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Karl Lagerfeld Says Fame Turned Him Into A Cat Person

“With dogs you need a country house and you have to walk them in the street and I cannot walk in the street anymore, I’m too easy to recognize. And Choupette is the most beautiful cat in the world.”

Benoit Tessier / Reuters

Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette has two maids, an iPad, and a roster of fashion magazine photo shoots to rival that of top models. But just a few years ago, she didn’t even belong to Lagerfeld.

At a benefit in his honor to support Lincoln Center on Wednesday night, Lagerfeld was interviewed by Jessica Chastain, who pressed him on his beloved feline. “Choupette in fact wasn’t mine,” he explained. “A friend of mine got Choupette when she was a few months old and he had to travel and he asked if I could take care of her. When he came back two weeks later, I said, ‘I’m sorry, Choupette will stay.’ He got another one.”

Lagerfeld used to have dogs, but his rising fame, paired with iPhone-wielding fans, he said, have made that too much of a nuisance. “With dogs you need a country house and you have to walk them in the street and I cannot walk in the street anymore, I’m too easy to recognize. In the age of cell phones, it’s not a pleasant thing to walk in the street.”

“Cats are very easy to keep because they’re so clean,” he added. “And Choupette is the most beautiful cat in the world.”

Chastain then asked him how he’s been influenced by the cat, a question he said he’d rather not answer — analyzing one’s influences, he thought, seemed too close to marketing.

“It’s always difficult to analyze an influence,” he said. “Perhaps she helped me to become a nicer person. Because there’s something very touching about her.”

He also rebuffed a question about his pajamas — the world, sadly, may never know what Karl Lagerfeld wears to sleep.

Even if he wouldn’t interpret the effects of his influences, he was happy to rattle off a few of his favorite things: Emily Dickinson, political cartoons (he draws his own but “they have to circulate ‘under the coat’”), Honoré de Balzac, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (“I couldn’t sleep for three weeks after I saw it because it was so frightening”), Virginia Woolf, paper (his “favorite material”), and Rainer Maria Rilke. He has a collection of 300,000 books, of which he reads 10 at a time, in three different languages.

“There are so many things I like that one life will never be enough for everything,” he said.

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