you think?”

“My favorite book is the dictionary. First French, then English, then German. I read and memorize away.”

“Designers shouldn’t talk about fashion. They should do it. They should never treat fashion as an art. I hate all this talk of ‘creativity’. Fashion is more instinctive.”


“I have no desk anywhere, it’s all in my mind. I like to work only for big companies with big advertising power. I don’t like anything small.”

“You don’t have to be born French to understand Parisian elegance. It should always be a state of mind.”

“Of course I sleep; what is this stupid thing people think that busy people, successful people, have no time for sleeping? I also like to be alone. Like Garbo, I want to be alone. I have to be alone seven hours a day to get my batteries recharged, because they are easily emptied. And I could never live with somebody else. I hate boredom; I have no time to entertain the thought.”

“What I enjoy about my job is the job.”

“I try to forget my collections. It’s best not to remember too well. People who remember what they did before tend to do the same thing over again.”

“Nobody can escape fashion. The fashion of no fashion is still fashion. People who refuse fashion get it as a markdown later anyway.”

“To think you have seen it all, done it all — it’s the worst attitude. Especially in fashion.”

“I am a one-man multinational.”

“When I came to Chanel, it was like playing a new instrument. I was a piano player taking up the cello.”

“Poor Yves didn’t need to go to Chanel to make Chanel-style clothing. He’s been making Chanels and selling them as Saint Laurents for years.”

“I have never wanted to have my own fashion house. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with the business side.”

“The women who can buy an expensive dress buy themselves an expensive body first.”

“I think that when it comes to a man dressing with style, it is very important for him to be well groomed — beautifully groomed. Men should always be at their best.”

“My greatest temptations are the unknown and the forbidden. But the problem nowadays is a lot of things are known about and very little is forbidden.”


“I am interested in tomorrow. The past, my own included, is just forgotten the moment it is done. No regrets. Maybe a little remorse, but no regrets. “

“What I like best is the next step.”

“When I design Karl Lagerfeld, I don’t think too much. I design by instinct.”

“I design like I breathe. You don’t ask to breathe. It just happens.”

“That’s modern, to do more than one thing at once. Holidays and breaks are very bad for me. I like to work nonstop.”

“Money is not everything to me. It’s true I am one of the best-paid designers, but that’s all part of the job — the apartments and the planes.”

“I hate designers who talk about how much they suffer. I find them very boring. After all, there are more unpleasant jobs than this.”

“I don’t think that a woman is well dressed unless she is wearing perfume.”

“I would like to be a one-man multinational fashion phenomenon.”

“My job is to bring out in people what they wouldn’t dare do themselves.”

“I’m a working-class person…working with class.”

“Nothing is serious in life. Nothing should look serious, because I think everything should have a light touch.”

“I respect nothing, no one, not even myself. Respect is not a very creative thing. Imagine me respecting Chanel. We would go nowhere.”

“I’m never totally pleased. I’m a kind of fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm. I’m always expecting something from the next time.”


“I am a fashion chameleon…one should have no fixed ideas that this is elegant and this is not. The notion of what is chic and elegant is as changing as fashion itself.”


“I hate fashion designers who talk too seriously about their trade. Twenty years ago they were still trade persons, let’s face it. They should all be very happy that people pay them so much attention. After rock stars, and a few movie stars, it’s one of the best things today, no? They make more money than everybody else.”

“Fashion is change. To be in it, you have to be a kind of intellectual opportunist, which I think is a very healthy attitude.”

“I [have] lived all over the world, but I stay German, because I am a German person.”


“The designer must interpret the mood of the moment in clothes. He must do what he feels like doing or he is into marketing. That is something else, no?”

“I express myself through fashion. Some people paint, some do nothing at all. I am not Van Gogh, and I don’t want to be admired 100 years after my death.”

“I want to know everything. I am always ready for change. That’s why it’s so important to stay healthy and be around a long time. There is so much in the world to consider, to see, to hear about. There is no time to be bored.”


“I work not for pleasure, but with pleasure. Work is when you’re bored to death by what you’re doing. I don’t work; I do things.”


“At Chanel, I take little things — the buttons, the bows — and put them together into a dish, like a cook. I don’t make the same dish over and over again. Cooking and dressmaking, you know — it’s all the same.”

“To say that there is no fashion any more is ridiculous. The fashion of no-fashion is still fashion. There is always a fashion. And fashion is a train that waits for nobody. Get on it, or it’s gone.”

“I am a voyeur. I want to be informed, to know everything, see everything, read everything. I have millions of spies. I read all kinds of papers—the best and the worst, all kinds of books, from trash to not trash at all. Music is important, too. You mix all that, then forget about it and do it your way. But your way has to be updated. When you listen to the same operas in the studio for 25 years, there’s a chance you’ll get the same dresses, too. I am not sure that fashion can only be based on Proust, Callas, Verdi, Berard and Cocteau. As nice as these things may be, there may also be something else.”


“I think it’s easier to keep up with fashion by being deeply involved, than doing a collection and then going away for three months of holiday.”

“Life shouldn’t be that comfortable. I push myself around only because I know the edge is more exciting than the restful center.”

“I’m afraid I’m not as horrible as my reputation, but this I prefer in a way. I’d rather have a bad reputation and be, finally, quite nice, than be considered quite nice and be a horrible, bitter, bitchy, mean creature like many of the people we know in this business, and that I don’t have to name because you know as well as I do.”

“I’d be delighted if John Galliano was picked to design Givenchy’s couture. He has great talent, and would bring some much needed youth back into couture.”


“I must be careful lately not to design just the clothes I want to photograph. When I’m planning photographs, I think about a certain girl. For Lagerfeld, I think about Nadja. For Chloé, I think about Linda Evangelista. For Chanel, I think about Claudia and, now, Shalom. After all, I don’t wear the dresses. Photography helps me with fashion, but fashion is also all about an image, no?”

“When we all go on trips for the campaigns, they are my holidays. Holidays — I’m not tired enough for that. Social trips bore me to death. I like to do something and come back with something done. On my weekends when I’m not traveling, I might never leave my house and just sketch all weekend until Monday afternoon.”

“My look is not artificial. It came almost by accident. I like dark glasses, because everyone looks better through them. And it hides you a little, which I like, because I like to watch more than be watched. The ponytail is there because I have very curly hair and I cannot stand to have one hair on my face, I get frantic. So the best thing to do is keep it all away. It’s powdered, because I love white hair. You cannot dye men’s hair, it’s too fragile.”

“People who think they are bored very often are boring people. It’s like getting a flu. One person gets bored, then another, then everyone.”


“I’m still convinced that today deserves something from today — not rehashed ideas from the past.”

“The only thing that matters is the next collection I will design, the next photo I will take or the next dream I will realize. When you start resting on the past, you lose touch with reality. It’s up to you to find your way in the modern world.”


“I hate nothing more than routine.”

“I know the designer business, and fashion is very fragile. If the company depends on one creative person then it is not a good risk. Look at what happened to Anne Klein — Donna Karan left and the company has never been the same again. It’s different if it’s an established company like Chanel or Vuitton or Cartier. They are not fashion companies, they are brands.”

“At a public company, are you going to call the shareholders? Who are the shareholders? For me, shareholders are a little too abstract. Fashion is not abstract.”


“If you sell your business, the people who buy it don’t buy it for your beautiful eyes. You have to be prepared to do business.”

“I do think we live in an image world, and we have to respect that. It’s not about a designer’s ego anymore; it’s about image. People care about a logo and a brand’s image. Like in the old days, most of the couture houses didn’t have their designers’ name on the door. People can be multitalented. When I do Chanel, I do Chanel. When I do Fendi, I do Fendi. Lagerfeld is a private company where I can really do what I want.”


“Advertising is more important than ever. It’s part of today’s game. The good campaigns, you want to look at them as much as editorial. It has to be impeccable, clean and modern advertising.”


“My favorite collection is my next collection. I always have the feeling it’s the first one in a way. It’s not what you did in the past in fashion that’s important; it’s what your contribution is to fashion of the moment. That’s what’s interesting in this job.”

“I never look back, especially at my own past….I’m not at all into my own past. I have the feeling I’m here forever and for 10 minutes. I forgot it all. I bleach my past. I only remember vaguely what was pleasant. What’s important is now, whatever it was we achieved.”

“When I started at Chanel, everyone said, ‘Don’t do it. It won’t work.’ Nobody believed in it except me and Mr. Wertheimer. That it would work so well I didn’t know. For me, it was a kind of miracle.”

“I think fashion is a nonstop dialogue. And I’m still designing everything myself, because, if it’s not me, I’m not interested. It’s very funny. I’m only interested in what I’m doing, good or bad. I only like to fit dresses from my own sketches. I’m only interested in my vision, I hope the vision stays right and OK. I’m not at all a stylist who looks at a team’s work and then picks out the things. That bores me to death.”

“I like to sketch, I like to fit and I like to organize shows, and then on to the next one. Very often I have the idea for the next show the day of the show. I think it’s a very healthy attitude. Anyway, it works for me.”

“Business meetings is something I’ve never done in my life. I’m a studio person and I don’t want to be anything else. Nobody talks to me about the bottom line. It’s not my subject. My subject is body line. I think it’s more fun.”

“Fashion is for what people do now and not what they did in the past. I never use flea market Chanels. The flea market — I leave that for other designers. I could give you names, but you don’t need them because I think you know them.”

“I’m very relaxed, but I always need to do things. That’s very deep in my nature. I’m working class.”

“Lagerfeld Gallery, it’s a reflection of my good — or bad — personal taste. If I were a woman, which I never wanted to be, I’m afraid I would dress that way. Fendi, it’s my idea of somebody from the north, what he would do if he were in Rome.”



“My dream is to do very expensive lines like Chanel and Fendi and very inexpensive things. I don’t believe in anything in between….Today people wear T-shirts and jeans with exceptional things.” (On his H&M collaboration)

“[H&M] is a fashion phenomenon and I like to be a part of those things. It’s part of my job. It’s the modern thing to do. Also, I like the idea of my name being used on a broad scale.”

“I can make an Empire dress, but I can’t make an empire. I’m not a businessman.”


“I’m very much a fan of showing abroad. Fashion can be like an ambassador.”


“I hate leisure, except reading. I’m really a person made to work, if sketching is considered work. I’m pretty lucky to be doing what I’m doing in beyond-perfect conditions.”

“I’m open to everything. When you start to criticize the times you live in, your time is over. The most important thing in fashion is lucidity, if you want to last.”


“I don’t believe in selling luxury online because shopping is pleasant. E-commerce deprives people of the pleasure of shopping in beautiful shops. But I have nothing against it. I buy computers because they are beautiful objects.

“I don’t use cell phones and Blackberries and all that. It’s not because I want to be cut off from the world, but because I have different priorities. I like to do everything myself. I know pretty well about dressmaking — a technique that is difficult to get, as you know. My eyes are open, but they are not limited to a screen. For me, the world is a huge screen. That’s how I see it.”

“My dream is to turn the whole house of Lagerfeld into this kind of [mass] business, because I am at the peak of luxury with Chanel and Fendi. Being at both ends of the market is the height of luxury.”


“I like to do things I’m not supposed to do. I can make a list of what I’ve done, but I cannot make a list of what I have yet to do.”

“I see designing, running a company, like a high-level athletic activity. I don’t want to hear anything about the fragility or any of those things. If an athlete is too fragile to run, he cannot run. And this is exactly the same. You don’t accept this kind of business if you’re too much of an artist.

I believe in discipline, so I’m not the right person to cry about weakness and things like this, but maybe I’m not human.”

“Fashion is about two things: the evolution and the opposite.”

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