Karl Lagerfeld's trademark dark sunglasses and low-slung ponytail render him arguably the most recognizable figure in the fashion industry. So it comes as no surprise that, when Stacey Caldwell and Ajiri A. Aki were searching for a protagonist to anchor their new fashion-forward parody book, they landed upon His Highness. Where's Karl ($9; amazon.com, or at select Barneys New York stores) is a stylish adaption of the Where's Waldo books, in which readers can search for Lagerfeld in exotic locations from Milan to Marrakesh, as well as his sartorially savvy cohorts, including Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, and, of course, his beloved feline companion, Choupette.
We caught up with authors Caldwell, the vice president of global wholesale for Thakoon, and Aki, a video producer, along with illustrator Michelle Baron at their book signing at Barneys in Midtown Manhattan to discuss their chic new project. Read on for the interview.
First off, why Karl Lagerfeld?
Caldwell: "We've always loved following Karl throughout our careers. In Paris, when we'd go to places like Café de Flore and Colette, we'd see him and get very excited. It triggered something in us that reminded us of how we felt searching for Waldo in children's books—that cat and mouse game. So we thought, How much for would it be to make a parody of the fashion industry where you're looking for Karl but you're also discovering other people along the way? He's without doubt the most recognizable fashion figure in the world."
Aki: "Karl is pop culture. He traverses a lot of boundaries, which makes him the perfect subject."
How did the three of you meet?
Caldwell: "Ajiri and I both went to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. Then we moved to New York and did our internships at the same time. I interned at Moschino and ended up working there for five years, and, for the past nine years, I've worked for Thakoon on the sales side."
Aki: "I interned at W and started working as a stylist and editor. Now I do fashion video production and curate my lifestyle blog, Manna Paris."
Baron: "They found me on Pinterest!"
What was the process of creating the storyline?
Aki: "We started out with cities that we know are fashion-centric, based on big events on the fashion calendar. Then we made Pinterest boards of each city with the location and what things would look like."
Caldwell: "Laying it all out was a really big task. Waldo went to so many places and the fashion industry moves as a pack, so you always see a lot of repetition."
What's your favorite cameo in the book?
Caldwell: "I love Thakoon and Lily Aldridge raiding the cash register in Hong Kong."
Aki: "I like Simon Doonan as a pirate in Paris."
Baron: "I loved him [Doonan] playing hopscotch in Miami."
How did you decide on Karl's outfit?
Caldwell: "We talked about whether we'd put him in all black or not, because he does change his wardrobe to gray sometimes, but we wanted to stay true to what people associate him with."
Baron: "Dressing him was a dream come true. After some deliberation, we decided to put him in black, with his signature white hair in a ponytail. What he's doing is different, but the outfit remains the same."
Aki: "He has a signature style. Waldo does too."
How long did the writing and illustrating process take?
Baron: "We started last August and submitted the final draft in February. It's been a long ride! But a fun one."