Karl Lagerfeld: 'Paris is a nightmare now'

Updated 12th July 2016
Karl Lagerfeld: 'Paris is a nightmare now'
Written by CNN StaffParis
This is segment is taken from the CNN Style show.
In a post-Godard world, to imagine Paris is to imagine glittering lights by nights on the Champs-Élysées; members of the intelligentsia debating politics at Café de Flore; and chic, slender women, the picture of sophistication and insouciance, wearing the world's most elegant labels.
But if you ask Karl Lagerfeld, the German-born creative director of the quintessential Parisian brand Chanel, this is all a myth -- and has been for a long time.
"This is not the most glamorous moment in Paris," Lagerfeld told CNN Style presenter Derek Blasberg ahead of Chanel's Autumn-Winter 2016 haute couture show. "Paris by night is a nightmare now. It is not a cliché anymore.
"I must say, in my whole life I never saw Paris that gloomy."
Lagerfeld, who has been at the helm of Chanel since 1983, and who first got his start in the city working under Pierre Balmain in the 1950s, says he's seen drastic changes since the times when Paris "looked like an old French movie."
"It was another world. There was no feeling of danger, and not even a boy of 16 years old could walk in the street," he explains. "Things are changing, but I have the feeling I lived in a world that no longer exists."
Not that Lagerfeld is one to ruminate on the past. He famously refuses to look to the brand's past for inspiration, always looking forward for new ways to innovate and reinterpret the brand's ethos.
"Karl is always researching new things and gives us the desire to explore and go further," said Hubert Barrère, artistic director of the embroidery house Lesage.
"He is very respectful of the know-how, he loves it deeply, but he loves to shake them up and he is right to... Today, fashion is not about making pretty things, it is about making different things and that I think he knows how to breathe into Chanel."
So he is, understandably, weary and wary of clichés -- falling into them, giving credence to them. These include but are not limited to: translating haute couture into ready-to-wear collections, the idea of a brand having a spiritual home, the stereotypical image of Paris in general.
Instead of searching for inspiration, he'd rather wait for new ideas to strike organically.
"You have ideas or you don't have ideas, wherever they come from," he says. "I'm not a marketing person. I have no plan. Everything comes by accident and like this. It is in the air and I try and capture the air."
To find out more, watch this month's episode of the CNN Style show.