Collecting with Karl Lagerfeld

by Evelyn Crowley


“When I was four, I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday,” Karl Lagerfeld told W in 1978. “I wanted my clothes prepared so I could wear anything I wanted at any time of the day. I was a clothes freak.” As anyone who follows fashion knows, the German designer never outgrew this obsession with his wardrobe. For more than three decades, W has chronicled his costumes, from the silk robes and fluttering-fan ensemble he favored in the Seventies and Eighties to his current uniform of starched, high-collared shirts, tight jeans and fingerless gloves. Sunglasses have been one constant. “Sometimes I feel like seeing blue, sometimes pink, sometimes a more beige-y color. It depends,” he told W in 1986, when asked how he decides which of his many, many pairs of shades to wear each day.

Lagerfeld’s acquisitive streak transcends his closet, extending to modernist and 18th-century French furniture, pre-WWI German advertising posters, books (of which he owns more than 150,000) and music. “I buy everything,” he said of his vast stash of records—which today is stored on more than 100 iPods. “My collection is going to be a very important document, because who else buys so many?” But the designer is just as likely to rid himself of possessions as he is to acquire them. A 2003 auction of his modernist furniture, for example, grossed nearly $8 million. “I don’t turn pages; I tear them out. I make blank pages again,” he told W in 2003. “I am an unwritten book.”

And what would Lagerfeld do if he grew tired of the fashion business? “If I listen to my fortune-teller, I’ll become a movie producer,” he said in the 1978 interview. “I would make very sophisticated but mean, mean-bitchy Marx Brothers–type comedies. They would be mean, but in a light way.”