Within the perfume-scented confines of America’s most mass-market department store, shoppers are aglow after the rarest of fashion sightings. Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic creative director of Chanel, just made an appearance — inside of Macy’s. “He just doesn’t do personal appearances at department stores. I was the CEO of Neiman Marcus for six years and Karl was the hardest designer to attract. So for us, [this] is very big,” says Terry J. Lundgren, Macy’s CEO.
Lagerfeld came to town to launch his new, affordable ready-to-wear collaboration with the chain, and was all good humor when we sat down in an executive suite on the 13th floor.
It’s been quite a few years since your H&M collection. What inspired you to do this new affordable line?
I like to do the opposite of what people expect — and do it well. Because in our times, the inexpensive, in a way, is more important in fashion than the very, very expensive. So the people who can buy the expensive can buy the inexpensive, too. The people who can buy the inexpensive — because I never say cheap — maybe they cannot buy the expensive, but they can buy a lipstick or nail polish from Chanel. I approach this more or less the same way that I approached H&M because, you know, I was the first one to do H&M. So I do it from instinct because I know life in a way — what people want to wear, what they have, what they don’t have. But I’m not a marketing person. So I don’t ask myself too many questions. I listen to the instinct.
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You balance so many projects, and yet younger designers have buckled under the stress of having more than one job.
The young designers should forget about the word “young” because if you’re only interesting because you are young, that may be a problem. Nobody has my past and my present. So people who are in my situation may think it’s not right for them. But for me, I think it’s right.
You were recently quoted as saying that sweatpants are a sign of defeat. So what do you wear in your downtime?
Downtime? I don’t have downtime. Downtime has a very aging affect. I know Uptown and Downtown, but downtime? [Laughs] I believe in discipline. You get up, and you make an effort. But if you are down, you only remain down. Kick your ass yourself. You have to be very disciplined. You know, people can start to like to be down after a certain point. It’s very bad.
What are your thoughts on the reports that Marc Jacobs may go to Christian Dior?
Life is about change. Some people don’t like things to change. I like things to change. I like Marc Jacobs at Dior. I like the idea. ... Marc has this little twist needed today in fashion.