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William Klein: "There Are So Many Designers Jerking Off In The Fashion World"


Jerking off you Say? Like kachanel maybe?

WWD: William Klein on Fashion, New York and Photography

William-klein06WWD: What do you think of how widespread street photography has become today?
W.K.: We can learn from the works of an amateur photographer — Kennedy’s assassination, Los Angeles police who beat up Rodney King. It’s one way for us to know about things we otherwise wouldn’t. What’s very funny is when you see amateurs filming something, they do some things no professionals would dare to do. They instinctively do things that are very avant-garde and useful. What do I think? I think it’s a good idea.

WWD: What strikes you looking back at your fashion photography?
W.K.: In the late Fifties and early Sixties, I used to think that most of these fashion creators weren’t that great and if the photograph was good, it was mostly thanks to the photographer. The photographers had more talent than the designers — people like Guy Laroche or [Pierre] Balmain. [Cristóbal] Balenciaga was like a pope of couture. If I was assigned by Vogue to do a story on Balenciaga, it was a headache because he didn’t want the photographer, the model or anything outside of his creation to be the star of the operation. He would have these very ordinary models so they wouldn’t take away from any of the interest of the photograph. They were just there to put a suit or a dress on so you would concentrate on doing a portrait of the clothes and not glorify the gesture or allure of the model.


WWD: What interests you now in terms of fashion?
 There are designers who knock me out. Jean Paul Gaultier is full of ideas and is very funny. I’m not that much interested in genius inventions of fashion designers. I asked somebody in the fashion world, “What is Alexander Wang about?” He said, “Well, he used to do T-shirts and parkas.” Now for me, that’s enough. T-shirts and parkas — what else do you want? It’s like people taking photographs — there are so many designers jerking off in the fashion world, I could do without 99 percent of them. Bernard Rudofsky did a book a long time ago called “Are Clothes Modern?” For him, basic traditional clothes like the sari, the toga and Greek sandals were enough. Who needs all these so-called inventions? He did a show at the MoMA. He was really censored by the fashion world, by the people who said, “Oh this is good, this is bad.” There were people who were like icons — Christian Dior and [Yves] Saint Laurent. Saint Laurent did the safari and the tuxedo and was vastly applauded for that. But the safari existed and so he adapted the safari to women of his day. And the tuxedo you would see in a Marlene Dietrich film. A lot of the clothes that influenced were done in the movies.