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Lagerfeld on Shopping and Luxury

Designer Karl Lagerfeld testifies before EU commission.

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

Photo By Kristen Somody Whalen

PARIS — A consummate shopper, Karl Lagerfeld will take bricks over clicks any day.

“I like the physical contact with the goods,” said the peripatetic designer, who earlier this week met with European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is mulling loosening restrictions on online selling of luxury goods. “There is something unexciting about buying something exciting online.”

With help from his personal secretary, bodyguard and sometime Chanel model Sébastien Jondeau, Lagerfeld said he frequently buys CDs and books from the likes of Amazon.com, but he prefers to rifle the racks himself at Paris stores like Colette or Dior Homme. “And I still like bookshops, and not because I have one,” he said, referring to his 7L shop, which specializes in photo books, on the Rue de Lille here. (He is also a famous habitué of Galignani on the Rue de Rivoli.)

Lagerfeld said he spent about two hours with Kroes in Brussels, telling her luxury companies reserve the right to selective distribution agreements, which prevent products from being sold in unforeseen channels. He also reminded her that “they sell so many fakes [online]. There’s so many legal questions.”

Moreover, he told her there’s no need to fix what isn’t broke. “I think there’s no urgency,” he told WWD. “In a moment of crisis, it is not the time to change things that are working.”

In Lagerfeld’s estimation, “it’s still to early” to effectively sell luxury fashions online, because supreme quality, craftsmanship, tailoring and sophistication cannot be effectively conveyed. “An H&M dress and a Chanel dress can look the same in a small photo, but not in real life,” he said.

Just clicking also drains the joy out of shopping, he said. “When you buy in a shop, you buy what you discover, what you might have had no intention of buying.”

But “for markdowns and for sales, it’s perfect,” Lagerfeld said.

By contrast, the designer is a fan of the Internet as a communications tool, knowing people spend more and more time in front of screens. In fact, Lagerfeld, who directed a short film for Chanel’s Paris-Moscow métiers d’art collection last December, said he just wrapped another minimovie for another of Chanel’s pre-fall collections.

“I call it ‘Fitting Room Follies,’” he said, describing scenes of models Lara Stone and Baptiste Giabiconi cavorting in the cabin for his camera.

Kroes, who personally escorted Lagerfeld to his car after their meeting — he was heading to Rome for Fendi fittings — has also met with representatives from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Compagnie Financière Richemont.