Karl Lagerfeld talks about his superfans and supermodels
The last time I witnessed Karl mania up close was a few years ago at the launch of the Chanel Cruise Collection in Singapore. I remember
describing the event as a gigantic trunk show for Karl Lagerfeld’s seriously committed “Chanelites.” There were a few journalists, but most of the 1,200 people were “A-list shoppers who wore their loyalty literally from head to two-toned-pumped toe.” Like frenzied superfans at a
One Direction concert, they were desperate to catch a glimpse of the silver-haired kaiser. It was the same mood Wednesday night in Toronto, when Karl showed up for the Art Shoppe Loft & Condos party. The designer was in town to celebrate the launch—and to meet with the developers to discuss his plans for designing the lobby space. As he made his way through the crowd—surrounded by bodyguards—the conversations stopped as everyone scrambled to be near one of fashion’s more magnetic characters. Nelia, from
styleblog.ca, got close enough to ask him to sign her Karl pin. “He shook my hand! I’m never going to wash it again!” she said, laughing. Sharon Ng Hayes, of
Backseat Stylers, opened her Chanel bag and showed me where Karl had signed it. “My hands are still shaking!” she gushed.
Sharon Ng Hayes of Backseat Stylers with her signed Chanel bag
So what does Karl think of superfans like Nelia and Sharon? Read on…
my interview with Karl in a room away from the party scene, I asked him if it was still a thrill to generate this kind of reaction from fans. “I’m used to it,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me, as long as they don’t touch me too much.” At this point, one of his assistants added that it can be frightening and a little crazy when everyone crushes around him. “Yes, but it’s very flattering too,” Karl added. “I don’t like to show up too much in public. This is my fourth party in less than five days: first Monte Carlo, then the boat party in New York City, then the Chanel party and now this.” After looking at
photos of Choupette, taken in her suite at the Four Seasons Toronto, I told Karl that I wanted to share a story with him about a young Canadian model who would never forget him. “Linda Evangelista?” he asked. “No, she’s a new model who just had her Paris debut in your show and her name is
Emma Génier,” I explained. “I don’t recall…can you show me her face?” he asked, leaning forward. His assistant immediately typed in Emma’s name on her iPhone. “Yes, that’s her,” I said. “
Oh, très jolie. Oui, oui,” Karl nodded.
I then quickly recounted the adventures and misadventures that Emma chronicled for us during the recent shows. After a few false starts and dashed hopes, Emma landed a fitting at Chanel. “Apparently she wore the last look you chose to include in your show,” I explained. “She was so excited to be there, and she told me she was so touched by your kindness.” “I am a very kind person,” Karl paused. “I know it must be awful for a girl to stand in front of some mean monster who says ‘Walk!’ I try to be in their skin and imagine how those kids feel.”Emma Génier on the Chanel fall/winter 2015 runway (image: Imaxtree.com)
I hadn’t expected Karl to take such an interest in Emma’s story. I thought he might have become a little blasé about the influence he has on people. He must have countless fleeting exchanges that, unbeknownst to him, become defining moments for those he barely meets. At the end of our chat, which weaved from Choupette to the ‘70s revival to
Kendall, I asked Karl if he would like to watch a 15-second video of Emma that I did moments after the Chanel show. “Yes,” he said, leaning over to take a look. “Oh, yes—she looks happy,” he said. “You know that sweater dress she is wearing? That has become one of the number one pieces sold from this collection. Please tell her that she took this simple little sweater dress and turned it into a star.” A fitting metaphor for what Karl has done—and will continue to do—whether it’s discovering a new model or transforming the launch of a Canadian condo project into an international happening.
Karl and Choupette visit Toronto. Seriously.
Emma Génier gets her big break. Hello, Chanel!
Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette: our favourite quotes