Karl Lagerfeld’s Inner Circle Speaks Up in New French Biography – WWD

PARIS When French journalist Marie Ottavi wrote a guide about Karl Lagerfeld’s longtime accomplice Jacques de Bascher in 2017, it was simply as a lot an oblique portrait of the designer.

Following Lagerfeld’s dying two years later, she felt it was time to deal with a full biography of one among style’s most legendary figures, persuading many members of his inside circle to speak about him for the primary time.

Lagerfeld himself broke a lifelong silence about his relationship with de Bascher, a decadent dandy who stoked his feud with Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s, by sharing his most intimate recollections with Ottavi in two prolonged interviews for her debut tome.

“The primary interview was really distinctive in some ways, as a result of it was the primary time he had spoken in depth about Jacques de Bascher. He really opened his coronary heart. I requested him very intimate questions, and he answered them till he was nearly in tears. I felt he was giving me one thing uncommon,” Ottavi recalled.

“When listening once more to the interviews, I noticed how treasured they have been,” she added. “It was the premise for the brand new undertaking.”

The cover pof Marie Ottavi's book "Karl."

The quilt pof Marie Ottavi’s guide “Karl.”
Courtesy of Éditions Robert Laffont

Having gained Lagerfeld’s belief and approval, Ottavi, who works at left-leaning French every day newspaper Libération, discovered that different doorways opened after he handed away.

Princess Caroline of Monaco, Bernard Arnault and his spouse Hélène, Tom Ford, Alessandro Michele and Paco Rabanne are simply a few of the individuals who agreed to grant interviews for her new tome “Karl,” revealed in French by Éditions Robert Laffont on Thursday.

Then there have been the members of Lagerfeld’s inside circle: his longtime spokeswoman Caroline Lebar; collaborators Gilles Dufour, Eric Wright and Eric Pfrunder, amongst others; designer Silvia Fendi; editor and stylist Carine Roitfeld, and Bruno Pavlovsky, president of style and president of Chanel SAS.

“I used to be more than happy that somebody like Bruno Pavlovsky, who’s a key government at this secretive firm, agreed to talk with me. I used to be shocked by how open he was,” mentioned Ottavi.

“Princess Caroline acquired me at her dwelling in Monaco and shared numerous anecdotes. It was really distinctive. By means of these tales, these necessary figures in his life additionally revealed rather a lot about themselves, so I knew I had one thing very priceless,” she added.

Pavlovsky disclosed that in 1999, gross sales at Chanel have been waning and Lagerfeld, creative director of the label since 1983, was going via a disaster of confidence. “I noticed him fall prey to doubt. It lasted two or three years,” the manager is quoted as saying, including that there have been discussions about whether or not to switch the designer.

“I took half in conferences the place I needed to defend him. [Chanel chief executive officer] Mr. Wertheimer determined to stay with him. There was a form of unbreakable bond between them: Karl had saved Chanel,” Pavlovsky added.

Recalling the start of their lifelong friendship, Princess Caroline of Monaco mentioned she was simply 16 when she did her first photograph shoot with Lagerfeld at his Paris residence in 1973, sporting his designs for Chloé.

“He was nearly extra of an affect on me rising up than my mother and father, who have been tied up with their official duties,” mentioned the daughter of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. “He opened doorways for me. He did all of it very naturally. Individuals couldn’t see it, as a result of he all the time wore glasses, however he had the gentlest eyes on the planet.”

Karl Lagerfeld and his parents.

Karl Lagerfeld and his mother and father.
Gordian Tork/Courtesy of Éditions Robert Laffont

Since Lagerfeld’s dying, a number of biographies have appeared, together with Alfons Kaiser’s “Karl Lagerfeld, A German in Paris,” which contained the revelation that Lagerfeld’s mother and father have been each members of the Nazi Get together, and “Kaiser Karl” by Le Monde reporter Raphaëlle Bacqué, which is being tailored right into a six-episode dramatic collection for Disney+.

There have additionally been private memoirs, similar to “How are you, pricey Karl?” by his longtime bodyguard and private assistant Sébastien Jondeau, and mannequin Baptiste Giabiconi’s “Karl and I” — the latter additionally revealed by Robert Laffont.

Cautious of seeming opportunistic, Ottavi took two years to jot down her guide, flouting Lagerfeld’s dictum that one ought to all the time be first.

“It’s a rule that applies in lots of areas, particularly in design, however while you’re speaking about an individual of his stature, I feel you must take your time. The individuals who knew him wanted time to grieve,” she defined.

She additionally wanted time to analysis. “My ambition with this guide was to place his life within the context of the historical past of style, so I feel it’s not only a biography of Karl, it’s additionally a guide concerning the evolution of the style trade,” she added.

Any Lagerfeld biographer additionally must take care of the designer’s limitless capability for self-mythologizing, beginning with shaving 5 years off his delivery date.

“I used to be obsessed by Karl Lagerfeld’s contradictions. He had a fancy persona. He usually offered a caricature of himself, however in actuality, while you discover his journey, his persona, his relationships, the way in which he designed, there are numerous subtleties. One of the best ways to convey that with a personality like him is to delve into the main points,” Ottavi mentioned.

“I used to be aiming to jot down a balanced guide, just like the one about Jacques. I hope I managed to do this. I’m not passing judgment. It’s as much as the reader to determine, however I needed to convey the complexity and the contradictions of the character,” she added.

“I actually loved penning this guide,” Ottavi mentioned. “Writing about Karl is like going into battle in opposition to him, in a approach, as a result of he left numerous traps. At one level, I felt like I used to be dealing with off in opposition to him, as a result of these traps are designed to ensnare anybody who has the nerve to dig into his life. It felt like a treasure hunt.”

Ottavi additionally dwells on Lagerfeld’s famously sharp tongue, with an anecdote that reveals a stunning facet of the designer.

Writing underneath the pen title Leila Sorel, Ottavi had penned an article for celeb tabloid journal Nearer in 2009 recapping a few of Lagerfeld’s well-known feuds, together with his falling out with former Chanel muse Inès de la Fressange, and barbed feedback he made about Audrey Tautou and Heidi Klum.

A number of days later, she acquired a big bouquet with a six-page handwritten letter. “I discover your web page in Nearer very amusing. I don’t thoughts individuals pondering I’m imply — it’s armor,” he wrote, earlier than trying to set the report straight on every incident cited. Ottavi by no means talked about the letter to him.

Whether or not Lagerfeld, who famously abhorred political correctness, might exist in immediately’s cancel tradition stays an open query.

“Would he have toned down his feedback? I don’t assume so,” she mentioned, including that she hoped the guide would offer some useful context for youthful generations, lots of whom spoke out in opposition to Lagerfeld on Twitter on the day of his dying for quite a lot of feedback thought of offensive.

“Understanding the background is prime. That’s to not give excuses, however to place issues in context,” Ottavi mentioned. “He mentioned some utterly unconscionable issues, however I feel you must perceive why.”

For the duvet of the guide, Ottavi obtained a collection of passport photos of Lagerfeld with out his glasses, a uncommon sight. “I like that persons are going to do a double take,” she mentioned. “I needed to speak about each aspect of him, and these photos reveal one other facet of him.”


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