Self-portrait: Karl Lagerfeld.
Numéro: When did you decide to get a kitten Karl?
Karl Lagerfeld: My love for little fluff balls came quite late. I’ve had dogs in my life, but it was when I lived in the countryside. In Paris, as in all big cities, it’s a bit more complicated. As you can imagine, I could no longer take the risk of walking a dog in the street, there’d be a riot. And a dog, well it’s anything but nice and clean, and when it rains they smell like a dead rat. I had two friends who had a cat, and they were always completely over the top in terms of affection, so much so I found it completely ridiculous. Well now, can you believe it, I’m even worse.
What was it about her that you immediately liked?
I like being calm, and my cat is a presence that counts but isn’t encumbering. She is peaceful, funny, fun and gracious, she’s pretty to look at and has good poise, but her main quality is that she doesn’t talk. It was love at first sight. Baptiste [Giabiconi] was going on holiday and asked if he could leave her with the staff at my house while he was away. She was still a baby at the time, and I found her so cute that when Baptiste came home I said to him, “Sorry but I’m keeping her!”
Did you have animals when you were growing up?
Yes, I’m a child of the countryside. I had a dog who I adored, but he died very young. One day, when I was 7 or 8 years old, he ran towards me and fell down dead at my feet.
It vaccinated me against animals for many years. Much later, in my various country abodes, I had a dachshund called Lobb and a Jack Russell called Ashton.
Is yours a greedy little kitty?
Now she’s an adult she dines with me. She sits opposite me and eats what she has to eat. Before she might have attacked any old prawn, but now she will only touch the four different dishes prepared for her on that day, served in fabulous bowls. Everything must be very fresh, otherwise Mademoiselle sits in front of her biscuits for three quarters of an hour giving me filthy looks, without eating a thing.
Is her coat always so shiny?
She is brushed four times a day, and she is very body conscious. In fact she has maintained her ideal weight of 3.5 kilos since she reached adult size. She goes to the doctor once a month – to the famous Dr. Horn’s very chic clinic next door to Dior – even though she’ll sulk with the people who took her for three days afterwards. But what she hates most of all is being manicured. That is why I never do her claws.
Speaking of manicures, when did you last get your claws out?
It’s a permanent state. I’m always ready to get them out, and that’s why, in fact, I wear mittens.
How did you teach your cat not to scratch the Zaha Hadid sofa?
I didn’t have to say anything, she scratches on her cat scratcher or the door mat. But I wouldn’t care if she damaged something. I would forgive her.
Even if it was a nasty habit of pissing all over the parquet?
She has never soiled the floors, even when she was three months old. She has always been very clean and spends her life washing herself. She smells very good. Really. I don’t perfume her, she hates that. As soon as she sees a spray she runs. At home I hardly dare perfume myself she hates it so much. She has a nice natural odour. Which isn’t the case with everyone.
In terms of litter deodorizers, are you herbal, floral or vanilla?
Have you had her neutered?
What a ghastly word. But in answer to your question, yes, I preferred her to be a virgin forever. In any case, she loathes other animals. And she hates children.
Don’t cats scratch at the door when they want something – like certain people we know?
Absolutely not. In fact I have no idea where this legend comes from or what kind of cats other people have. She sleeps next to my pillow and never asks anything of anyone. When she comes to eat she looks at me as if she were asking me deep philosophical questions, and I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t talk about Kierkegaard. As for her expressions, they range from silent-movie vamp to 17th-century tragic painting.
Like master, like cat?
Are you referring to the white hair?
Is your cat for or against the exploitation of animal fur?
That is a subject she absolutely doesn’t give a damn about.
And rightly so, she has other fish to fry. She is very sought after. Two books are going to be published about her, she has a line of make-up for Shu Uemura about to be launched, and she has an ambassador’s role for Opel, a subsidiary of General Motors.
When you’re alone, do you converse at length with your cat?
Probably, yes. At my age you are never far from senility.
And what do you say to her?
Nonsense. Banalities. I invent little names for her. I can also tell you she is very sporty: she jumps over the back of the bed as if it were a speed bump in the road. It’s her favourite game. Another game she adores – and it’s her who decides – consists of jumping into my arms for me to carry her around the apartment like a baby. After a while I can’t carry on because it’s impossible to put her down without her moving and the claws coming out. I have already had to walk around the apartment ten times without her deigning to get down. She has reduced me to a slave. Las Meninas by Velázquez is the painting that comes closest to Choupette’s life – the Infanta in the middle in white with everyone fussing around her.
Does your cat purr when you stroke her?
No, no, no! She is much more sophisticated than that, a sort of silent Jean Harlow. Cats shouldn’t be crushed under tenderness. It’s very bad for them. Her ladies-in-waiting always tend to do that, but I myself wait for her to come to me. She’s the one who gives me a kiss, or jumps up onto my knee, not the other way around. She hates being alone at home, doesn’t like being left in the dark, but equally there’s no need to bother her with a cuddle every five minutes.
Is she jealous?
It’s difficult to say because I’ve never put her in a competitive situation. What I do know is that she doesn’t particularly like my godson, Hudson.
Are there people who, in spite of yourself, you feel obliged to rub up the right way?
If I do that it’s because I’m someone… nice.
If you yourself were a cat, would you be a cute little kitty or a big tom?
A big tom.
And who would you make your mouse?
Choupette doesn’t frequent rodents, and as for me, I don’t eat meat. So the question doesn’t even arise.
Does your cat know how to host?
She doesn’t host. I have several residences in Paris, and Choupette lives in the one where I never receive guests. On the very rare occasions we take her out, it’s to see rare and exceptional guests like Caroline de Monaco, who also has a cat.
Don’t you find the way cats raise their tails somewhat shameless?
No. I’m not a sex maniac, and I see nothing indecent in the way cats lift their tails. Choupette always does it very graciously.
Have you ever had whiskers?
No. I’m very dark and a moustache makes me look like an Argentinian brothel keeper. I had a beard for two years, but I didn’t like it because it was itchy. I liked the idea of not having to shave every morning, even though it was very well-kept – a sort of very black and tidy lawn. But in the end I felt like I had dandruff spending my life scratching, so I got rid of it.
Out of Tom Ford, Nicolas Ghesquière and Hedi Slimane, who is the most pussycat of the three?
I haven’t slept with any of them, so I’ve no idea about their intimate habits.
Interview by Philip Utz