Who’s that Bond villain stroking a cat and yelling at beloved public figures? It’s Karl Lagerfeld! This week, Mike and Aubrey go in on fashion’s favorite turbo troll and his fancy, joyless diet. This episode serves four.
Mike: This is the only knowledge I have. Welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast where skinny jeans never died.
Mike: Is that a thing, because that’s what he wears?
Aubrey: It's good, it's good.
Mike: That's my only fact.
Aubrey: He calls them skinny suits-
Aubrey: -which is very funny.
Mike: I'm Michael Hobbes.
Aubrey: I'm Aubrey Gordon. If you would like to support us on Patreon, you can do that at patreon.com/maintenancephase. Our current episode is an awards show for the best and mostly worst of wellness and weight loss in 2021. And if you want to buy t-shirts, or mugs, or tote bags, or any of that kind of stuff, you can do that at TeePublic and both of those things are linked for you in the show notes.
Mike: Today, we're talking about, wait, a Frenchman, a Swiss man?
Aubrey: Oh, my God, we're going to get into this. This is exactly what he wants you to think.
Mike: Is he like Nutella where everybody thinks it's from their country?
Aubrey: Yeah, [laughs] that right.
Aubrey: Yeah, we're talking about Karl Lagerfeld and the Karl Lagerfeld Diet.
Mike: Famous friend to fat people, Karl Lagerfeld.
Aubrey: [chuckles] What do you know about Karl Lagerfeld?
Mike: I mostly know about him from you every once in a while, ranting about how much he sucks.
Aubrey: Yeah, he really does.
Mike: He's a very famous fashion designer. God, I'm out. That's it. He's a really famous fashion designer.
Mike: I was going to say he designed the costumes for the Fifth Element, but that's Jean-Luc Picard or whatever the guy's name is.
Mike: I'm not a fashion guy.
Aubrey: Yeah. I'm not a fashion lady for the most part, but I will say Karl Lagerfeld worked for-- he was the creative director of Chanel. He worked for Dior.
Aubrey: And he very famously lost about 90 pounds and then released a Diet book under his name called the Karl Lagerfeld Diet.
Mike: Fashion people giving diet advice as always.
Mike: It's a fraught area, I'll say that.
Aubrey: So, shall we dive in?
Mike: Dude. Yes.
Aubrey: Have you seen Karl Lagerfeld? That's the first thing we should talk about.
Mike: Yes. He looks like David Lynch in my brain.
Mike: He's like a normie-looking dude, until you get to his hair. And then his hair is like the shock of bright light poofed up Louis, the XIV hairstyle. I don't think I've ever seen him before the weight loss. So, all the images of him that I've seen are this thin. Oh, my God. Okay. Yeah, you just sent me an image. Holy shit.
Aubrey: In this picture, he is wearing a cravat, he's wearing a black suit, a white shirt, giant sunglasses, he is holding his cat-
Mike: Holding his cat.
Aubrey: -and he's wearing leather gloves. I'm down in Los Angeles with my family, and my mom came in the other day and was like, “What are you working on?” And I was like, “I'm researching an episode on Karl Lagerfeld.” She went, “Who?” I showed her a picture and she went, “He looks like a Bond villain.”
Mike: That's what I was going to say because he's in some sort of private jet situation. He's got a Venetian blind on an airplane window behind him. He just looks like a very thin, wealthy socialite guy.
Aubrey: And a super fucking gay.
Mike: I mean, yes.
Aubrey: Deeply gay.
Mike: I was like, “Who's going to mention it first? Me or Aubrey?”
Aubrey: It's going to be me.
Mike: The most glaringly obvious thing about is the photo. This is a blatantly gay man, it's fine but that is, I think, the human response to this photo. [laughs]
Aubrey: So gay, so gay.
Mike: That’s a very gay man. Yeah.
Aubrey: In pulling together a bio of his, it was difficult to do, not because there hasn't been a lot written about him, but because he was known to lie about a lot of things about his background.
Mike: Also, lying about random stuff in your life for no particular purpose, also very gay in my experience.
Aubrey: Yeah, he would tell people that his mother was Elizabeth of Germany, as if she was like a noble woman or aristocrat or royal or something. He was known to lie about his birth year. He was known to lie about his nationality.
Mike: I have had men on dates lie to me about their SAT scores. I'm like, “You're 37. [Aubrey starts laughing] Who do you think you're impressing with this? I don’t care.” Actually, that's our culture, that's representation.
Aubrey: In reality, confirmed by government records, he was born in Hamburg in September 1933. His father was named Otto. He owned an evaporated milk business. His mother was not “Elizabeth of Germany.” She was a lingerie sales woman from Berlin.
Mike: She was of Germany, that part is truth.
Aubrey: She was of Germany, and her name was Elizabeth.
Mike: I am Mike of Columbia City, that’s technically true.
Aubrey: [laughs] Yeah, I guess I'm Aubrey of Forest Grove.
Mike: That actually sounds royal, so lean into that.
Aubrey: He had two sisters and we have a little clip of him talking about his childhood.
Aubrey: We're going to watch about a minute of this.
Interviewer: Karl, can I take you back when you were growing up in a town very close to Denmark, in Germany? I just would like to ask you a little bit about your childhood.
Karl: My childhood was very [unintelligible [00:05:47] but I only wanted one thing, to get out of here, and to be grown up. I hated to be a child that’s why I could speak English, German, and French when I was six. No, I had a nice childhood in a period when the world was not that great. Nothing I can say against. I'm not still recovering from an unhappy childhood. No, everything was perfect. I never played with children. I only was sketching and reading. It was in a country estate, quite isolated. No, I didn't even have anything to do with my sister and half-sister. I always was isolated from the rest of them. I was in the best of terms with my father and even better terms with my mother, who thought it was perfect like this as long as I was not creating trouble.
Mike: It's kind of a rich text.
Aubrey: Tell me.
Mike: He's in a country house, so he's very wealthy growing up, but he's also very isolated. But it sounds like from his description that he's self-isolated, that he doesn't feel like he's a native of the place where he's growing up. He isn't on bad terms with anybody. It's not an abusive childhood. It's simply one that he wants to escape.
Aubrey: That is how I took this clip as well. And then I read his biography, and I was like, “Nope. Incorrect."
Aubrey: He describes this as “perfect childhood.”
Aubrey: What he does not mention is that he's born in fucking Germany in 1933.
Mike: This is Nazi Germany when he's growing up.
Mike: And then post war destroyed Germany when he's a teenager.
Aubrey: Uh-huh. According to his biography, this is called Kaiser Karl. It was a good little read. He distanced himself from Germany and his German heritage, starting in his teens. He would tell people that he was from an aristocratic Swedish family, or people would guess that he was Dutch and he would just not object. Even when he was ordering German food in France. He lived in France for his whole adult life. He would order them using the French words for German foods.
Mike: He was calling them freedom fries before we were calling them that.
Aubrey: He also says in this that he's on good terms with his father and maybe even better terms with his mother. Every anecdote that I have found or read about his mom is a little bit funny, like 5% to 10% funny, and 90% to 95% devastatingly cruel.
Mike: Oh. What are some of them?
Aubrey: According to him, she never went to one of his shows. And when he asked her about it, she said she just liked other designers better.
Mike: Whoa, fuck.
Aubrey: In a book of his called The World According to Karl, he said that his mother said, “I'm going to have to take you to the upholsterer. Your nostrils are too big. They need curtains.”
Mike: Oh, God.
Aubrey: He also wrote in the Karl Lagerfeld Diet, where he said, “She did go on a diet after my birth. From that moment on, I was always held responsible for her weight. She used to say jokingly that I had killed off her youth and beauty.”
Aubrey: Funny joke, mom.
Mike: She also seems to be displaying the kind of acid wit that you've seen a lot of gay men, including Karl Lagerfeld.
Aubrey: Yeah, this is the kind of frigid mother that people were being told [crosstalk] [unintelligible [00:09:03] in the gay kid. And, in this case, for whatever roll of the dice happened, it really matched it.
Mike: Yeah. [chuckles] It really did. It turns out that pseudoscience is correct. If your mom is mean, you will be gay.
Aubrey: Yeah. In the 1950s, he moves to Paris. He's in his late teens and early 20s, his father bankrolls his lodging, his clothing, he buys him a Mercedes, all kinds of stuff. And Karl Lagerfeld moves into the world of fashion alongside Yves Saint Laurent, who became a really close friend and sometimes sort of rival of his. In 1954, he won the International Woolmark Prize, which was very prestigious at that time in fashion. The judges were Balmain and Givenchy.
Mike: It's pronounced de Givenchy, but go ahead, it's fine.
Aubrey: [chuckles] By the late 60s, he started working for Fendi and was hired on to modernize their fur line, an extremely 60s statements. He worked at Fendi for the rest of his life. He was there until he died in a sort of part time role. In 1983, he added another job when he became the creative director of Chanel, where he stayed for 36 years.
Aubrey: It was about 10 years after the death of Coco Chanel and people saw the brand as one that was sort of on its way out. And he took the brand in a new direction. He started doing ready-to-wear stuff from Chanel, which it had not done before, and really was credited with reviving the brand.
Mike: It's like how Abercrombie & Fitch with some weird hunting brand. And then in the 90s, they were like, “Let's move over to gay baiting.” And then it became this massive sensation.
Aubrey: [laughs] There you go. There is some writing about his design at this time. Vanessa Friedman with the New York Times described it as, they had all of these designers who were speaking exclusively with their own voice and had very strong perspectives. And that the appeal of Karl Lagerfeld was that he could be this kind of chameleon and he could go to different brands and go, “Okay. The key thing about this brand is this kind of look, and I'm going to take it to the next level.”
Mike: Oh, so he's like the J.J. Abrams, [Aubrey laughing] they bring him on and he's able to speak through this existing property.
Aubrey: All of his designs had a lens flare, yes.
Mike: Wait, can we look at some designs? I want to look at some dresses.
Aubrey: Do you want to?
Aubrey: I didn't pull any designs.
Mike: Let's Google together.
Aubrey: Sure. Oh, my God, I found a stunning one.
Mike: Send me the ones that are speaking to you.
Aubrey: Here you go.
Mike: I'm quivering in anticipation.
Aubrey: [blows raspberry] [chuckles] This is just a whole post that's like, “Here's his career in fashion.” The first one is a Chloé design, I'm very into it.
Mike: Oh. You mean the one where the woman is in a business suit type of thing?
Aubrey: Was that show in 1983? Yes, it was.
Mike: Wow. Yeah.
Aubrey: Shoulder pads, power blazer, short hair.
Mike: It's a lady wearing a man's blazer and nothing under it, essentially.
Aubrey: With a pocket square.
Mike: Ooh, yeah and a pocket square, yeah. The next one is like pinstripes with a corset.
Mike: It's a dog collar, but it's a dog collar with piano keys on it.
Aubrey: And then do you see the next one down? The electric guitar dress?
Mike: [laughs] All right, swing and a miss, Karl. [laughs]
Aubrey: Not for me.
Mike: Oh, there's a little black dress with just waves of sequins on it.
Aubrey: Little embellished.
Mike: And then--
Aubrey: Okay, I'm into this.
Mike: This is some royalty shit. It's a white bridal, like a wedding dress, but a tight white dress. And then she has this-- God, how would you even describe it, Aubrey? It's like a coral reef on her shoulders.
Aubrey: It is totally like a coral reef on her shoulders. That's exactly right. It's this structured cape that kind of balloons out, and it has sort of a sweetheart neckline to it, which is also fascinating.
Mike: Ooh, yeah.
Aubrey: Has a widow's peak in the middle.
Mike: Okay, then the next one down is like black leather, I think it's kind of boring. And then the next one is just like nipples poking out.
Aubrey: There you go, 1994 nips on the runway.
Mike: Oh, wow. Okay, and then this is something like Africa inspired kind of cringe [crosstalk]
Aubrey: Oh-huh, Karl.
Mike: -appropriation stuff.
Aubrey: “Tribal inspired.” Vaguely African. Yeah.
Mike: Then, we're back to sort of normal office wear.
Aubrey: Scroll down to the Chanel bikini.
Mike: Oh, my fucking God. Okay. Now we're back to the weird da-da shit.
Aubrey: [laughs] It's like tiny yarmulkes.
Mike: Yeah. [laughs] Little tiny half dollar size moons on a bikini over somebody's breasts. And then this lady, there're so many pelvic bones. I haven't seen this many pelvic bones in years. Another bridal dress. I sort of see what you mean in that there isn't like a Karl Lagerfeld look. I don't know that there's an aesthetic that is running across all of these looks.
Aubrey: Yeah. Not when he's designing for other brands. He also launched his own brand.
Mike: Ah, okay.
Aubrey: But yeah, he's sort of a shapeshifter here.
Aubrey: In his fashion shows, he courted controversy throughout his career. In the 60s, he made a big splash at one point by designing the shortest miniskirts that had hit the runway, which in the 60s was a big going concern.
Aubrey: In the early 90s, he used an Italian porn actor as a model for one of his shows.
Mike: What's wrong with that everyone?
Aubrey: Ask Anna Wintour, she walked out.
Aubrey: He had this incredible storied career in fashion. He died a couple of years ago in February of 2019. He was 85 and he died of pancreatic cancer. Before we dig into his public comments, I did want to talk about a couple of parts of his legacy. He has a weird pop culture legacy. He voiced a character in Grand Theft Auto.
Mike: Of all the three-word phrases, I didn't think I would hear in this episode, Grand Theft Auto.
Aubrey: [laughs] What part of that weird imprint that he has left on the world, is his relationship with his cat. In that first picture that I sent you, he's holding a cat. His cat is named Choupette. He was completely and utterly devoted to this cat.
Aubrey: One year after getting her, he designed a whole collection around this pale cornflower blue, which was the color of her eyes. In 2013, he told CNN, “There is no marriage yet for human beings and animals. I never thought that I would fall in love like this with a cat.”
Mike: Ah, slightly inartful wording, there's probably a better way to put that.
Aubrey: No, because he then went on to say, “Yes, I would marry my cat if it were legal.”
Mike: It's like, “Oh, so what you really mean is,” and he's like, “No, no, literally. I literally mean this.”
Aubrey: “I am in romantic love with my cat.”
Mike: [chuckles] “Let me clarify.”
Aubrey: it is estimated that at the time of his death, he was worth between $200 and 270 million.
Mike: Is he one of the people that left all of his millions to his cat in his will?
Aubrey: Oh, Michael, why would you spoil it this way?
Aubrey: So, that's the rumor.
Mike: Oh, okay.
Aubrey: She definitely has her own bank account that has been confirmed. There is a cat bank account.
Mike: Wha-- Argh.
Aubrey: She has a pet agent.
Mike: [chuckles] I'm uncomfortable with this.
Aubrey: She has two assistants. She has a bodyguard and she has a personal chef.
Mike: Every rich person who leaves their money to their cat, the estate tax goes up by 5%. How's that?
Mike: You guys as a group, you're losing your privileges.
Aubrey: Yeah, this is the reverse of like, you can have a pet when you've proven you're responsible enough to take care of it.
Mike: Prove you're not making society worse. Sorry, guys.
Aubrey: That's Karl Lagerfeld's life in theory broad brushstrokes and his cat's life in even broader brushstrokes.
Mike: And his cat’s life.
Aubrey: The thing that I would say, I know Karl Lagerfeld for best as someone who's not necessarily like a deep fashion person is, as a public figure, and he said, not just controversial things but over the top, racist things, deeply anti-fat things, astonishingly misogynist things. We're going to take a little tour. I'm going to send these quotes to you. I apologize in advance, but I think it will also be fun.
Mike: This guy sucks.
Aubrey: I'm going to start us off a little easy.
Mike: Okay. Level one problematic.
Aubrey: Level one. Here you go.
Mike: “If I was a Russian woman, I'd be a lesbian. Russian men are really not very good looking. There are a few handsome ones like Naomi Campbell's boyfriend but there you see the most beautiful women and the most horrible men.” Yeah, that's like a level one, it's bad.
Aubrey: Yeah. It's mostly just like, “Why would you say that?”
Mike: Yeah, it's like pointlessly mean.
Aubrey: Here is another one for you. This is, I don't know, level two, level three.
Mike: All right. Now, we've bashed Russian men, what's the next group we're [chuckles] going to take down?
Aubrey: Fat moms, that’s who.
Mike: Oh, my God. Ah. “You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly. The world of beautiful clothing is about dreams and illusions.” It's just again though pointlessly mean.
Aubrey: Yep, that's right. He also said in that same interview, “No one wants to see curvy women. I'll tell you who begs to differ and that is pornography websites.”
Mike: Yeah. That's also [crosstalk] accurate, just empirically inaccurate.
Aubrey: It's just not true.
Aubrey: Also, I think quite a bit of the stuff that Karl Lagerfeld did and said in the press was just stating how things work in the fashion industry. He would talk about not wanting fat people to wear his clothes because nobody wants to look at them. But also, none of the other couture houses were designing anything for plus sized people. I don't think any of them do now, aside from occasional stunt casting in runway shows, he was just saying it out loud, and that was the part that people often responded to. I have a mixed reaction to all of this. He says these terrible things, and he gets held accountable, but also, an unintended side effect of that is that he becomes a scapegoat, and he sort of walks away with the impression that other designers are somehow better because they're not saying it in the press.
Mike: Right, because the other houses, if you ask them, why don't you have plus sized people in your shows, they would give you some euphemism bullshit, “Our brand has a particular look, and our traditions go back a long way. And this is what we're called,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Aubrey: Takes a lot of effort to become size inclusive, and we want to be sure that we're doing it right, so we're not ever going to do it.
Mike: Whereas if you're just like, “Yeah, I don't like looking at fat people because fat people suck.” That's basically their belief. They're just saying it in this completely different way or making excuses.
Aubrey: In addition to all of that, he in the press said that Adele was, “A little too fat.”
Mike: Oh, fuck off.
Aubrey: And then he apologized to her and said his remarks were taken out of context because he was really talking about Lana Del Rey, famously too fat.
Mike: It's just a really immature way to be a public figure.
Mike: Also, these kinds of quotes attract more journalists because they know they're going to get good quotes out of you and they know that they're going to get clicks on their stories and attention on their stories, because you're not saying something boring and anodyne.
Aubrey: And it's a minimum of three stories. It's like you say something fucked up about a person or a community, that person or community responds, and then you respond to their response.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: So here are a bunch of those. I'm just going to do some quick hits of personal insults.
Mike: Lightning round.
Aubrey: Lightning round. He said, “Heidi Klum was too heavy and has too big a bust to be a runway model.” He said that Kate Middleton was a romantic beauty but that he didn't like Pippa Middleton's face and she should, “only show her back.”
Mike: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: He said that Lady Di was, “so pretty and so sweet, but she was stupid.” And about Seal, Heidi Klum’s then partner, he said, “I am no dermatologist, but I wouldn’t- [crosstalk]
Mike: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: --want his -skin, mine looks better than his. He is covered in craters.”
Mike: Why? This is middle school stuff.
Aubrey: It's nonsense. He also picked a fight with Meryl Streep, which is maybe--
Mike: I'm going to go after Adele, Seal and Meryl Streep. [laughs]
Aubrey: Just throw in Beyonce. It's bananas. He told Women's Wear Daily that he'd been working on an Oscar's dress for Meryl Streep. But that one of her reps called him and said that he didn't need to anymore because they found someone who would pay her to wear the dress. In Women's Wear Daily, he said, “A genius actress, but cheapness also, no?” He later said that he misunderstood and that wasn't true, but that was after the interview went out. Meryl Streep released a statement saying that he had “defamed her” and the designer that she chose.
Mike: It's just dick behavior, it's just dick behavior.
Aubrey: Total dick behavior. We are now going to move into extremely bananas racism.
Mike: Okay, so now we're problematicness level to this like USDA Choice prime problematicness.
Aubrey: Yup. This is a photoshoot that he did with Claudia Schiffer in 2010.
Mike: Oh, well. Ooh, that's okay.
Aubrey: Yellow face and black face.
Mike: Yeah, it's a black and white thing, sort of like passport photos, and it's different look. One, she's like office lady, and one, she's Marie Antoinette and then in one, she's like an Asian lady and then the other one, she's like a black lady. [unintelligible [00:23:50] She has an afro and some black face on.
Aubrey: It's not great.
Mike: It's pretty bad.
Aubrey: In addition to that, he said this about Michelle Obama.
Mike: Okay. I was just going to say after he went after Adela, Meryl Streep, I was like, “Who's next? Michelle Obama? Like what other beloved public figure [laughs].
Aubrey: I mean here it is. I'm so sorry that I'm making you read this.
Mike: Oh, God. It says, “My favorite line of Mrs. Obama is when a journalist asked her if she thought her skirts were not too tight and she answered, ‘Why don't you like my big black ass?’ This is a line I admire. She got me with that. That's not a real quote.
Aubrey: Please read the next quote that I just sent you.
Mike: Oh, okay. “Kristina Schake, Director of Communications for First Lady Michelle Obama released a statement regarding Lagerfeld comment saying, ‘Mrs. Obama never made that statement.’
Mike: He fabricated an event in which a black lady said, “Why don't you like my big black ass?”
Aubrey: Either, this is something he invented whole cloth from a deeply racist brain or it's an anecdote that somebody else told him and he believed it with a deeply racist brain.
Mike: Also, Michelle Obama's skirts aren't too tight. The whole premise of the story doesn’t make any sense.
Aubrey: It's weird. She dressed beautifully, I think, but generally pretty conservatively as First Ladies tend to do.
Aubrey: We are now moving in to the industrial strength clear the room shit.
Aubrey: In 2017, he said, a thing that is a little bit confusing, but definitely both deeply Islamophobic-
Mike: Oh, no.
Aubrey: -and deeply anti-Semitic. In France, he's talking about Angela Merkel, who he was not, not, not a fan of, mostly around her immigration policies, which he thought were too lax and too permissive and that Germany was losing its sense of self. This is a common argument amongst the far-right in Germany. Yes.
Mike: Yes, she allowed in roughly 1 million Syrian refugees in a country of 80 million people.
Aubrey: I'm so sorry for making you read this.
Mike: Here we go. “One cannot, even if there are decades between them kill millions of Jews, so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in the place. I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian, and after four days said, ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.’” Holy shit.
Aubrey: He's saying that young Syrian was saying that the greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust. But also, he's fucking saying it.
Mike: This is something you see in a lot of reactionary rhetoric. They’ll be like, “Oh, it's not me. Its Syrian refugees hate Jews. Syrian refugees hate gays.”
Aubrey: This is the Dave Chappelle trans people bullied my trans friend into dying by suicide.
Mike: Yeah. He's using a minority group to stigmatize another one.
Aubrey: Yeah. After this talk show appearance where he says this, he also drew a political cartoon that was published in a magazine in Germany. It showed Hitler thanking Angela Merkel.
Mike: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: Well, Merkel says, “What have I done?”
Mike: That's not even a good joke, that’s not even a political cartoon.
Aubrey: It is a magic trick rhetorically speaking to be like, “What if people who support people of other races and ethnicities are the real Nazis?" What about that?
Mike: That's why everyone hates Hitler because he was nice to minorities.
Aubrey: Okay. Are you ready for more industrial strength?
Aubrey: Karl Lagerfeld had some things to say about a model setting boundaries. We'll start there.
Mike: He says, “I read somewhere that now you must ask a model if she's comfortable with posing, it's simply too much. From now on, as a designer you can't do anything. If you don't want your pants pulled about, don't become a model. Join a nunnery. There's always a place for you in the convent.”
Aubrey: Neat. After he said that, Rose McGowan called for a boycott of Chanel, which I'm just like, “Sure, I will continue to boycott Chanel, I guess.”
Mike: [chuckles] Real social justice warrior here. Aubrey has never bought [chuckles] clothing from Chanel.
Aubrey: It's really interesting as I read these quotes and as I reread them after having read his biography, I was just thinking about how if you have a parent who is as intensely judgmental and rejecting as his mom was, I could see how you get to, “What are you complaining about? I never complained. I had to deal with all this shit and I just figured it out.” That's not an uncommon response. I came to think of him as a guy who never had a chance, but also never wanted a chance.
Mike: This is also a challenge, I think, to social progress in some way, because there's always a population of people who lived during the time that you're trying to change. Something like spanking your kids. When you're saying, “Well, spanking your kids is bad, and people probably shouldn't do it anymore.” There's this massive population of tens of millions of people who are like, “Well, I got spanked.” Yeah, that's what we were trying to change.
Aubrey: Correct. That's the problem.
Aubrey: Michael, I have a little tiny palate cleanser for you.
Mike: Okay. Thank God.
Aubrey: I have a fondness for sweat pants.
Mike: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: I don't know how you feel about sweat pants.
Mike: In them right now.
Aubrey: Delightful. Well, you'll be glad to know what Karl Lagerfeld has to say about sweat pants.
Mike: Oh, yeah. [laughs] He says, “Sweat pants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweat pants.” That's true.
Mike: In my case, it's absolutely accurate. I take back everything I said about him previously. [laughs]
Aubrey: Anyway. So that's the public legacy of Karl Lagerfeld. I'm so sorry.
Mike: It is deeply embarrassing that the fashion industry didn't drum this guy out years ago. It's always so weird to me when industries hold on to figures like this for so long as if they are so irreplaceable.
Aubrey: Can you just get someone who doesn't really say anything publicly about Hitler, except he's bad.
Aubrey: Okay. Are you ready to dig in to the Karl Lagerfeld Diet?
Mike: Book time. Yes.
Aubrey: First things first, I am going to pull up a picture of the cover. Have you seen the cover of the Karl Lagerfeld Diet?
Aubrey: Here you go.
Mike: Ooh, skinny jeans times. Skinny jeans and boots.
Aubrey: Bootcut jeans over the boots.
Mike: Is that what bootcut means? They're supposed to go over your boots like them?
Mike: They're like skinny jeans that end in bell bottoms. It looks insane. He has like galoshes on.
Aubrey: It looks like they're spats. It looks like he's wearing denim spats.
Aubrey: I'm not into it. This book was released in 2002 in Germany, in 2005 in the US, so it's also like a different--
Mike: Yeah, it was a different time. Wait, is he a short king?
Aubrey: He is not. He's 5’11”.
Mike: I thought he was one of my people, but also he's a huge racist, misogynist.
Mike: So, I don’t actually want him in my team. It says the Karl Lagerfeld Diet, but then, I guess, the author it says Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret.
Mike: So, Karl Lagerfeld didn't write it?
Aubrey: He did not write it nor did he design the diet. He went to this doctor and he said he wanted to be “a perfect clotheshorse at 132 pounds and 5’11”.
Mike: Wow, that's thin.
Aubrey: That is thin. That is what we are seeing on this cover, presumably, is that weight. He lost 92 pounds in about 13 months, is his claim doing this diet. What he doesn't talk about very much publicly is that he started putting on weight when his partner died.
Aubrey: His partner was named Jacques. He tested positive for HIV in 1984 and died in 1989. In his final days, by all accounts he self-isolated quite a bit and only allowed Karl to visit him. And Karl had an extra bed or cot put in his hospital room so he could stay around the clock. This is potentially to be linked that's like major traumatic event.
Mike: It's also so frustrating to me that people can go through experiences like this, and somehow not pick up empathy along the way. If you've gained weight after a traumatic event, you'd think, okay, zooming out, obviously, this person is going to have more empathy of fat people. No.
Aubrey: It's so rough to read about it because you're like, “Boy, oh, boy, my heartbreaks. That's a horrible, horrible experience.” And then after that is when he started all of his media trolling shit.
Aubrey: I read the entirety of the Karl Lagerfeld Diet. It was fun at times and mostly just an astonishing waste of my time.
Mike: Did you make any recipes?
Aubrey: I'd made no recipes because I don't have rabbit to braise at my house. It is so fancy and so French and still so joyless. [Mike laughs] The book itself is Karl Lagerfeld branded, but it's written by Jean-Claude Houdret. There are two different forewords, one written by each of them. They take totally different tacts. Jean-Claude Houdret's is all about the obesity epidemic and how a diet like this will help fight it and save society from what he sees as individual's bad choices. He talks about how fatness didn't use to be a problem in France, but now French women are eating like Americans, so they're getting fat like Americans. And he also seems he's going to be compassionate about it for a minute. Here's what he has to say about fat people in that foreword.
Mike: Oh, no. He says, “Overweight people who are more and more numerous are paradoxically the unloved of our time. They are rejected, sometimes insulted, discriminated against, and they have more difficulty than others in finding work and their place in society. If they don't end up isolating themselves, they find themselves isolated by others.” Weight bias, it's a problem.
Aubrey: It's a problem. That's why you got to get thin, definitely don't make things better for fat people, just get yourself out of there.
Mike: I love the thing where they just mention weight stigma in these books and then just like do nothing with it.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's right.
Mike: Just like fat people are stigmatizing as anyway, here's how not to be fat and why fat people suck.
Aubrey: And how are you going to die. Karl Lagerfeld, meanwhile, is entirely about vanity.
Aubrey: And it is absolute fucking word salad.
Mike: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: This is a longer quote that is a moment where I kind of appreciate him for being honest with readers about where he's coming from.
Mike: It says, “If you attach no importance to weight problems, if not being able to wear new, trendy small sized clothes does not cause you any regret, this book is not for you. Health reasons are an excellent motive for losing weight and for some they are truly vital. But if you are lucky enough not to need to go on a diet for such reasons, there's nothing to stop you from pretending to others that health is indeed your motivation. In order to avoid having to explain to them that your true deeper motives have nothing to do with health.”
Aubrey: At least it's not disingenuous.
Mike: Actually Aubrey, how do you feel about this? About people who do food restrictions, exercise, whatever they're like, “I want to have a six pack. I'm going to spend the next six months doing that.”
Aubrey: With all of this stuff, people get to do whatever they want with their bodies and if they want to pursue bodybuilding, or weight loss or whatever, go to town. I don't particularly mind, I do feel often people are not in touch with their actual motivations for doing stuff like this. People who go, “I'm doing this for my health,” and I'll go, “Oh. Is there a particular health condition?” "Is there something and they're like," “No, I just need to get healthy and I don't look healthy.” I would honestly prefer in that case that they just go, “Look, man, I feel like I'm fatter than I want to be.” I personally have a preference for that because then at least it's honest and I can meet them with my own honesty and say, “That's fine. I don't really want to hear about it. Is that okay?” We're all in the honesty together.
Versus, if you say to someone who's doing this amorphous, I want to lose weight “for my health” broadly. If I then say, “Hey, I don't really want to talk to you about this.” This person will often then have an outsized reaction of like, “Don't you care about my health? Don't you care that I'm doing something good for myself?” The blowback is much greater, I find when folks are less honest and grounded about it with themselves.
Mike: Well, also, one of the problems with the health disguise that a lot of this vanity stuff wears, is that it then implies a universal rule that everybody has to be thin because thin is healthy. Whereas you could defend the “I want to get a six pack” thing as, “Well, yeah, you have a goal for yourself.” It's the same way, like, I want to be able to run a 10k by the end of the year. I don’t really care if anybody else runs a 10k. I'm doing this as a hobby. Hopefully, maybe it's potentially not going to push them to be shitty to other people who don't have the same goal.
Aubrey: Yeah. But it also plays into the idea that this is a public act of moral rightness. That is a social interaction that I have no desire to participate in. I have no desire to congratulate people on the accident and privilege of their health. I have no desire to participate in a conversation that devalues a body like mine and lifts up bodies that I have never had and that have always been lifted up. That's the part that is hardest for me, is not what other people do with their bodies. It's how they want to engage me.
Mike: There's also, I guess, the argument that focusing on your own vanity distracts you from who is creating the standards of vanity, because another thing that he could do, I mean, if he's acknowledging the reality in the fashion industry, he will lose standing as a fat person. One reaction to that is like, “Well, I should lose 90 pounds.” Another reaction to that is like, “Well, the fashion industry should be more inclusive of people who aren't 90 pounds skinnier than me.”
Aubrey: Karl Lagerfeld have a fuck ton of power. What would it look like to try to create change? I was going to say he might have done that and we didn't see it. But then I was like, “He definitely didn't fucking do that.”
Mike: He definitely didn’t do that. He drew a Hitler cartoon. Even with the thing of like, “I'm trying to get a six pack by January 1st,” there is the question why does that open opportunities for me that I wouldn't have otherwise, because that then begs the question, who doesn't have those opportunities?
Aubrey: Yeah. I think that's right. I also think he leans really fucking hard into, dieting is a process, whereby you can make yourself who you really are.
Mike: Oh, don't-- Now, he's ruining it.
Aubrey: Here's a quote for you.
Mike: Argh. “It is a lie to think that appearance does not matter in this day. It allows you to live in harmony with yourself. A diet does not need to be a philosophical explanation nor all those excuses behind which people often feel the need to take refuge. A diet can help us discover or define our real personality. We are what we used to be, not what we have become. It is often possible to go back with a new beginning, a different and encouraging one.” This is fucking Marianne Williamson. This is refrigerator magnets just jumbled up, put onto the fridge. This is soup. I don't even know what he's talking about.
Aubrey: I don't totally understand, I'm pretty sure, I fully deeply disagree. I don't think that diets help people discover their real personalities, for example. I just sent you the last couple of lines of that quote. It was three times as long and 10 times as incoherent at the start.
Mike: But that also indicates that he doesn't actually know why he's doing this.
Aubrey: He does say about the diet itself and about dieting. He says, “For me, a diet without complicated instructions is not a diet. It has to be a sort of punishment, something that you have to do even if you haven't imposed it on yourself.”
Mike: It just has to suck forever.
Aubrey: It does. Also, in this foreword, he says that he expects to, the way that he puts it is that he “needs to” follow this diet for the rest of his life.
Mike: I mean, again, it's honest.
Aubrey: That seems to be the headline with this book.
Mike: There are numerous studies that people that have taken off weight, significant amounts of weight and kept it off. The main through line is ongoing restriction, never ending restriction, and a ton of exercise. Hour, two hours a day exercise, like forever.
Aubrey: Or, in the case of like, people who are on The Biggest Loser, four to six hours of exercise a day, and you still regain weight.
Mike: You just have to be hungry for the rest of your life.
Aubrey: Should we talk about what the actual diet is?
Mike: Oh, yeah, give me recipes. I want to make rabbit.
Aubrey: It is called the Spoonlight Program. No joke, they don't even start discussing the diet itself until page 82.
Mike: Nice. That's like us in this episode.
Mike: I approve.
Aubrey: There is so much book before there is diet. The diet is basically just a very low-fat, low-calorie diet. There's no red meat. There's no alcohol. Karl Lagerfeld also says that it's helped him to stay on the diet by knowing that if he wants to eat something, he can just put it in his mouth and then spit it out.
Mike: Isn't that like some anorexia shit? Isn't that like an eating disorder then?
Aubrey: A lot of what we're going to talk about is not great. The diet has unlimited Diet soda, which was good for Karl Lagerfeld because he reportedly drank 10 Diet Cokes a day.
Mike: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: But also he was sponsored by Diet Pepsi.
Mike: Oh. [laughs]
Aubrey: One reporter put it, “endless capsules.” You have to take a multivitamin. You have to take Spirulina. You're supposed to take ginseng. You're also supposed to have multiple protein sachets each day. Would you like to know where you can get the protein packets and the supplements?
Mike: Oh, God, is it on the Champs-Elysees, like one shop in Paris that sells these things?
Aubrey: No, it's a French business called Laboratoires Sunrex. Would you like to know who the chief medical adviser is for Laboratoires Sunrex? Is it Jean-Claude Houdret? Yes, it is.
Mike: Oh, yeah. So, he's promoting his own products. [laughs]
Aubrey: The diet itself is also really fucking confusing if I'm honest. There are three different levels, but he doesn't really say like who's supposed to do which level. Level three, you can do for several months, he says. That's 1200 to 1600 calories a day. Level two, which is where Karl Lagerfeld spent most of his time. You can do for several months with medical supervision, that one's 1000 to 1200 calories per day. Level one is 800 to 900 calories per day and he says you should only do that one for two to three weeks.
Mike: I mean, you'll lose weight.
Aubrey: You sure will.
Mike: Can't stick to it very long, you'll be miserable and grumpy and you won't get any work done.
Aubrey: He also says on this diet you are not supposed to get exercise.
Mike: [laughs] That's such a weird fashion industry thing too, because you don't want to have muscles. You want to be just reedy and thin, so clothes hang on you. You don't be like buff.
Aubrey: It's even better than that. There's a quote for you.
Mike: Oh, God. Okay. It says, “It is unreasonable to ask someone on a diet to undergo any specific exercise regime. Firstly, because you have to really wear yourself out to burn calories. And secondly, because exercise runs the risk of making you hungry. To sum up, a little more walking and taking the stairs instead of the elevator won't do you any harm. But forcing yourself into action won't do you any good. Where physical activity is concerned, there's only one rule, do what you feel like.” That's what we say.
Aubrey: [laughs] I just love that, he's like, “No, no, you can't fucking exercise, because when you exercise, I don't know if you know this, you get hungry.”
Aubrey: But then, he also includes this whole list of things that burn calories. He says you can burn 140 calories an hour by painting a room, 130 calories an hour by sewing, 280 calories an hour by playing the piano, and 160 calories an hour by shopping.
Mike: That's just walking. I don’t know why shopping is any different than walking. But these all sound fake.
Aubrey: It's totally fucking fake. But I love that he's like, hypothetically, if someone who did this diet, maybe someone who's on the cover of this book wanted to do a bunch of sewing and shopping, you can burn some calories doing these things.
Mike: This is how much Karl Lagerfeld’s hobbies, burn calories.
Aubrey: He talks about side effects, hunger and fatigue, and constipation, and all of this sort of stuff. And he's like, “But that'll all stop if you just follow the diet correctly.”
Mike: That's not true.
Aubrey: Yeah. [chuckles] It's wrong.
Mike: This is the primary monomyth of diets, is that you'll reach some sort of plateau at which point this restriction gets easier but the restriction gets harder.
Aubrey: Your body fights back. Yes.
Mike: There's never a point at which on 900 calories, you're like, “Ooh, I don't feel hungry anymore.” It's like your fucking hair starts falling out in clumps.
Aubrey: He also says that you might start feeling cold all the time. And I'm like, “Yeah, I bet. That's your body shutting down.”
Mike: You're near to death, yes.
Aubrey: And he says, “You might have some hair loss and you might lose your period. Both of those things are reversible. Don't worry about it.”
Mike: Super sustainable, once you become incapable of reproducing, then you'll be fine.
Aubrey: Are you ready to hear about some recipes and meal plans?
Mike: Ooh, yeah, give it to me.
Mike: Give me the [unintelligible [00:46:33]
Aubrey: Here's the recipe for salmon salad that is in the cookbook. You take a head of escarole, one small celery root, two tomatoes, two hard boiled eggs, eight ounces of smoked salmon and a vinaigrette, and at the end of that recipe it says, “serves four.”
Mike: [laughs] I was opening my mouth to be like, “That’s not that bad, Karl.”
Aubrey: [laughs] I know I was like, “Oh, I'm in,” and then I was like, “fucking served.” Everyone gets two ounces of salmon.
Mike: It's also the idea that I would invite people over [crosstalk] to experience his misery with me.
Mike: Like, “I'm hungry and sad. Come join me.”
Aubrey: “If you don't like this, I do have some protein sachets that might interest you.” He has a confusing one and a half egg omelet.
Aubrey: One of the recipes is four carrots, eight ounces of green beans, eight ounces of peas, two stalks of celery, salt and pepper and unflavored gelatin. End of recipe.
Mike: You're just suspending vegetables in jelly, like Alien Resurrection?
Aubrey: Sure. I think it's for the person who goes, “You know what, this plate of vegetables looks good, but it doesn't have enough hooves in it.”
Mike: I want this carrot suspended.
Aubrey: Those are most of the recipes. Again, some of them are really lovely. It's a lot of classic French cooking, but stripped of a lot of joy and cream and butter and all that kind of stuff. There's like a low fat, French onion soup, which makes me sad.
Mike: I mean, so many of these things are literally just like, how do I take the joy out of a normal recipe?
Aubrey: The last major chapter in the book is called “Slim, Attractive and Fit.” And it's all about plastic surgery, skincare products, and dietary supplements, all of which you can get from Laboratoires Sunrex.
Mike: Of course.
Aubrey: They talk a little bit about who the diet is for. Jean-Claude Houdret says it is for people with a BMI of over 25. An “overweight” or “obese BMI.” If your BMI is under 25, he says like, “Sorry, you shouldn't do this diet, but you can have liposuction and I do happen to perform liposuction.”
Mike: Oh, so the whole thing is this dude marketing his clinic.
Aubrey: 100%. This book is just like cash grab after cash grab after cash grab. Every recommendation for a supplement is like, “You can get that at sunrex.com.
Aubrey: It is fully like a 20-page product catalog at the end of the book.
Mike: That's disappointing.
Aubrey: Sorry. That's the point in this episode when you get disappointed.
Mike: Now I'm livid. Everything else has been fine.
Aubrey: I will say there has been press in the last few years as people have dug this up. But at the time, there was a writer for the New York Times who decided to try the Karl Lagerfeld Diet and wrote about it.
Mike: And then they died. [laughs]
Aubrey: It's a really good, funny straight up takedown. She talks about doing the diet and how the protein sachets have to be mixed with a blender. She talks about taking a whole last fucking blender into the offices of the New York Times. By day three, on the diet, she starts describing parties as “Busby Berkeley scale” fantasy sequences of denial.
Mike: She can't have any snacks because she's only doing 900 calories a day.
Aubrey: She can't eat shit.
Aubrey: She said that she did the diet for two weeks and lost five pounds.
Mike: That's probably dangerous.
Aubrey: Probably not great.
Aubrey: The way that she describes it, it's like a cartoon where someone watches a person turn into like, a turkey leg or like a cupcake or something. As this diet book is resurfaced, it's out of print now, it's hard to find. I paid an inordinate amount of money for the copy that I have. So don't do it.
Aubrey: Yeah, it was like 60 bucks.
Mike: No way. Wow.
Aubrey: It's out of print and it is in demand.
Mike: But you're losing five pounds every two weeks, sustainable, keep on it. [crosstalk]
Aubrey: [chuckles] I'll just do this for 10 more years and then I'll be in my BMI recommended [crosstalk] weight.
Mike: Do you have a theory of what actually happened? Because I'm thinking that this doctor went to Karl Lagerfeld, and was like, “I want to write a book promoting my product. Let me slap your name on it.”
Aubrey: That feels very possible. Karl Lagerfeld also talks in press and in the book about how a bunch of people think he just had weight loss surgery.
Mike: Oh-kay. Interesting.
Aubrey: That to lose 90 pounds in 13 months is really significant. There's no real evidence either way. This thing about like Dr. Houdret created this diet for Karl Lagerfeld is just patently false. That just seems like, “No way. I don't buy it.”
Mike: Also, it seems like it's a text written by this random doctor and Karl Lagerfeld wrote a totally incoherent foreword, but it's not clear that Karl Lagerfeld had any other creative input into this book at all.
Aubrey: Yeah. I think that's probably true. He wrote the foreword, which is four pages of just gobbledygook nonsense.
Mike: It's only four pages long.
Aubrey: The four pages might actually be generous. I think it's like three and a half. And he provides these little quotes that are three sentences in each chapter. And they're highlighted in these little pullout boxes. So, you're like, “Oh, here's what Karl Lagerfeld has to say.” And then, it's fucking terrible nonsense, again.
Mike: And he might not even have written those or the forewords.
Aubrey: Yeah, that's right. So, there you have it. I will give the final word to a nutritionist with cooking light, who wrote this, about the Karl Lagerfeld Diet in 2019. Bottom line, this is really just another quick fix diet plan that worked for a celebrity and it's very likely to be hard to implement for the average person living an average life. It's a tabloid, it's not a way to live.
Mike: I actually think the whole thing is ghostwritten by Karl Lagerfeld’s cat.
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