Yes, I'm talking about the annual F.I.T. Couture Council luncheon, held last Friday at Lincoln Center, the new home of New York Fashion Week. I played host to the crowd of Chanel-encrusted exquisites and fashion exhibitionists. Karl Lagerfeld, the designer who has led Chanel for nearly 30 years now, was the star honoree.
Lord knows Kaiser Karl deserves to be thus feted. He has made an inestimable contribution to the magic and craft of fashion. And he has never gotten dusty. He's never had a Phil Collins moment. He has somehow managed to stay hip and relevant since he launched his first collection. But most noteworthy of all, I'd argue, is that Karl has a devilishly quotable, Wilde-ian wit. His brilliant and tart-tongued observations have enlivened La Mode for four decades, in six languages.
When, back in the '90s, the Met bagged a Chanel retrospective in favor of a Jackie Kennedy homage, Karl said, "It's perfect. They can call it the Necropolitan Museum."
When Pierre Cardin banned the press from his shows, Karl said, "That's like a women without lovers asking for the Pill."
When nemesis/colleague Kitty D'Alessio was put out to pasture, Karl said, "The good news is that Kitty D'Alessio has been made director of special projects. The bad news is there are no special projects."
When his mother asked what he wanted for his birthday, Karl said, "A valet." He was 4 years old.
Karl, in other words, is fucking fabulous! But he is also, at this particular point in fashion history, a unicorn. He is the last of the great, quotable bitches.
Permit me to explain: The Fashion World is assumed, by an increasingly style-obsessed public, to be an intimidating hornets' nest of snarky asides and venomous back-biting. Every designer is imagined to be a monumentally disdainful fag or hag or fag-hag whose sole aim in life is to look down on the frumpy trolls of the world and make witheringly hilarious comments.
The truth is both surprising and disappointing. Not only is fashion no longer bitchy, it has become positively snuggly. Even on today's vastly expanded and demented fashion landscape, it is virtually impossible to find anyone who will say anything even remotely caustic about anyone else. Designers are either mute—the current crop of stars has taken its cue from the modern-day Garbo of the fashion world, Martin Margiela—or they are folksy and affable.