Some might expect Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel and Fendi, to be intimidating. The Paris-based designer, with his signature black gloves, skintight pants and sunglasses, is considered one of the most influential people in fashion as a designer, craftsman and general tastemaker.
In reality, he laughs often during interviews, doesn't take himself too seriously and jokes as he shows off his iPhone case, which features a sketch of Lagerfeld on the back.
This more laid-back style reflects Lagerfeld's latest project, an affordable women's fashion line designed for Macy's. The collection includes tweeds, dresses, shirts and shorts, and ranges in price from $50 to $170.
"This is a composition of different looks for different hours of the day, different lifestyles," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "It is a collection of elements a woman should play with."
AP: Why did you want to design a more affordable line?
Lagerfeld: I collaborated with H&M before and was the first to do it. I think there is something very modern to do that. It is very limiting to be only the one who does high fashion. Fashion is high and low, and low isn't low today anymore.
AP: With designers doing more affordable lines, is high fashion more democratic?
Lagerfeld: Yes, but you know, Macy's is a very famous department store. I see it with a European view. In the past, department stores made designers in America. Now, things have changed with the Internet and the big shops. All of it is different. But, for me, it was interesting to do that as I did H&M and also the business we start which is a business about less expensive clothes because I can't compete with Chanel and Fendi because I do already the most expensive there. I do work in the future with Macy's, too. I know the people from Macy's. It was a very pleasant thing to do and for me it is interesting to do both sides.
AP: What do you consider beautiful in fashion?
Lagerfeld: What we thought was beautiful 10 years ago, we like a lot less today. It is very difficult to put it into words. The designer should shut up and do his work. People should see what they want to see in the clothes and not what the designer tells you because I can tell you all kinds of stories totally unrelated and it may sound very clever, but I prefer not to.
AP: Why is affordability important to you?
Lagerfeld: That is what I like best about it. Today's things are not expensive. I never said cheap. That is an awful expression. They should be well designed. It is a challenge to do that price range. I see it like a challenge.
AP: How do you decide what challenges and projects to take on?
Lagerfeld: What I am doing is already quite a lot, but I manage. I am pretty quick. I have great people to work with. The good thing is that it is not that complicated to me. It seems normal. I don't know how I could do it differently.
AP: What is your favorite part of the job?
Lagerfeld: The favorite part of the job is the collection in terms of the fashion. It is an important part to go and do things and take photos, but the result is the most important. The way to get to the result is the most pleasant. I publish books because I publish books, too. For me, there is no important and unimportant part because everything and every moment should be important.
AP: You have been very public about your weight loss. How do you maintain it?
Lagerfeld: There is no secret. You don't eat too much. You have somebody who takes care of what you are supposed to eat, what you are not supposed to eat. I have a doctor who tells me "eat this and don't eat this." Apparently it works because it has worked for 10 years and I haven't changed. It must be the right diet if you call it the right diet. I would call it the healthy, right way to eat.
AP: How is this collection different from the one you did for H&M?
Lagerfeld: H&M was seven years ago. Things are different after seven years. I forgot what I did for H&M. I remember what I did for Macy's because it is recent. I am very creative, in my own world. I prefer not to remember because I have to go ahead.
AP: Is there a designer who is your heir apparent?
Lagerfeld: I don't judge people, never, ever, no. So, you know, I design collections but I am not supposed to know who will wear them or where they will go. Someone says, "Oh yeah, the woman I design for is very pretentious." You are supposed to design for everyone. There was a French designer who said, "I only design clothes for a clever woman." He went out of business.
AP: What else do you want to do?
Lagerfeld: I do little movies, but I have no time to make a real movie. You know, to do what I do in the conditions that I can do it is already the top of luxury, so I should not be too demanding. Give a few jobs to the others.
Alicia Quarles is the AP's global entertainment editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/aliciaquarles