The Book of Karl

Karl Lagerfeld turns 80 today - we look through a life gloriously lived in quotes

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It might be Karl Lagerfeld's 80th birthday today, but the octogenarian shows no sign of stopping. A true icon in an industry that tosses around the term every season, this is a man who can reportedly produce 200 original sketches over twelve hours while adeptly firing out one-liners. From fanatical diets to Tyrolean hats, count down his words of wisdom here.

On homosexuality:

"When I was a child I asked my mother what homosexuality was about and she said - and this was 100 years ago in Germany and she was very open-minded - 'It's like hair colour. It's nothing. Some people are blonde and some people have dark hair. It's not a subject.' This was a very healthy attitude."

Chanel RTW AW12

On being a designer:

"Please don't say I work hard. Nobody is forced to do this job and if they don't like it, they should do another one. If it's too much, do something else. But don't start doing it and then say, 'Aaaah, it's too much'. Because a lot of people depend on it. What we do at Chanel, thousands of people work on these things; these things are sold in hundreds and hundreds of shops all over the world. People like the big machine, and the money the big machine involves, but the effort... Then, suddenly, they become artists. They are too weak. Too fragile. Non. We have to be tough. We cannot talk about our suffering. People buy dresses to be happy, not to hear about somebody who suffered over a piece of taffeta. Me, I like to make an effort. I like nothing better than concrete reality. I'm a very down-to-earth person, but it is my job to make that earth more pleasant."

Yves Saint Laurent and Karl

On wearing glasses:

"They're my burka... I'm a little short-sighted, and people, when they're short-sighted, they remove their glasses and then they look like cute little dogs who want to be adopted."

"I had an interview once with some German journalist - some horrible ugly woman. It was in the early days after the communists - maybe a week after - and she wore a yellow sweater that was kind of see-through. She had huge tits and a huge black bra, and she said to me: 'It's impolite; remove your glasses.' I said: 'Do I ask you to remove your bra?'"

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On personal style:

“Never use the word 'cheap'. Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.” 

"Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants."

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On bedroom etiquette: 

"I'm very impeccable and clean before I go to bed. It's just like right before I'm going out. When I was a child, my mother always told me that you could wake up in the middle of the night and be deathly sick, so you always have to be impeccable. I laugh about it now, but I think everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door."

Losing Weight

On losing weight: 

"I made a diet and my doctor made money that way. We sold nearly a million copies. I never touch sugar, cheese, bread... It was a very good, healthy thing, the best move in my life, I think, but it's totally effortless. I only like what I'm allowed to like. I'm beyond temptation. There is no weakness. When I see tons of food in the studio, for us and for everybody, for me it's as if this stuff was made out of plastic. The idea doesn't even enter my mind that a human being could put that into their mouth. I'm like the animals in the forest. They don't touch what they cannot eat."

"I lost 200lb to wear suits by Hedi Slimane."

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On his mother's wisdom: 

"I love hats, in a way, but when I was a child, I'd wear Tyrolean hats, and my mother - I was something like eight - said to me: 'You shouldn't wear hats. You look like an old dyke.' Do you say such things to children? She was quite funny, no?"

"When I was 14, I wanted to smoke because my mother smoked like mad. I wanted to smoke to look grown-up. But my mother said: 'You shouldn't smoke. Your hands are not that beautiful and that shows when you smoke."

Chanel fur

On fur:

“In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and even clothes, the discussion of fur is childish.” 

"It is farmers who are nice to the cows and the pigs and then kill them. It's even more hypocritical than hunters. At least the hunters don't flatter the animals. I don't like that people butcher animals, but I don't like them to butcher humans either, which is apparently very popular in the world."

Karl and Anna Wintour

On ugliness: 

"Life is not a beauty contest, some [ugly people] are great. What I hate is nasty, ugly people. The worst is ugly short men. Women can be short, but for men it is impossible. It is something that they will not forgive in life - they are mean and they want to kill you."

Karl Lagerfeld young
Lagerfeld as a student of Jürgen Fuhlendorf School in Bad Bramstedt (front row, third from the left)

On his childhood: 

"As a child I wanted to be a grown-up. I wanted to know everything - not that I like to talk about it. I hate intellectual conversation with intellectuals because I only care about my opinion."

"When I was four I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday."

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