Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Karl Lagerfeld Interview at LeWeb

The funny thing was … I didn’t expect him to have a German accent.  Of course, that’s crazy since he IS German, but he’s so much of a Parisien in his style and work and attitude.  I've heard Karl Lagerfeld in French many times, but didn't hear his accent in that language.  But the interview between Loic and Karl at LeWeb this morning was in English.   I did expect him to speak English well and he does speak it very well.   And very politely.   He was allegedly born in 1933,  but doesn’t like to talk about it.   That means in 1960, he was the same age as Zuckerberg is today.   And he's still fresh, innovative and creative as any young entrepreneur, 50 years later.

Mr. Lagerfeld has a perfectly gorgeous leather case – I think he said it was made by Celine --  for his many devices.  He opens it and there is a white iPad on top.  There’s a second level which he flips open to reveal four iPhones in black and white Karl Lagerfeld brand design.    What else?!  Also he has a bunch of black, white and silvery iPod Shuffles.  Some are shimmering.  He lives in a world of absolutely beautiful things.

I love watching his hands using his iPad and iPhone.  They are in black leather fingerless gloves with silver studs – as if they are two dangerous dogs, needing to be locked up. Chien Mechant!  But the gloves also reverberate with a medieval king’s style, he is a veritable Charlemagne planning a conquest.   How can you not love his clothes, the 1910 high white starched collar, the casual white ponytail?

He explains to Loic, showing off his iPhones, that he has certain friends set up to call certain phones and keeps things organized that way.  Loic ask something about the phones and he scolds him, “Of course I have more than four friends!” He’s a master of understatement.

He shows us how he uses the iPad to sketch and says it makes his drawings look even better than they might be on paper.  It feels a bit “like engraving” for him, he explains.  At first the application is not working, creating a Murphy’s Law moment, but he pushes on, and finally it works and he draws for us.  Earlier he had made a drawing of Steve Jobs and shows everyone.  It’s quite good.   It’s a treat to watch him at work.  It’s so simple, so private in public way, to see him simply draw, to watch him at work as an artist.

He explains he has hundreds of iPads ... did I get that right?  Yes, he uses them like journals for different projects, each dedicated to a different creative project.

This is when Loic asks to roll the video – the famous Apple commercial called Think Different.  At the end, Loic is excited to hear what Karl Lagerfeld has to say about it.  Instead of gushing, Karl jumps in with what seems wrong with it.  “There are no Frenchmen in it!”  as if this were an obvious design flaw.

Talking about ebooks, he says “I love paper” and talks about how ebooks are one more way to enjoy books, not replacements for real books, but an addition, as there was once only radio and then TV came along.  It did not stop radio. It was just one more new medium to be embraced.

Loic pushes him about being part of social media, joining things like Facebook or Twitter.  I happen to know he’s been on Twitter awhile and was very cool in adopting it a few years ago.  He is not particularly overwhelmed about such networks and says bluntly. “It’s not about being overly connected, it’s about being WELL connected.”

His demeanor is humble, artistic, funny, blunt.  He says outrageously funny things from a place of complete, “oh please!” honesty.   He makes us all look like liars, he has no need to dodge the honest truth, which most people sugarcoat.

He talks about how he sketches and draws every morning, that you find good ideas by keeping a hand in, making things.  Doing the physical work of drawing helps him find new ideas.  "You get good ideas by making things, not from machines."

Loic asks him about his “brand” – how he controls his brand.  He looks at him sheepishly, “I’m not a brand, I’m just me.”  He goes on, “I don’t like promotion, I don’t promote myself, I just AM myself.”

This is like Steve Jobs or any of the other folks in the Think Different video denying they are a brand.  Picasso “just being” Picasso was a world-changing phenomenon, (equally Karl) and of course he knows that and shows us that the boldest way to exist is to JUST BE YOURSELF.   All true innovators have faced that fact.  They figure out sooner or later that they are here on Earth to be uniquely themselves, which in the beginning of your life can make you very difficult to deal with.  Many people will dislike you, but there’s only one person you are here to be.  Be yourself.

He is an artist,  that is plainly obvious from the way he has no lack of courage about trying new things.   He mentions part of that is throwing away 95% of work he does.  He is the boldest innovator in the room.

I understand as we age, how easy it is to just ignore many of the new technologies in favor of the ones you know, learned years ago, which work fine for you.   Oh no, this is not Karl’s way.  He’s as cool as my teenager trying new things, finding new ways to work, collaborating with young people.    I suspect he has a skateboard hidden away in his room for early morning romps.

Getting old is mostly no fun, but Karl seems anything but old and is all about fun.  Gravity, seems an evil force that would have you slow down as you age, making every step and muscle sag, as it tries to yank you back into the ground, ashes to ashes, but Karl has his artistic curiosity, like a kid, to resist the common pull of gravity and fly high above the crowd, like one of the break dancers who soar through the air at the opening of the conference.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing all this, Halley! I love what he says about being well connected. I totally get that. That's what I've done with all my online networks--it's not about numbers but about the value of those connections to me as a person.

    One of the other things I like about Lagerfeld is his style--and how it's evolved. I remember when he was doing the fan thing all the time. He's ditched that, which shows an understanding of when a fashion statement, or part of one's personal style, becomes a cliche. When we are in the flow of life and are participating in the world around us, in whatever capacity that is, our look changes because our awareness changes. We should all be as alive and engaged (health permitting) at 80-something.


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