Women’s Wear Daily

Closing Note: Sleep Is Overrated...

... and other candid observations from Fran Lebowitz.

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WWD: What made you decide to do a documentary?
F.L.: It was Graydon’s idea. He said he wanted to do a documentary about me, and I said “no.” When I was young in my 20s, the BBC did a documentary about me and by the time they left, no one I knew or was related to was speaking to anybody else. It was a horrible experience. I never saw it. I don’t know if they ever aired it... I seem to be the only person alive who doesn’t want people following them around with cameras. I am the only person alive who believes in boundaries. This is public, this is private. This I’m telling you, this I’m not telling you. Not because there’s some great mystery or scandal. To me, that’s what separates human life from animal life, frankly. I believe in civilization. To me it seems uncivilized.

WWD: What was the movie-making process like?
F.L.: I had no idea what movie Marty [Scorsese] was making. I was the exact opposite with this movie than I am with my writing. In other words, is this a collaboration? No, this is not. This is Marty’s movie. Because it’s Marty, because I have due admiration, I didn’t really know what he was doing. I saw this movie seven times and I’ve seen seven different movies. That’s how different it was when it was edited. I love the form of documentaries. I’ve never seen one like this. It’s really unusual. It’s not about my life. No one is following me around. You don’t see me doing any personal. The archival footage is about what I think.

I had a meeting with Marty. I’ve known him for many years. He says, “OK, here’s the deal. We never leave Manhattan. Is that OK?” That was the deal. No contract, nothing. Now of course there are millions of contracts. The handshake is “we don’t leave Manhattan.” A lot of it was shot two years ago. Some of it was shot as recently as this May. The stuff we shot in May was additional footage to what was shot two years ago. The bad part was getting a phone call that “we’re sending over some stills to see what you were wearing [two years ago].” I was wearing an overcoat, a scarf and gloves. And this day, there was a major heat wave, and we had to wear these clothes. All the people on the street were wearing T-shirts. All the crew bought coats so they’d be walking by, so it wouldn’t look like I was a maniac in the street wearing three thousand layers of clothes and everyone else is wearing a T-shirt.

WWD: There is a lot of talk about fashion shows moving to the Internet, and people wouldn’t have to go to shows. Do you think that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, since you don’t own a computer?
F.L.: I am absolutely for that. It seems so old-fashioned to have these shows. If you’re going to have an actual fashion show, it should be small. It should be knowing. It should be the opposite of these giant hockey games they have now. If you want every single person on the planet to relate to it, then of course it belongs on the Internet. It’s ridiculous. It’s a waste of money and it’s a waste of time.

I don’t care what these people say, you can’t convince me the clothes business is good. All these very expensive clothing companies way over-expanded. Let’s be honest here. Bags cost $5,000. There are absolutely girls who can buy $5,000 bags. They’re a tiny group of people, even if you add them all up. If that brand has stores in every mall in the world, who’s buying them? They’re going on credit cards that people cannot pay. The fashion shows should be on the Internet. Absolutely. It is unbelievably old-fashioned to the point of quaint to have these stupid tents. I was really surprised. I thought the reason they were moving to Lincoln Center was to use Lincoln Center. And then I get there, and there were the same tents. In fact, these were actually the same tents. The tents moved. Why? I thought they would use the theaters, and thought, “that’s a good idea.” The environment inside a tent is horrible. People have parties in tents. It’s kind of like camping. It’s horrible.


WWD: What do you think of all the reality TV stars at the shows?
F.L.: There is this general interest in these fashion shows that is a general interest in celebrities. It’s not a general interest in clothes. If I was a designer, I would pay these people not to wear my clothes. I would send them checks. I would get a list of all the people on reality television and send them a check if they would promise not to wear these clothes. Every month you don’t wear the clothes, here’s a check.

WWD: What do you think of reality stars, such as Kim Kardashian, getting their own lines?
F.L.: This is not fashion. This has nothing to do with clothes and certainly has nothing to do with style. To me, to let the very lowest level of the culture run the fashion business is idiotic. What could be less fashionable? The fashion business itself should worry about becoming more fashionable. In the end, you devalue the thing....To me, to have an entire trash culture is not a question of going forward or backward, it’s a question of going downward. I hope it goes up and forward. It’s at such a low level now. Madonna has a line now. I rest my case.

WWD: Whom do you admire in fashion today?
F.L.: Sometimes I’ll see clothes I like. I love Azzedine Alaïa. Could I possibly wear that? Not in a million years. If I ask someone who made that dress, they’ll say “Azzedine Alaïa.” There are plenty of people who are talented. I didn’t follow fashion. I was in it. When I led a certain type of life, I’d go back and forth a lot between Paris and New York, it was my environment. Now it’s all over the world, and it’s endless. My friends who are actually in the fashion business are always at fashion shows. It’s non-stop. That would seem to be bad for business. If you’re not selling the stuff, stop making it. Make it scarcer.

Do you think Calvin got out at the right time?
F.L.: You should ask Calvin. I don’t know. I think that Calvin never had that kind of thing at a show. Of all the designers, when Calvin was working, he made very little effort to court celebrities, even real ones. I don’t remember Calvin’s front row being packed with movie stars. Real movie stars used to come [to shows in Europe]. I remember going to Saint Laurent shows in Paris and Catherine Deneuve would be there. Catherine Deneuve is a movie star, but she wore those clothes and she looked great.

American movie stars used to be noted for their horrible clothes. They don’t know how to dress. They’re actors. That’s why in the Eighties, they all gravitated to Armani. He told them what to wear. And now, that’s why they have stylists. Calvin wouldn’t send a million dresses so people would wear them to the Academy Awards. The reason they used to care if someone wore a dress is that all the garment manufacturers would knock it off. There used to be a garment business here. We used to be in the middle of the biggest industry in the U.S. They made clothes here. They had factories here. Is that a better urban business than bringing these hillbillies to lie around in the middle of Times Square in lawn chairs?

WWD: You don’t like the lawn chairs in the middle of Times Square?
F.L.: He [Mayor Bloomberg] has managed to make Times Square squalid without sex. It used to be squalid with sex. Now it’s squalid, no sex. It went from fast sex to fast food. Better fast sex, and it smelled better. It’s revolting. It’s disgusting. I come out of the subway, I can’t figure out where I am. They keep painting the ground a different color. Times Square needs to be cleaned up and put back.

WWD: Have you ever been to China?
F.L.: I would go to China if someone would give me a ride. I’ve been to Japan.

WWD: You don’t have a cell phone, or a Blackberry or a computer. Don’t you want to be part of this high-tech movement?
F.L.: I guess not. People think I’m opposed to modern machines. I never had a typewriter. I’m not interested in machines. Never cared about them. I don’t know how to work them, and I don’t care about them. I feel it’s very unfair that I live in an era where all the innovation is in machines. The culture is really old and retrospective, and machines are really new and exciting, but they’re only exciting if you’re interested in machines, which I’m not.

Do I feel left out? No, I don’t. People still are able to find me. When I’m in the street, I’m experiencing the street, and I’m the only one. I have it all to myself. I notice things, and other people do not notice them, so I feel like I won. They’re on the phone, they’re on the Blackberry. The point of living in the city, one of the things I love about urban life, is the street. I walk everywhere...All these people on the street on the Blackberrys are not that important. Because if they were, they wouldn’t be in the street. They’d be in a helicopter. I have a dual personality. Half of me is very gregarious. I’m a lounge lizard; I love parties and love to go out. The other half likes to be solitary. I like to be by myself a lot. I’m not that essential. I am ready to be the president of the U.S. I can solve every problem. I have all the solutions. If people would let me be the president, I would be the president. But since they don’t let me be the president, they don’t have to find me.

WWD: What do you think of Michelle Obama’s style?
F.L.: I think she’s great looking, especially compared to last several First Ladies. I know everyone loves her clothes. I don’t. The truth is, she’s Midwestern. To me that’s what characterizes her clothes. Chicago is a great city, but it’s a Midwestern city. She wears the clothes of a Midwestern woman. I think she should wear what she wants to wear. She has a lot of physical confidence. Girls can learn from that kind of thing. She’s an attractive woman, but not the most beautiful woman who ever lived. She has a flair in the way she carries herself more than how she dresses.

WWD: Who do you think are today’s role models?
F.L.: I think there are lot of people who are role models who shouldn’t be. All that people admire now is money or fame.

WWD: Do you think Lindsay Lohan will ever get out of this mess she’s in?
F.L.: No, you know she won’t. The reason? We’ve seen this a billion times. People don’t turn into different people. You can not wish things into existence. People go to jail and they come out worse. They don’t come out better.


WWD: Describe to me a perfect day.

F.L.: To me, a perfect day is a night.


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