Along with Lagerfeld's long-term and tempestuous companion Jacques de Bascher, Diane de Beauvau was a frequent figure at Karl Lagerfeld's at the height of his global glamour and fame. This aristocrat-of-a-thousand-lives was one of the most prominent figures of the golden age of 1970s international jet set and here, recalls to us those heady days of travelling the world with Karl and his famed parties, which were designed as well as his collections!
What were Karl Lagerfeld’s parties like in the ‘70s and ‘80s?
Often the evening started with Karl’s close circle gathering for an unbelievably luxurious dinner at his place: Jacques de Bascher, of course, but also Anna Piaggi, for example, if she happened to be in Paris. Then we headed for wherever the party was happening, in a procession of chauffeur-driven cars. We enjoyed ourselves with a form of carelessness that no longer exists today.
How carefully did he prepare his evenings?
He organised everything two months in advance, so that beauty and aesthetic would take precedence; but most importantly to please Jacques de Bascher. Karl left nothing to chance. He designed everything: the costumes for his close friends, the decoration, the magnificent engraved invitation cards... The parties that Karl threw evoked the refinement and perfection of the balls held by Louis XIV, but in a contemporary version.
What was his most memorable party?
I was living in New York City in the 1970s, so I didn’t attend many of them, but Karl told me all the details. In particular, I remember the Venetian ball organised at the Palace. It was one of the most extraordinary Parisian gatherings, held in a spectacular setting with costumes custom-designed for his close circle. The initiative for a celebration always came from Jacques de Bascher. If Karl liked the idea, he would orchestrate everything from A to Z; but if he disapproved, he wouldn’t arrange anything at all. Like an evening at the Main Bleue organised by Jacques and Xavier de Castella. Karl judged it tasteless and didn’t stay any longer than fifteen minutes.
In a totally different genre, he also cultivated a taste for Viennese classicism, right?
I accompanied him more than once to balls held in his honour in Vienna, either because he had attended a lecture on the Viennese Secession and Austrian palaces – subjects which he absolutely mastered – or because he had made donations. I remember that one evening opened with a waltz by Strauss, and he rose to the occasion. Those were the only times I saw him dance!
How did Karl reconcile his professional responsibilities and his night life?
That was the whole mystery of his character. If he was passionate about a subject, he could work on it 24 hours a day. He put all his professionalism and pursuit of beauty into the design of his collections and the organisation of his parties. He had an insatiable curiosity. He would gleefully set out from the Parisian studios of Chanel for an excursion in Rome with the Fendi sisters. He was a tireless workaholic who could wake up in the middle of the night and sketch out twenty designs.