F O L L OW T H E LEADER

Karl Lager­feld has been the cre­ative di­rec­tor of the fa­bled House of Fendi for 50 years, but his vi­sion is as fresh and mod­ern as ever. By Sasha Slater. Pho­tographed by Philip Sin­den. Styled by Sara Gil­mour.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The News Bazaar -

TKarl Lager­feld hese are the dog days of sum­mer and the whole of Paris is pant­ing in the heat. Ev­ery­one who can has left for the Côte d’Azur, aban­don­ing the cap­i­tal to the tourists. But Karl Lager­feld’s stu­dio on the Rive Gauche is abuzz. Around the edges of a room dom­i­nated by a gi­gan­tic din­ing ta­ble, a huge crys­tal chan­de­lier and a vast col­lec­tion of books, which line the walls from floor to ceil­ing, are squeezed five or six seam­stresses and dressers, who have come from Rome with the en­tire Fendi Spring/Sum­mer ’16 col­lec­tion. A pho­tog­ra­pher is on hand to shoot ev­ery look, and a model to pa­rade it.

In an in­ner sanc­tum next door sit Sil­via Ven­turini Fendi, the famed Ital­ian la­bel’s cre­ative di­rec­tor for ac­ces­sories and menswear; Char­lotte Stock­dale, who styles the Fendi shows, and her col­league Katie Lyall. And at the head of the ta­ble, his pow­der-white hair pulled back in a pony­tail, wear­ing a pair of mir­rored sun­glasses, a Junya Watan­abe patch­work jacket in a sym­phony of blacks, greys, and pin­stripes, and black leather gloves that cover all but the very tips of his fin­gers, is Lager­feld him­self.

De­spite the model’s light­ning-quick changes and the seam­stresses’ quiet ef­fi­ciency, the sheer num­ber of looks means that the process takes time. When the team has fi­nally packed up and left for Rome, I am ush­ered into the de­signer’s pres­ence and he stands to greet me.

“Am I happy?” he re­peats when I ask if he’s pleased with the new-sea­son looks he’s just seen. “Yes, but the minute I do some­thing, I for­get about it. Any­way, I might change my mind and that means the fit­tings we saw never ex­isted. You can only talk about things when they are fi­nal. I was happy, but now we have to be happy about the next thing.”

“I never feel proud. I al­ways hope the next col­lec­tion will be bet­ter. That I can still im­prove. When you start to be proud then you’d bet­ter re­tire. Fash­ion is like show busi­ness. It’s all about the next show.”

Even so, he is still happy with the first Fendi Haute Four­rure show that took place in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées dur­ing Paris Cou­ture Week. It was a pa­rade of the most ex­treme lux­ury. There were thigh-high sil­ver-and-gold boots teamed with inky black sables tipped with sil­ver so they glim­mered like magic as the mod­els strode down the cat­walk. Or­chids were ren­dered in mink, and peach-coloured fur was made to look as light and fly­away as feathers. All this was set to the thrilling mu­sic of Stravin­sky’s “The Rite of Spring,” and viewed against the back­ground of a gi­ant Gior­gio de Chirico paint­ing. It was a show that cel­e­brated Lager­feld’s 50 years at the helm of Fendi, and one to live for­ever in the mem­ory of any­one who saw it.

A Karl Lager­feld sketch for Fendi’s Au­tumn/ Win­ter ’88 col­lec­tion

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