Designer Lagerfeld calls French president "idiot" over taxes

Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:14am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has accused President Francois Hollande of destroying France's economy by imposing painful taxes on the rich, calling the Socialist leader an "idiot".

The creative director of French fashion house Chanel, whose clients are largely the wealthy who stand to be most affected by Hollande's tax hikes, likened the president to Spanish Socialist former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"This idiot will be as disastrous as Zapatero was," Lagerfeld said in an interview with the Spanish edition of glossy fashion magazine Marie Claire published on Friday.

He added a famously blunt celebrity voice to criticism from business leaders at tax rises Hollande is slapping on companies and the wealthy in trying to reduce France's big public deficit.

Officials at the Elysee presidential palace were not immediately available for comment.

Hollande has aimed to avoid increasing the already weighty tax burden on low- to middle-income households in his 2013 budget but is struggling regardless with approval ratings that have slid to as low as 41 percent from above 60 percent when he was elected in May, replacing conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.

Lagerfeld, known for eccentric comments and unconventional looks, and a darling of rich fashionistas who snatch up Chanel's pricey creations, said the rich were being singled out by Hollande, who has set a 75 percent income tax on with an annual income of at least one million euros ($1.31 million).

"It's a disaster. He wants to punish (the rich) and of course they leave and no one invests," he said. "Foreigners don't want to invest in France and that's just not going to work."

Business lobbies say that, rather than raising taxes, the government should be easing the heavy labor charges limiting the competitiveness of French companies and contributing to a surge in unemployment above 10 percent.   Continued...

German designer Karl Lagerfeld appears at the end of his Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2012/2013 fashion show for French fashion house Chanel in Paris July 3, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier