Luxury is what makes the world go round, and France is still top of the game, Karl Lagerfeld said Thursday at the opening of a celebrity-studded photo show devoted to Chanel's little black jacket.
"There is a French touch that shows immediately," said the white-haired German designer, who has all of Chanel's clothes made in France -- with the exception of shoes in Italy and knitwear in Britain.
"For now we are still unbeatable, but it is a battle," he told AFP when asked about emerging market competitors snapping at the heels of the French and European luxury sector.
"If I don't defend French luxury then I might as well leave," he quipped.
"Luxury is stuff that nobody needs but it has a huge advantage: people want it. And people will make much more effort for a desire than for something they more or less need," he said.
Chanel's creative director Karl Lagerfeld poses before the opening of his photo exhibition entitled "Little Black Jacket" at the Grand Palais in Paris. Luxury is what makes the world go round, and France is still top of the game, Lagerfeld said.
"Luxury is elitist, but what matters is to sell, and we shouldn't worry too much who we are selling to," he said. "Throwing money out the window is the only way to get it coming through the door."
"Luxury works. It keeps people in jobs."
From Uma Thurman to Kirsten Dunst or a pregnant Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lagerfeld photographed a Who's Who of glamour for a book published last year to fete the little black jacket created by Coco Chanel in 1954.
Turned into a travelling exhibit, the show is in Paris from November 10 to 25, to coincide with a month-long photography festival, after Tokyo, New York, Taipei, Hong Kong, Sydney, London and Moscow, with Berlin and Seoul to come.
The London show alone drew some 160,000 visitors.
Lily Allen and Kanye West joined the likes of fashion designers Haider Ackermann, Riccardo Tisci and Alexander Wang in modelling 113 varations on the jacket -- kitted out as geisha, vamp, nun or punk rocker.
Pictures of Japanese artist Yoko Ono are displayed in Paris during the opening of a photo exhibition entitled "Little Black Jacket" by Chanel's creative director, Karl Lagerfeld. The project, which was the brainchild of Lagerfeld and ex-Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld, began with a coffee table book.
Yoko Ono, dancing in a vintage black top hat, gets her own series of six shots.
A former French Vogue editor, who teamed up with Lagerfeld for the project, poses as Gabrielle Chanel.
And US Vogue's priestess of style Anna Wintour, snapped from the back, is instantly recognisable from her trademark bob.
One half of the house's iconic suit, the tweed jacket, was designed by Coco Chanel to "fit like a second skin".
To get a perfect fit, Chanel would get her clients to cross their arms when measuring them up. A brass chain was positioned at the bottom hem, concealed by the lining, to ensure "it always hung just so," says the house.
Lagerfeld separated it from its skirt, pairing it in the 1980s with jeans, with dresses, swimsuits, even knickers -- updating the cut with slimmer sleeves and narrower shoulders.