CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Interview with Karl Lagerfeld
Aired June 15, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, world renowned designer Karl Lagerfeld lost 90 pounds and his diet has the fashion world buzzing. The man who dressed Diana, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez and many, many more gives us the real skinny; Chanel's top man before and after, Karl Lagerfeld next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE a return visit with Karl Lagerfeld, the world-renowned fashion designer. He's so renowned he designs for three labels: his own, Chanel and Fendi. He's a professional photographer as well. He creates and publishes books under his own imprint, called Edition 7-1 or 7-L, and he sells them in his own bookstore. He is a legend in his own time. It's always a great pleasure. Thank you so much for coming, Karl.
KARL LAGERFELD, DESIGNER: Nice to be here.
KING: Tell me about, first I want to discuss a little at length this weight loss. I know you did an article for "Harper's Bazaar" about it. The way we do weight in America, you lost 90 pounds in 13 months.
KING: How did it start? What made you want to lose?
LAGERFELD: I wanted to wear other kind of clothes. Those comfortable, oversized clothes suddenly bored me and it sort of was not a good thing because you can hide everything behind clothes. That's why clothes are important. But I wanted a sharp silhouette, and for a sharp silhouette, the only thing you need is a sharp body, so it had to go.
KING: But you were always overweight?
LAGERFELD: No, when I was young, I was like this. I have now exactly the same weight I had when I was 18, 20.
KING: So you gained weight by just eating a lot?
LAGERFELD: Yes, I think so, by living normally, you know. It doesn't come overnight. It takes a few years but it comes. I mean and then I had done, when I was around 30, lots of gyms and things like this where you become bulky. And after that, when I was bored to death by that, I stopped that, and that is very dangerous because the pumping iron can later turn into something really unpleasant, but I wasn't unhappy. It's only I have seen enough of it and the funny thing is now, I know that I'm skinny, because I know there are even smaller clothes in the store. I think I'm big, when I was big, I never thought about it.
KING: You didn't look in the mirror and say, "I'm fat?"
LAGERFELD: No, for what I was doing with myself, it was OK. I was never tired. I felt well. I had no reason, like a health reason or something. I just one morning decided that I saw enough of that and I wanted something else.
KING: So, what did you do?
LAGERFELD: I went to see my doctor who before had never said you are too fat, you are not too fat, because he was quite big himself. Then, I said but you are big, yes? He said, "But that's different. My wife likes me like this."
So this is something you cannot discuss. But single persons have to see that differently. So he put me on a diet, but the diet, I wouldn't say it was severe, but you have to have analyses made every two months.
LAGERFELD: Analyses, you know, to know exactly what's going on in your body, and he does it only if you are in perfect health. If not, it could be dangerous in the beginning.
And so, I lost first 20 kilos. Then I was back to 80 kilos, what was what I had 15 years ago. I put on my old Karacini (ph) suit and all this, but suddenly I looked like somebody from my own past, and I hate nothing more than my own past.
I like today and perhaps a little future still, but the past is really something I'm not interested in. So, as far as I'm concerned, I like only the past of things and people I don't know. When I know, I don't care because I knew how it was.
So, I said no, that's not enough, and I said to my doctor, please 20 kilo more. So it took six months more and we went down to 50 kilo -- in the 50 pounds...
LAGERFELD: Fifty pounds.
KING: About 90 pounds altogether?
LAGERFELD: Exactly, and then suddenly I had the silhouette I had when I was 18 or 20 years old.
KING: What was -- give me an example of what you ate under this severe diet required for yourself?
LAGERFELD: It was not that severe because there were no pills, nothing chemical, only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and vitamins (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and homeopathic stuff, and then it was only vegetables, steamed vegetables, yogurt, zero percent, cornbread, and really nothing else, a little meat after a few months and that's really all.
KING: Steamed vegetables.
KING: Cornbread and yogurt.
LAGERFELD: Yes, but you know, it depends how superficial you are and what you are ready to accept to achieve something, you see.
KING: How did you handle it mentally?
LAGERFELD: Very well.
KING: The hard part people...
LAGERFELD: Very well. Very well, because I didn't do it for a serious reason not because I had a problem in my private life or whatever. I had no health problem. I said it's a joke. It's a challenge, so I could do it because I laughed at myself being there stupidly with my little piece or cornbread, and this I thought is a very healthy approach.
KING: Did you cut out liquor?
LAGERFELD: I never - you know also one of the things that would save me for a man my age, it was not that easy to lose that much weight and fall down and look like something draped.
So (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I never smoked. I never drank and I never took drugs. The funny thing is, nothing is more boring, people like this. For me, it's OK. But most of my friends, at least they smoke and drink.
KING: Don't most of the people in the design world do one of the three?
LAGERFELD: Not only the design world. I think it's worse in other worlds too, eh?
KING: So was it hard to diet in a place like Paris?
LAGERFELD: No, because the French kitchen was never my favorite kitchen. My favorite kitchen was the Japanese and the Italian kitchen.
KING: So you didn't miss sauces?
LAGERFELD: No. No. No. No. No. They are really the dangerous thing in life, I think. If there's something dangerous, sauces are dangerous for the body.
Maybe it's tasteful but in the end, you know, if you live like this, and I never make one mistake, no piece of chocolate, no sugar, nothing. Suddenly, even what you consider boring, the steamed vegetables, has a most delicious taste and you dream of your toasted cornbread in your bed in the middle of the night for breakfast. You have to turn that into something delicious.
KING: Yes, you have to make it a plus.
KING: I got the light, Cheerios.
LAGERFELD: But if I have a lot of imagination, I could tell myself whatever I wanted, you know. I handle myself quite well. I'm kind of fascist with myself, you know. There's no discussion. There is an order. You follow it.
KING: How do you maintain it now?
LAGERFELD: I vaguely eat the same thing, and it's a very easy thing to me.
KING: Could you lose more weight, then?
LAGERFELD: No. If I lose even half a pound, I have two holes here in the face. I think for my bones and my size, I better stay with my 60 kilo.
KING: You don't want to look too skinny?
LAGERFELD: No. No. No. No.
KING: So what do you eat? If you kept eating cornbread and fresh -
LAGERFELD: I eat fish, three times a week meat, and if not yogurt, something like this and it rarely continues. But you know, there's a very simple limit. Buy clothes the size you want to wear. Throw everything away, give it to other people and if there are no other clothes in the house, I can tell you if there's one kilo more, you have to make an effort, because nothing is more unpleasant than if a pair of pants was a little tight in the waste line.
KING: You're not kidding. You're doing a book called "3-D," referring to a designer, a doctor, and a diet.
LAGERFELD: I don't want it to come out before November, and you know why? Because I stopped dieting already six months ago, and I think it's important to bring out a book like this and you are there a year later and say look, I'm still like this. Because somebody in France made a book like this and then the book came out and then (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So this is not very honest. So I think it's a good thing to -
KING: So if you put pressure on yourself, you got to keep it off?
LAGERFELD: Yes, exactly. Yes.
KING: What kind of vitamins did you take, a lot?
LAGERFELD: Everything we need, you know, E, A, C, you know all those things. You know, I do what my doctor tells me. I don't discuss it.
KING: What food that you used to eat do you miss the most?
LAGERFELD: Kind of Viennese cakes and things like this, you know.
KING: Oh, you like pastry?
LAGERFELD: This kind of pastry, yes. This is what my favorite thing, what I really like. Also, extremely fine French cooking was never the thing I preferred.
KING: Do you ever cheat and have a piece of pastry?
LAGERFELD: Sometime, no. Never. Never. No. No. No. No. No. What do you think? I'm very severe with myself and sometimes I miss French cheese, but in your world it's not exactly the same thing.
KING: Are you hungry a lot?
LAGERFELD: No. No, and I never, ever eat in between the meals. I control it well enough and with no pills, and I sleep seven hours a night. I go to bed. I fall asleep, and I wake up seven hours later, and this is the most important.
KING: Exercise, what do you do?
LAGERFELD: Not too much, ballroom dancing.
KING: You were a competitive ballroom dancer?
LAGERFELD: When I was -- yes, when I was a child, yes because in school we could make a choice between ballroom dancing and gym and I chose ballroom dancing.
KING: And that's a good exercise?
LAGERFELD: I think it's a very good exercise for a man our age. I think it's very healthy.
KING: You do all the dances? You do the Merengue, you do the tango?
LAGERFELD: The men who never get to be our age - KING: Cha Cha?
LAGERFELD: Cha Cha, I love. I was a champion in Cha Cha, world. I even remember very well and I do very well the Bolero. I don't know if you remember that one.
KING: The Bolero, of course.
KING: George Raft.
KING: You do the Lindy?
LAGERFELD: Exactly. Exactly. And Tango was not my favorite. I love the music but it's not what I prefer to dance.
KING: And do you have various partners, or do you dance with one woman?
LAGERFELD: No. No. No. No. No, various, because I make parties at home, a little dinner, and after dinner is spent in a lesson with a teacher. I have a teacher.
KING: Still have a teacher?
LAGERFELD: She comes to the house. Other people have a private coach. Why shouldn't I have a dancing teacher?
KING: All right, so the secret is, fresh vegetables, steamed.
KING: A little cornbread.
KING: That's kind of tasty. Yogurt.
KING: Ballroom dancing.
KING: Vitamins and minerals.
KING: And you look like Rockefeller.
LAGERFELD: For my age, it could be worse.
KING: Thank you for that tip. Now we come back with more. Karl Lagerfeld is with us, our special guest tonight, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Lots to talk about, don't go away.
KING: We're back with the famed Karl Lagerfeld. Has this changed, by the way, all this weight loss to your social life?
KING: People look at you differently?
LAGERFELD: No. Some people would like me to be round again.
KING: They miss it?
LAGERFELD: Yes, some people say to me you're too skinny, but never a skinny person says that to me, only people who could lose a few pounds say that.
KING: Boy is that true, a social comment.
LAGERFELD: No. No nothing in that to shame. No. No.
KING: Don't you think though body image affects the way people look at you in society? I mean people who are trimmer are admired more, don't you think?
LAGERFELD: Yes, but I mean I never thought about that before, so I don't really see the difference.
KING: You were born in Germany, right?
KING: What got you into design? You don't know much about your parents, is that true? There's never been a biography of you?
LAGERFELD: No, it's impossible because as long as I live it's impossible.
LAGERFELD: Because it's not necessary, because things are rarely different than I thought, so it has to be.
KING: You never want to write your own?
LAGERFELD: No, what for? I know what I know and the rest I prefer -- no, I'm not interesting. I mean people can write whatever they want, but it's...
KING: Has anybody tried to do a book on you?
LAGERFELD: Yes, but if they were not good and you have lawyers you can stop it in a second. Plus, it would be not allowed to be showed, so.
KING: What would you worry about?
LAGERFELD: I'm not worried about nothing. It's just not the truth, and if I want to tell the story one day, I'll tell it myself.
KING: But you ought to because you're admired all over the world.
LAGERFELD: But maybe it will be published after my death, I don't know. But I'm not in a hurry for that one.
KING: What took you to Paris?
LAGERFELD: Several things. First, don't forget Germany after the war was not the most exciting place. I didn't even know that one could make a living in fashion.
KING: What did you father do in Germany?
LAGERFELD: My father, he had all the business in France. He did, he had a factory with condensed milk, nothing to do with it.
KING: Nothing to do with Hitler, nothing?
KING: No politics?
LAGERFELD: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. I never even heard about that.
KING: So how old did you get when you got out of...
LAGERFELD: I came to Paris when I was 14. I went to school there but I could speak fluently French. I had learned that from the beginning. I never had to learn English, French and German because I was brought up as all three languages. I had a private French teacher before I even went to school. That helped a lot.
KING: Did your parents go to France with you?
LAGERFELD: No. My father had an office there. No. No. I was most of the time alone. They came but I was most of the time alone.
KING: You were on your own at 14?
LAGERFELD: Yes, but you know, there was a kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Imagine, the hotel there where parents put their children when they travel or when they are diplomats in another country, I don't know what. In this kind of place, one was supposed to be civil but it was very loose.
But you know, I have such a survivor drive that there was no danger for me getting lost.
LAGERFELD: I still have the same. Too much, maybe, in a way. KING: So you -- but that was good for you though, right, being on your own early?
LAGERFELD: I think -- I think that also why my parents allowed me to do that in order -- there was a second reason. I had nearly finished school because I was making effort not that bad on that. But there was a law in Germany after the war. You could not make your final examination before 18, so lots of people who were late because of the way had to do it first.
So I had over two years I had to wait, doing nothing, the same classes again, only because I was too young to do it, and then I said "please let me go to - I can not stay in the same class for two years for nothing."
KING: How did you know you wanted to be a designer?
LAGERFELD: This is an accident. I wanted to become a cartoon artist, a portrait artist, and an illustrator. This was my first idea.
LAGERFELD: Oh, I'm very good on that but I don't do it too much because if you want to lose all your friends, you do that. But it's something I still adore.
KING: And how did the accident happen?
LAGERFELD: There was a big poster all over Paris about a contest for amateurs, saying send a coat or a dress in a sample of wool, because it was organized by the International Wool Fashion Office, which was an important Australian organization. All over Paris and all over the world they make this contest. They made it...
KING: Design something with wool. You send in the wool.
LAGERFELD: Be not professional, so send it. So I made sketches, sent them, forgot about it.
KING: Never done anything like that before?
LAGERFELD: I illustrated. I sent the sketches and got six months later a telegram saying, "you won the first prize for the coat." So there were 200,000 people in the world who had made that contest and I got the part. Maybe it's an accident. I don't know but I got it.
LAGERFELD: The funny thing is they made the same contest the year before and two years after. Nobody knows what happened to the other people from the other contests except me because the boy who got the prize for the dress, was Yves Saint Laurent.
KING: You got the coat, Yves Saint Laurent got the dress.
LAGERFELD: Yes. It's funny, no? Out of this bulk from the worldwide contest.
KING: That's amazing.
LAGERFELD: That's amazing.
KING: So what -- does that tell you I want to be a designer? Did you...
LAGERFELD: No. I had no idea. You know in those days, fashion was not what fashion is today. There was no fashion on TV. There was none that existed. So the things we had designed were supposed to be made by maison du couture (ph) and mine, because he was part of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
So I went there for the fitting of this yellow coat that I remember very well and he said to me, "what do you want to do in life later?" And I said "oh, you know, I don't know because I have to finish this boy and school thing, but I have to be in school for nothing because in fact I finished." He said "why don't you start working in my studio?" And that's how it started.
KING: And obviously you had a flare for it right away?
LAGERFELD: At times, I thought I wouldn't be here in front of you but with that subject, maybe I would be there with something else, but I don't know what.
KING: What did Lagerfeld do that got him well known?
LAGERFELD: You know it doesn't come over night, especially it was very different -- the way people get known today, it's very, very different than the way we made it in America or the European in the '60s and '70s. It was then more by department stores and by people like Harry Donovan (ph) and Mr. Fairchild and things like this, much more than today where it's advertising, huge companies. All this didn't exist and it was very different. So the department stores were very important, like Gerardine Statts (ph) with Bendel (ph) and the people from Sachs and Neiman Marcus and Phil Miller and...
KING: Neiman Marcus bought you and featured you?
LAGERFELD: Oh, yes. No. No. I mean those people really did something for designers I don't think department stores can, could or should do still today. Today the world is different so you have to make it differently. There's TV. There's a lot of things.
KING: How important is it if famous people, Princess Di, who wore your stuff?
LAGERFELD: Yes, I mean especially important for the media because fashion is something that shows best on people, you know, famous people.
KING: Now that's always been true, right, because Jackie Kennedy if she wore - LAGERFELD: Exactly, yes in other days because I think Jackie Kennedy's way of dressing is even more famous now than in her days. In her days, she was just a beautiful, well-dressed woman. The style is something you see later with the distance. For the moment in those days, she had her style, but other women had these kind of dresses too.
KING: We'll take a break and when we come back, we'll find out how Karl Lagerfeld hooked up with Chanel and they became synonymous with each other. It's a great pleasure to have him as our special guest tonight on LARRY KING LIVE. Karl Lagerfeld who is in the United States to get a major fashion award, which is not surprising, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating the youngest designer that we all know, Karl Lagerfeld, for his lifetime achievement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Karl Lagerfeld. He just got in from Paris, so he asked me during the break if his English was fine. I said fine. You don't speak English in France?
LAGERFELD: Not as much as I speak English here.
KING: But you said you write English better?
LAGERFELD: Yes, it's very strange, for a reason I can not explain, I prefer to write in English and I write better than in French and in German, very strange.
KING: How did you hook up with Chanel?
LAGERFELD: I was proposed to Chanel already before I finally took it over, but that was in the days before Alan Wertheimer (ph). When I met Alan Wertheimer who was the owner with his brother Giano (ph), and we talked for quite a long time, a year. He gave his point of view and I told him what I thought we should do. We agreed.
KING: How long have you been together now?
LAGERFELD: Twenty years.
KING: Now how can you do stuff for Fendi and Chanel?
LAGERFELD: Maybe I have no personality at all I can do whatever I want with myself. Chanel is an existing style and my job is to put that into today's life. So it's me and it's not me. I'm using.
KING: You mean there is a Chanel style?
LAGERFELD: Whatever it is, it's up to me to make believe there is one. There was one, but this is something I'm not supposed to analyze, something I'm supposed to do. It's very different. I'm not a marketing person. I don't ask myself questions. I go by instinct.
KING: So you couldn't tell me what the Chanel style is?
LAGERFELD: I don't want to. I have to show this collection and not with words because I can tell you all kind of make believe, whatever I want because I'm pretty good on this kind of thing, so forget about it.
KING: You could con me pretty good?
KING: Do something about well, Chanel...
LAGERFELD: Yes, I can give you very deep looking explanations.
LAGERFELD: Oh, my best work, I did it without knowing. You know how early in the morning sometimes, thank God for (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm sorry it doesn't happen every day. I see like a show and most of the time I wake up and make the sketches.
KING: You see it in your dreams?
LAGERFELD: Yes. Nobody believes it but it happened, and my best work is done like this, and I don't go to bed and say to myself no, you have to have an idea. I don't even think about it and that's very strange. Between five and six in the morning, I see it. I see the set. I see the girls. I see the details with shoes and everything and it happened often.
KING: Are there periods where you run dry, where nothing?
LAGERFELD: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I don't have to make a correction immediately, but then it's like Jim, you know, you sit down and -
KING: But when you have to do it, you do it?
LAGERFELD: Yes, and I can sit down on a white piece of paper and work because I don't believe too much into inspiration, only I'm waiting for inspiration, work and then inspiration may come. It's a little too easy to say that.
KING: How much do you think - how much is sold off the name? In other words, can you do - I don't want to - a dress that's not pretty, but people will get it because it's a Lagerfeld?
LAGERFELD: Yes, that's why Jean Patou (ph), he said one thing what is a good lesson I will never forget. Never make an ugly dress because somebody can buy it. A good line, I think. KING: He's right. Never sell anything you'd be ashamed of.
LAGERFELD: Exactly, don't even design it.
KING: So when you do something for Fendi, it's completely different?
LAGERFELD: Yes, Fendi is a different thing. I took the spirit of Italy, and thinking me as an Italian designer and using the strength of the sisters (ph) of -- especially Carla Fendi, who was a very strong person and with that, I create something what I think could be modern version of something typically Roman, not Milanese, because Fendi is Rome, and to get the essence out of that. Sounds strange, but it's simple to me.
KING: But you are not an Italian designer?
LAGERFELD: No, I'm not a French designer either. I'm from nowhere. I'm a European, old European is all I am.
LAGERFELD: And I don't want to be anything else.
KING: Now when you design for your own line -
LAGERFELD: Then I don't have to make an effort because I see my personal taste based on silent movies, German expressionism, and a little tougher, harsher thing.
KING: So if I go to a Lagerfeld and buy a Lagerfeld from a Lagerfeld, I'm getting what in essence is what you like?
LAGERFELD: What I am. That's worse.
KING: Because you like everything you do?
LAGERFELD: Of course. Of course. Of course, but I wouldn't say it's more personal but I have three aspects you know, so it's another aspect and it's difficult to say what is real because I don't know if myself and I don't want to know because I like the idea of being different persons, Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
KING: Do you design away from - do you design handbags?
LAGERFELD: Of course, because today when you are in fashion you do everything what people wear.
KING: Do you do shoes?
LAGERFELD: Oh yes, I love to do shoes. I'm not a fetishist but I love to do shoes and I did for many years (UNINTELLIGIBLE) years ago and I do shoes for Chanel. I do shoes for Fendi. I do shoes for Lagerfeld, and I still do shoes for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because I have a license with them. No, I love shoes.
KING: Can the good designer, design in any area? Could you design conservative stuff for a conservative house?
LAGERFELD: Sure, if I want, but this is different. I'm very happy with the houses I have. Chanel, whatever Chanel is, Chanel is something that it existed before. Fendi did not really existed before, this is something I invented. They made fur, classic fur, and it was a small family business. Now, it's a big company owned by Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who is very different, and Lagerfeld is a quite small experimental thing because when I try to do the business partner, I never worked with business partner because they had other ideas than I had; and not that I'm too bossy, but as far as I'm concerned, I see it one way and not in another way.
KING: Now we'll talk with Karl Lagerfeld when we come back about famous people and what they mean to what he designs. Our guest is the brilliant Karl Lagerfeld. It's a great pleasure to have him with us, don't go away.
KING: We're back with Karl Lagerfeld. Can you define beauty or is it in the eyes of the beholder?
LAGERFELD: Beauty is also submitted to the taste of time, so a beautiful woman from the Belle Epoch is not exactly the perfect beauty of today, so beauty is something that changes with time. There is this idea of classic beauty and there is an idea of beauty, but fashion and beauty are something very special and sometimes, especially in art, and I don't know if fashion is an art, things can look ugly first and become beautiful after in people's eyes because they are used to it. Because if they only see what they are used to and it used to be beauty for them, it can become a little boring. But sometimes, there has to be a little shock in the area of beauty to go ahead to.
KING: Was Princess Di - what made her special?
LAGERFELD: She had what people call charisma, you know, the way she walked, the way she behaved. She was tall. She was skinny. She was very gracious and...
KING: Did that make her easy to design for?
LAGERFELD: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) perfect for clothers, but she was more than that. She had personality that was not only dress oriented, and I like dress oriented people. She was not like the Duchess of Windsor who said, "I'm an ugly woman. I have to dress well that my husband can be proud of me." I think it's a very horrible thing to say.
KING: Can a beautiful woman make a dress look better?
LAGERFELD: Yes, but you know, too much physical beauty may not always help. Sometimes woman who are -- tehre was a French actress said, "I'm not beautiful, I'm worse." You know, that can be interesting too, because Miss World became never a famous model. I mean, Ms. Evangelista is more beautiful a model, made for dresses, than Miss World, whoever Miss World is.
KING: What do you want in your models?
LAGERFELD: To express their way because I like girls with personality. What I have designed and what I want to show what I'm doing in a show for Chanel, Fendi or Lagerfeld. And the girls, you know good girls; they do that by instinct, that way it's not such an easy job. It's very different from being an actress. Some models become actresses, but for me, famous models are, the ones who were famous and who are famous now, are like silent screen movie actresses and I like nothing better than silent movies, because it's about images, moving images. Today they talk too much. For that we have TV. But in movies, I like silent movies, images, the framing of it. That's why I like photography, you see.
KING: Yes, we're going to get to that. Do you - is it important for people nominated for Academy Awards to wear a Lagerfeld?
LAGERFELD: It's pleasant to see Nicole Kidman in a dress we made special for her. I mean a designer could not be unhappy them. It would be a little too difficult. Of course, it's nice. Some of them look great. Some don't. But most of them are more than OK. I mean I think Ms. Kidman looked stunning in her pink Chanel dress.
KING: Should a woman count on her designer?
LAGERFELD: Not too much. Not only. Not only, and I think also a woman should not only wear one label. Women have to be free. I don't like that you have to wear that and only that and that and that. That's not very good. I mean actresses don't need that. Actresses are supposed to change and to play everything. I like that they have free choice and no imposed contracts.
KING: Any major differences in European women and American women?
LAGERFELD: Not anymore. Now they are...
KING: Used to be different?
LAGERFELD: Yes, because there was the idea of the Parisienne, and Germans are supposed to be poorly dressed, and the Italian looking, too, and Americans were supposed to have only the best legs (UNINTELLIGIBLE). All those stupid things are over now. There are great looking women all over the world and there are terrible looking women and men all over the world, too, but it's much more the same now.
KING: Did you -- people have nicknamed you Kaiser Karl, the fashion press. Are you known as a tough guy?
LAGERFELD: I'm considered tougher than I am.
KING: Your image is tougher than you are?
KING: Your bark is bigger than your bite?
LAGERFELD: Yes, exactly. Exactly. But it's my fault and I don't regret it because I read sometimes quotes in magazines, something I have never said, and then I say to people, "I never said it." They say to me, "yes but that's the way you talk." So I couldn't care less. And normally, if I attack somebody, people forget that, it's always somebody who had done something to me in a way or another. I don't forget easily. Maybe the public reading it later doesn't know why I've allowed myself to say that, but there's always a reason, and for the fun of it I can do it for ten years because it's a joke.
KING: Did you slam the American designer Michael Kors?
LAGERFELD: I never met him in my life.
KING: So you never attacked him?
LAGERFELD: No. No. You know, Michael Kors I made a cartoon for an interview. I made a thing about that, and he was interviewed and I was asked to make cartoons of designers, lots of designers I know and Michael Kors was the only designer I didn't know as a person. So I asked for a photo and in the quote there's an impression of a big smile. My cartoon is not even smiling, so I don't know -
KING: But you have nothing against him or?
LAGERFELD: I don't even know what he is doing.
KING: You don't know where he is?
LAGERFELD: No, I don't know. In Europe he's not that well known, so I don't know exactly.
KING: That was a nice little put down too.
LAGERFELD: No, you see.
KING: That worked. I liked it.
LAGERFELD: No, but I'm sorry. I mean.
KING: It's good.
KING: Very well done, Karl.
LAGERFELD: You can stop people in the street and ask, I mean. Everyone knows Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
KING: Do you like them? LAGERFELD: A lot as persons and as designers and as businessmen because they achieved something I could never do because I would be bored to be behind my own name.
KING: You don't want to be a business?
LAGERFELD: No. I don't want to be a boss. I want to be or make believe myself that I'm a free person.
KING: Any person you - any Hollywood person like you would like to design for?
LAGERFELD: There are many. There are many. I mean the list is endless because the girls are great and they're great actresses today. I mean it isn't even a question, it's difficult to answer for the simple reason because there are so many who are great. But I must readily admit that Ms. Kidman is my favorite.
LAGERFELD: I don't know. If one is allowed to have a weakness for an actress that is not a crime.
KING: You like her?
LAGERFELD: I think she's absolutely divine.
KING: She's a great person too.
LAGERFELD: Yes, and she is stunning. She is fun. I photographed her. I did a special thing with her for "Interview Magazine" and I did her for "Vanity Fair" and I think she is really great. For me she is the big star of today, I'm sorry.
KING: When did you start photographing her?
LAGERFELD: Fifteen years ago.
LGERFELD: Because when you are in fashion, you need a document for the press, what they call a press kit. In those days, famous photographers don't do press kits. Press kits had to be done so the collection isn't ready, so you have to know about it. So we tried. We tried and we were never happy with it. In one season, we did three people a week for the collection and it wasn't right. And then, Eric Fender (ph) the man who's in charge of the fashion image of Chanel said to me, "But you like so much photography, you know so much about it, do it yourself." And that's how I started, with a press kit. Then I went...
KING: You had no lessons in photography?
LAGERFELD: You know, I knew about it. You can take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and learn. I mean I'm not that stupid that it was not... KING: You knew lighting?
LAGERFELD: Oh yes, you know knowing lighting means I know how it wants to look and then you can - it will begin by people who you describe what you want and then they do the light. That is not such a problem, you know. The problem of photography is the vision that you have, your vision and especially it's becoming very different now and very complicated in a way with all these computer things because there's such a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that you have to find in the middle of all this wild thing your way and your voice, your visual voice.
KING: So you do your own press kit?
LAGERFELD: I do everything. I do the advertising and I do a lot of portraits. I've worked for a lot of fashion magazines I mean for...
KING: So you sell your photography?
LAGERFELD: Yes in galleries too. Yes it's true. Yes but I mean I don't try to make a business out of it. I'm not pushy about that.
KING: It's still a hobby?
LAGERFELD: No, it's not a hobby. No, I hate unprofessional. No, it's a profession, but I have a staff of five assistants and everything, and a huge studio.
KING: But like designing, you like shooting pictures.
LAGERFELD: It goes all together, you know. It all starts with paper. I sketch. I design. It becomes a dress. I photograph it and it's printed on paper again. If you see it like this, you know. And my favorite material in life is paper. Paper. Paper. Paper.
I think there's a reason because when I was a child in the years after the war, paper in Europe was not a thing you could get easily, beautiful paper I'm talking about. So I was always afraid I wouldn't have enough paper and I was told, if you have no more paper, sketch on the other side. And I said to myself, never, every in life you will sketch on the other side of the paper. I never did. But I still buy too much paper because this must be something very Freudian but I couldn't care less.
KING: Oh, the things you learn here. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Karl Lagerfeld. Do you have a -- is Saint Laurent a rival?
LAGERFELD: No, he has retired and he was never a rival because our ambitions were different. He wanted his name.
KING: Who goes up then as a rivalry?
LAGERFELD: I don't believe in that, you know. I do what I do and what I admire most is people who do something I couldn't do or what is millions of miles away from what I'm doing. This I'm intrigued by, you see. But I don't think that is the way one should see things. I think it's a very good thing that there are many people who do that because competition is a healthy thing. Imagine a world with no competition. You would fall asleep. There's not even a reason to get up anymore in the morning.
KING: How do you keep your private life so private because you're so public? I mean you are a very public person.
LAGERFELD: Yes but I mean that's a part of the game too.
KING: So this...
LAGERFELD: You can go public but there are things that shouldn't be public.
KING: Yes, but how are you able to keep them private?
LAGERFELD: This is something I manage pretty well.
KING: You work at it?
LAGERFELD: No, not really but the circumstances help me.
KING: Like what?
LAGERFELD: The way I live, what I do, what I seek, what I don't do, what I refuse to do, and lots of things.
KING: So people don't follow you around?
LAGERFELD: It's very difficult because, to follow around, I have to be around a lot and I stay a lot at my different places in Monaco and Paris or in Biarritz and behind hidden walls, it's very difficult to follow me around. I prefer to imagine the world from my window. That doesn't mean that I don't like to come for a short little trip to New York where there are zillions of fans. But wherever I go in another place, I have the feeling after three days that they all saw enough of me.
KING: Do you ever think of not designing?
KING: Because you could financially retire.
LAGERFELD: You can think but the biggest luxury in life is if you don't have to think that way. You don't have to make a living. But then, you can get lazy. But I'm much more ambitious. I like this job even more today than I liked it when I had to make a living. I like the job for the job. That's ridiculous but that's the way it is. I did nothing and tonight I get this Lifetime Achievement Award.
For me, you know what lifetime achievement is? It's the next collection. That means Chanel couture in the months now. That's life achievement, because it should be every time a lifetime achievement. There is no credit on the past. Forget about it. There is now and maybe a little tomorrow, but yesterday is OK. The day you stop you can remember, but as long as you're there, don't remember your own things. Never try to go back. You can not. You will be disappointed. I don't believe in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for daily life.
KING: And you can live that way?
LAGERFELD: At times, I live quite well with me.
KING: So your lifetime achievement is tomorrow, not yesterday?
LAGERFELD: Exactly or today. Today.
KING: Why do you wear dark glasses?
LAGERFELD: It's not totally dark. You can really see my glasses. Because they are tinted, people look much better with tinted glass. I'm vaguely short-sighted on one eye but I could do without them. But when I read, sketch or write, I don't wear glasses. But it's part of my public thing, you know. I call them my portable eyeshadow.
KING: How did it begin?
LAGERFELD: Oh, because in school I was - I felt about 12 or 13 that I was a little short-sighted on one eye. I couldn't follow very well the blackboard. So I said to my mother, "I want glasses." My mother said, "I don't want children with glasses. They're the ugliest thing in the world, children with glasses. Go in the first row." I said, "Never in my life am I going to the first row in school." So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but I managed, and when I came to Paris, the first thing I did on my allowance, I ordered a pair of glasses I was not supposed to know and never left them again.
KING: How many pair do you own?
LAGERFELD: I change very often. Look, since I had my diet, this is design number four, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sunglasses because I had huge ones, then they shrink and shrink and shrink and this is size number four. Before, if I try now the glasses I had on for let's say two years ago, they're huge. They're big like Donovan's.
KING: Are you always fashion conscious? In other words, do you ever just hang around; throw on a tee shirt, a pair of shorts, a pair of sneakers?
LAGERFELD: Yes, but you know so many people do that that I don't think they're the greatest thing in life anymore. I think to make an effort and some discipline, it's in a way more fun than all those zillions of people who say hang around. I don't know if I like it.
KING: In other words, my wife is right. You should always look good.
LAGERFELD: Yes, impeccable and I think especially if one is over 20 and when you're over 20, one should be impeccable, middle-aged and late middle-aged people neglected is one of the most disgusting things I know in life. Young people can do that, but older people they better be clean. I can say that because I'm old enough to say that.
KING: Are you fussy about the clothes you buy for yourself?
LAGERFELD: I have a tendency of buying a little too much and too easily. I want it all, you see.
KING: Is there a certain men's designer you like?
LAGERFELD: Yes, for the moment because I think that only if you really brought something new in men's fashion it's Slim au Faudier (ph).
LAGERFELD: Haile Slim au Faudier (ph). I think he's very good. He's getting an award tonight too.
KING: So you like what he does?
LAGERFELD: This jacket he designed. This shirt is an old shirt from before World War number one, redone, and the jeans are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because I like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) jeans.
KING: Now you said that shirt design is an old design and they wore collars like that?
LAGERFELD: Yes, I love it. I always - I have photos of me when I was a child. I had them high like this because my father used to wear them and I wanted to look, as a child, like my father because I thought he was chic because he was an older man and not like those stupid young parents other children had.
KING: Your father was 60 when you were born?
LAGERFELD: Yes. Yes.
KING: And the tie does not go all the way up to the top?
LAGERFELD: No, that would look strange and like if I had no neck. I have a long neck. That's why I can wear those things.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the extraordinary Karl Lagerfeld. Don't go away.
(VIDEO CLIP) KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Karl Lagerfeld -- we promise you more visits because there's so much to get into. So I just want to touch a couple other bases. What's hard about designing furs? A fur is a fur. Are there many things you can do with fur?
LAGERFELD: Oh, yes. Yes, and I mean without being pretentious, I think with Fendi we renewed the technique of fur in the '70s and early '80s. It was changed, because before it was quite stiff and not very modern and now fur is just another material. It looks like something knitted, something bold, but has nothing to do with the original skin it was. Because, you know, I don't like the butcher shop either with the animals hanging there. I think it all relates to skin so I prefer even not to see. I'm a very hypocrite for that I admit, but I love it as a material. I don't ask myself where those things are coming from but we do the same thing with food and clothing.
KING: Is there a 2002 style?
LAGERFELD: This I can answer as a question in a few years because in the middle of things, you can not answer because you have not the distance. What you think it is may be seen from the near future.
KING: In other words, we didn't know the '60s was the '60s until it was the '70s?
LAGERFELD: No. Exactly. So ask me that question in ten years.
KING: When we lived in the '60s, we didn't walk around saying this is the '60s.
LAGERFELD: No, exactly and look, remember in the '60s, there was a very sweet childish vision of the future, 2000 on the moon and all this. Look how 2000 looked. It was very different so one better forget about this kind of idea or one can use it as an inspiration for something for the moment. But there is no projection you can make. There is a mood of the moment. There is a spirit of times that you can not put that into words and say this is this and this is a final image. The final image other people will tell us what the final image is.
Most famous artists in their days are forgotten, no? And what was then unknown, uninvolved like impressionists, are the most famous now. So we better watch, live and see that later.
KING: Where were you on September 11?
LAGERFELD: In my private office in Paris.
KING: It was the afternoon there, right?
LAGERFELD: Yes, it was the afternoon and my secretary called and said "put on your TV." I said "but I don't want to be. I'm working." I said "what's going on? And so, I better have a look." And I pushed the button and I have in my office four big screens because I love TVs and also machines, the fax machine, and then I saw the horrible thing and I saw the second plane arriving. I mean this is something I will never forget, one of the most horrible images I think we all know.
KING: The world changed, obviously. Did you come to New York any time after that?
LAGERFELD: Not then because it was not on my list that I had to do but I wanted but I never did it, not because I was afraid or nothing, but I was very astonished how many American people like Anna (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) came to Europe when it was not pleasant to travel, and continued to come to Europe, and I think I admired that a lot.
KING: Do you fear things now you didn't fear before?
LAGERFELD: I prefer not to think about it, because if not you are paralyzed. I prefer not to think about it because other people seem not to think about it too much because we have to go on. Life goes on. That's the thing, I mean with whatever happens, we have to go on.
KING: You're how old now, Karl?
LAGERFELD: Yes, 64 in September, the day before 10th of September.
KING: Your birthday is September.
LAGERFELD: Yes, 10th.
KING: So you had just celebrated a birthday?
LAGERFELD: I never celebrate birthdays. You know after 30, I decided to stop that, so you can see I stopped that quite a long time ago already.
KING: You're an amazing man, thank you.
LAGERFELD: Nice to see you.
KING: Karl Lagerfeld, what can we say, it's a great pleasure having him with us and we thank him for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE; for Karl Lagerfeld, yours truly Larry King in New York, goodnight.
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