An Open Letter to Karl Lagerfeld

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Dear Karl,

You really don’t like women very much, do you?

I always suspected this to be the case but now, with your insistence that “no one wants to see curvy women’, you’ve totally convinced me.

On a roll, you followed up that bizarre statement with this one: “You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly”. Finally, you concluded that fashion was all about “dreams and illusions”.

Really, Karl? Really? I’m fascinated to know where you get this information. Do you know many curvy women? Many fat mothers with bags of chips? Do you actually know any women beyond those who can directly benefit from your fame, fortune and power?

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Because Karl, here’s my problem. As head designer and creative director for Chanel and your own Karl Lagerfeld label as well as an acclaimed fashion photographer, you are one of the most powerful people in the fashion industry. Many say you’re a GENIUS.

Whatever. You are certainly prolific and extremely influential. And yet, like so many who have spent a large chunk of their life living on Planet Fashion, you have a very perverse idea of The Real World. Some may even call it cuckoo. And on behalf of those of us who live here, we’re getting a little jack of it.

Your most recent “curvy women’ comments were in response to news that Germany’s top-selling women’s magazine, Brigitte, will cease using professional models from 2010. Instead, they will use regular women after the editor became dismayed by all the size 0 models and how often Photoshop was required to erase their protruding bones and make them look fatter.

Yes, Karl, FATTER. I know this is anathema to you because you think fat is grotesque. You even think curves are grotesque. Basically, anything that isn’t a bone or a clean line gives you the heeby geebies, am I right? Damn that bothersome flesh.

When I first read your comments, I was confused. Still am, a bit. [itals] Where [itals] exactly do you think no one wants to see curvy women? Just in women’s magazines and on catwalks? Or, for instance, in the street? Beaches? Parks? Restaurants? Public transport? How about in the shops where your clothes are sold? Do your sales assistants run shrieking from the repulsive sight of women with breasts and hips and thighs that touch and tummies that aren’t concave? Because the last time I checked, women larger than size 0 also wore clothes. And bought clothes. Oh yes, us fatties buy a lot of clothes.

And also, you’re not going to believe this Karl but apparently, millions of women larger than size 0 are considered beautiful and sexy and desirable by millions of people. Male people and female people. Admittedly, most of these people don’t work in the fashion industry because among your kind, the only version of an attractive or even acceptable woman is very tall and very thin. And probably 19.

Doesn’t this ever get dull, Karl?

Don’t you tire of casting and photographing girl after girl who looks identical? Like sheep? Don’t you crave some visual variety when it comes to body shapes? Oh wait, you don’t. Because the women who appear in your shows and your photographs are exclusively willowy blondes, emaciated brunettes and androgynous redheads. Not a curve between them.

At 76, your own appearance is certainly unique. You wear sunglasses at all times and your grey hair is always in a ponytail. You only wear slim-cut suits with skinny ties, elevated cowboy boots and fingerless, studded leather gloves.

For a long time you couldn’t wear those suits because you used to have a few curves yourself. A few years ago, you lost 42kg in 13 months and released a diet book, readily admitting your motivation was not health but fashion. “I suddenly wanted to dress differently,” you said. “But these fashions, modelled by very, very slim boys—and not men my age—required me to lose at least 40 kg.”

Regardless of all this or perhaps because of it, the fashion world hangs on your every word. Which is why it’s such a shame that so many of the things you say are so illogical.

You see Karl, how do you and your fashion cohorts (who all parrot the same argument) KNOW that nobody wants to see curvy women? How would anyone know? Besides a few tiny independent local mags like Real, Lip and Flourish who wage a valiant but impossible struggle against the dominant international glossies, where is our choice? If all we are served is a constant diet of chicken, how would anyone know if we preferred fish?

And why do people like you keep peddling this absurd line that fashion pictures are about ‘dreams and illusions’? The dreams and illusions part may be true but who decided dreams only come in size 0?

So I’ll leave you with a final question. Does no one want to see curvy women, Karl, or just not you?


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