They may be fabulous, but fashion designers are also weird as hell. Sometimes their quirks lend themselves to exceptional talent, unfaltering creativity, and a diligent work ethic. Other times, all they do is make us giggle and shake our heads in disbelief. In honor of tonight’s Season 11 premiere of Project Runway — a show packed with contestants who are always entertaining, if not necessarily talented — we decided to take a look at ten of fashion’s most eccentric designers, and their respective peculiarities; we’re betting that judging panel newbie Zac Posen will be thrilled to see that he didn’t make our list!
Roberto Cavalli recently told Harper’s BAZAAR about wearing himself by day and sleeping naked, his likeness to Marilyn Monroe, both of his Twitter accounts — one just isn’t enough — and his family of pets, including German shepherd, Lupo (pictured above), a cat, an iguana, a blackbird, parakeets, and aquariums of exotic fish. “I used to have a small tiger and a monkey but not anymore,” he told the magazine. “The monkey was mean.” Perhaps he just didn’t like wearing Cavalli’s petwear.
Punk’s fairy godmother Vivienne Westwood must be excruciating to interview. She wouldn’t let Interview’s Tim Blanks ask her any questions until she had her chance to rail against climate change, apparently the sole reason the designer even sits down with reporters. Unrelated (but awesome): Westwood wasn’t wearing any knickers when she accepted her OBE from the Queen.
When the Guardian’s Hadley Freeman turned up in a pair of Converse to interview Christian Louboutin, the legendary shoe designer made no attempt to feign modesty. He’s not phased when Madonna wears his shoes. He pulled a Jonathan Franzen and refused to show up on Oprah for a special dedicated to his shoes. And when the designer agreed to make a Louboutin Barbie in 2009, it was on the condition that Barbie’s “fat” ankles be whittled down. When Freeman asked him whether he really said that, he replied, “Yes… The ankle was a bit straight and there’s nothing more pretty than a very curved ankle. So I said to them, the one thing that could really give her perfection is to give a curve to her ankle… It’s not like she’s going to suffer for it.” Quel charming!
The rags to riches story of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel never gets old, and has been cause for a movie, while her love life has inspired another of its own. Known for such gems as, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all” and “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” Chanel’s virtually every teen girl on Tumblr’s favorite person to quote. And she continues to cause a stir even after her death, with 2011’s revelation of her possible connection to the Nazi party.
British designer Mary Quant ruled supreme on the 1960s London fashion scene. She invented the miniskirt and christened the hotpant, raising hems — and eyebrows. The designer was also known for her dramatic hairdo, courtesy of friend Vidal Sassoon (pictured above with the designer). Quant remains a fairly controversial figure today — and frankly, a rubbish role model — having spoken with especial candor about being model thin. She also told the Guardian that she loves vulgarity. “Good taste is death, vulgarity is life,” she said. Later, she rather elusively says, “Pornography is great if it’s good,” and, by way of explanation, adds, “Good pornography is erotic but pleasing. Only ugliness is obscene.” But we thought you said good taste was death.
The late Alexander McQueen might have been one of the most eccentric — and innovative — designers of our time. McQueen had a flair for blending fantasy with fashion, creating gorgeous and wholly impracticable clothes combining unconventional materials, like bird feathers, crushed beetles, and human hair (including his own locks). He also had outlandish ideas of beauty – “I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it,” he once said — and often spoke of death: “I oscillate between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and evil.” We thought McQueen’s hauntingly beautiful 2011 exhibit at the Met captured the essence of his split personality perfectly.
The head designer of Chanel is known for sporting his signature glasses, his love of his cat, Choupette, and that comment about Adele — after which the world hated him, and for which he apologized by sending her Chanel bags. But earlier this week, Lagerfeld might just have redeemed himself by closing a show with two Chanel brides, backing the French gay marriage law. Other noteworthy quirks include his notorious Diet Coke obsession — he told Harper’s Bazaar that he drinks ten cans a day, and strictly no hot drinks, which he finds “very strange” — and he’s very particular about his pajamas. Lagerfeld said he sleeps in “a long, full-length white shirt in a material called poplin imperial, made for me by Hilditch & Key in Paris after a design of a 17th-century men’s nightshirt I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum.” Slight upgrade from Cavalli’s sleeping habits – or lack thereof.
Now vice president of Versace, Donatella’s had quite a life (and more than her fair share of plastic surgery). Yet Versace also seems to have a sense of humor — or is very good at pretending she does — as she laughs at Maya Rudolph’s SNL skit parodying her. Versace’s been quoted as saying, “I like perfume and flowers” (yes, that qualifies a quote, apparently) and “I don’t like balance. Balance is not a word you can use in Versace fashion.” Which explains a lot, really.
Ever an advocate of angular, sharp-cut shape and goth style, Sunderland-born designer Gareth Pugh’s used to turning heads on the runway with his designs. He’s also modeled before, posing with Agyness Deyn for a Mario Testino Vogue shoot. And he took a break from clothes to design a portable bar for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Pugh’s known to be something of a party-hopper and offered this delightful tidbit from his archive of party stories: “I ended up at the Met Ball and found myself having a fag with Christian Slater in the toilets while David Beckham took a piss at the urinal. The toilets there are a real superstar clusterf*ck. I just couldn’t work out why I was there.” Whatever, who hasn’t had a smoke in the loo with Christian Slater before?
Shoe maestro Manolo Blahnik’s a passionate man, with a razor-sharp wit. He told Glamour that he doesn’t “give a damn about trends,” and once professed that he didn’t need formal training, because he had such good taste. When asked who he finds charming, by the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley, he quite adorably responded: “Do you know who I think looks wonderful? In Bath, there is a woman who always passes by my house. She wears twinsets, and usually a tweed pleated skirt. Not terribly expensive but good quality, and she always looks just perfect. To me, that’s fabulous.”