Karl Lagerfeld on Fur (Yea), Selfies (Nay) and Keeping Busy

MILAN — Karl Lagerfeld, arguably the most recognizable fashion designer in the world, is in a back office at Fendi’s headquarters on the Via Solari, receiving from an assistant a gift someone has sent for his Birman, Choupette.

“I have a famous cat,” said Mr. Lagerfeld, glancing over the cat-printed notepads offered to him and Choupette. (She has more than 46,000 fans on the Twitter account invented in her honor, turns up frequently in the pages of fashion magazines and has inspired a line of makeup by Shu Uemura.) Mr. Lagerfeld said he hoped the cat would become more famous than him. “Then I can disappear behind Choupette,” he said.

Few things could be less likely. Mr. Lagerfeld is an object of public fascination in the Selfie Age, too recognizable to walk the streets or attend a party without incident.

Now in his 70s (or 80s, depending on the source) — and more éminence blanc, thanks to his powdered ponytail, than éminence grise — the German-born designer remains as prolific as he is tenacious, with a terse wit and a predilection for Delphic pronouncements.


“There are not too many people with an opinion I care for,” he said. His own he dispenses liberally, and from them, nothing is safe.

One assistant at Fendi years ago even found himself rechristened when Mr. Lagerfeld deemed his actual surname, Peugnet, cumbersome and provincial. “I said, ‘Hervé, this name is not possible, it’s too heavy,’ ” Mr. Lagerfeld said. The assistant eventually left to found his own line, and the world came to know him, as Mr. Lagerfeld did, as Hervé Léger, from the French word for “light.”

During an interview last week, Mr. Lagerfeld opined on a range of subjects, including his preference for working with women (“I’m not crazy to discuss fashion with men. I couldn’t care less about their opinion.”); his desire to die the way Coco Chanel did, while in the middle of creating a collection; and his aversion to stress. (“I don’t believe in it. It’s a job, one should not become hysterical.”)

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