Resurfaced Karl Lagerfeld ‘diet culture’ quote sparks backlash after new Chanel business move

A Chanel pop-up “diner” without any food has raised eyebrows, as many people have called attention to designer Karl Lagerfeld’s controversial comments about diet culture.

This week, it was announced that the French fashion label would be opening an old-school diner in Brooklyn, New York, to celebrate the launch of its Chance Eau Fraîche perfume. What was once the Wythe Diner, located at 225 Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, will be renamed the Lucky Chance Diner from 8 to 10 September.

But don’t expect any diner food staples to be served at the pop-up restaurant. Instead, the immersive experience will include small, Chanel-branded treats and refreshments.

As news surfaced that Chanel’s Lucky Chance Diner will not be serving classic American diner cuisine, like burgers and fries, many people were quick to note that the food-less menu would most likely receive a stamp of approval from Chanel’s late creative director, who had his own controversial opinions about food.

In an Instagram post shared by popular fashion watchdog Diet Prada, the account resurfaced an infamous quote once uttered by Lagerfeld himself. “I never touch sugar, cheese, bread,” the German designer said. “I only like what I’m allowed to like. I’m beyond temptation. There is no weakness.”

“When I see tons of food in the studio, for us and for everybody, for me it’s as if this stuff was made out of plastic,” he said. “The idea doesn’t even enter my mind that a human being could put that into their mouth. I’m like the animals in the forest. They don’t touch what they cannot eat.”

Unsurprisingly, many people took issue with Lagerfeld’s past comments, and found it very fitting that Chanel would open a pop-up diner without actual diner food.

“No sugar, bread or cheese? What a sad existence,” commented one Instagram user under Diet Prada’s post.

“That quote is berserk,” another person said.

“Thinking about the menu and all of a sudden I’m not hungry,” a third user wrote.

This isn’t the first time Lagerfeld has been deemed problematic, notably for his fatphobic and body-shaming comments and controversial opinions about the MeToo Movement, migrants and LGBTQ rights. For example, when he was asked in 2012 whether he had a responsibility to hire size-inclusive models, the German designer said: “There are less than one per cent of anorexic girls. But there are zero in France, I don’t know in England - over 30 per cent of girls [are] big, big, overweight. And that is much more dangerous and very bad for the health. So I think today, with the junk food in front of TV, it’s something dangerous for the health of the girl. The models are skinny, but they’re not that skinny. All the new girls are not that skinny.”

Although Lagerfeld claimed that he would “never touch sugar,” many people pointed to the 2001 “Karl Lagerfeld Diet” - which saw the designer lose more than 90 pounds as a result of a personalised diet plan created by Dr Jean-Claude Houdret. In his diet, Lagerfeld reportedly drank 10 cans of Diet Coke a day.

“I drink Diet Coke from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed,” Lagerfeld said, according to Women’s Wear Daily. “I can even drink it in the middle of the night and I can sleep. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t drink tea, I drink nothing else.”

Despite his controversial opinions about food, Lagerfeld famously transformed the Grand Palais in Paris, France, into a supermarket for Chanel’s 2014 autumn/winter Paris Fashion Week runway show. The shelves were stocked with faux Chanel-branded products, with everything from “Jambon Cambon” ham to camellia-festooned rubber gloves.

At Chanel’s Lucky Chance Diner, patrons can go on a “personalised scent discovery” to explore the brand’s new fragrance free of charge. The pink-and-green themed space will feature Chanel’s recognisable round perfume bottles on every surface, along with matching dining booths, countertop seating, napkin holders, clocks and other paraphernalia bearing its signature logo.

Customers will also be able to participate in interactive activities, such as selfies with a life-sized bottle of Chance perfume and a fragrance window to purchase Chanel perfumes.

The Lucky Chance Diner is open to the public for three days, from 11am to 7pm, beginning 8 September. Chanel is offering limited 30-minute reservations here, but walk-ins are also welcome.