Time passes, revealing details like the receding tide. I can see Karl so clearly—the fastidious way he held his glass of Coca Light, or rippled his fingers through the air as if he were playing the piano when he “love, love, loved” a piece of music or a book I had read that he had given me. We do not change, even if age etches us differently, and the first time I met Karl feels like yesterday.
It was in the mid-’90s, at one of his notorious parties thrown during Fashion Week for everyone who interested him, any rising star entering the galaxy of his vision. John Galliano had been invited along with some of his team, including me [Harlech worked with Galliano as a stylist and collaborator]. We felt like naughty children in the gilded splendor of his tapestried rooms at 51 Rue de l’Université—l’hôtel Pozzo di Borgo. I was wearing a bias-cut skirt of paneled diamonds of mousseline that looked like stained glass, and was conscious that I was being looked at from across the room—Karl had a penetrating, fixed gaze from behind a pair of large dark glasses and was seated at a round table in one of his elegant Louis XV chairs. The party thronged around him—moths to the flame, scattering and regrouping at the flick of his fan, dancing across Aubusson carpets thick as moss below candle-lit chandeliers.
Were we summoned—or did we just gravitate toward Karl through the dancers holding glasses of Champagne aloft? My impression was of an emperor at the height of his powers, possessed of an electrifying force that could scan the potential in everyone he encountered. Some time later, when he knew I was struggling with divorce and a difficult contract, he was both courteous as velvet and intelligently generous. “I want to help you,” he said.