This past February, the world of fashion and design lost a legend. Karl Lagerfeld has had an immense impact on the fashion industry throughout his lifetime. His enigmatic persona, combined with his cutting edge approach to style is what attracted the world to him and his work. Shortly after Lagerfeld’s death the most trending tweet on Twitter was a link to a New York Times article along with the quote “I am very much down to earth. Just not this earth.” Lagerfeld was known for his odd yet captivating statements like those. Throughout Lagerfeld’s life he also had a history of racist comments which made his life very controversial. Lagerfeld had an immense visionary talent which led him to expand beyond fashion and dive into illustration, photography, styling and publishing.
Lagerfeld was fourteen years old when his wealthy family allowed him to to move to Paris. He studied drawing and history. After two years of living in Paris, his immense passion for design lead him to submit his sketches to a competition held by the International Wool Association. He submitted a design in the coat category and won. Yves Saint Laurent also submitted a design and won the dress prize. This started a lifelong competition between the two. Lagerfeld’s coat got produced by the designer Pierre Balmain and Balmain hired him as an assistant at age 17. Lagerfeld later on became an apprentice. It was a very demanding and time consuming job that he took for the first three years of his career.
Karl Lagerfeld at the Secrétariat International de la Laine (International Wool Association) in 1954. (Image credit:Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images )
Throughout his career, Lagerfeld worked with countless major designer fashion companies, making a legacy at each and every one. He was known for his aspirational, relevant and cutting-edge approach to style. The majority of his designs were very trendy, which made him stand out amongst other designers. For example, he designed a fabric mix sweatshirt with the look of a jumper over a collared shirt. It is a bright turquoise colour and has slits in the sleeve and a collar on the neckline, giving it a trendy modern feel, combining high fashion with laid back street style. His pieces were often out of the ordinary, and included a casual feel to them which many people enjoyed and appreciated.
In the early 1980’s, he took on a project for Chanel where he re-vamped the brand with a “ready to wear” line. Due to his work with the brand, he was later labeled Creative Director at the house of Chanel in 1987. In 1994, Lagerfeld released his own label which consisted of bold and unique everyday clothing items, ranging from cardigan jackets, t-shirts and skirts. Despite his new clothing line he was still collaborating with Chanel and Fendi. Lagerfeld also designed a line for Chanel in 1994 that consisted of baggy clothes such as bucket hats, baggy trousers and denim. This line was seen on the Chanel catwalk featuring supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. In 2005, Lagerfeld sold his label to Tommy Hilfiger.
In 2000, Lagerfeld lost 42 kilograms which completely changed his image and look. He lost the weight from a self-imposed diet which included eating tuna and blackberry mousse. He also published a book while going through this experience called The Karl Lagerfeld Diet. Lagerfeld got inspired to lose this weight because it gave him trouble with fitting into certain clothes. Specifically a Dior suit, designed by Heidi Slimane that was created to only fit the slimmest frames.
Karl was also known for some extremely harsh comments made about other famous people who he thought were overweight. He told Metro Paris in 2012, that Adele was “a little too fat but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice.” This side of Lagerfeld leads people to believe that his death is the death of an era. His views on plus sizes and inclusiveness weren’t very positive. He told Focus magazine in 2009, “No one wants to see curvy women.” He got a lot of criticism for his views. Karl’s views of what a sophisticated, chic woman can look like may have become out of step with the times.
In 2004, Lagerfeld got asked by one of fashion’s biggest retailers, H&M to create a collection. He had always worked with luxury brands and then he designed a whole line for a fast fashion retailer. Needless to say, the entire collection sold out instantly. In 2004, Jorgen Andersson who was H&M’s marketing director at the time, said said, “We’ve been operating this business for some 60 years and we’ve never seen anything like it.” A month after his collection launched in, H&M reported that their sales worldwide went up by 24%.
Lagerfeld wasn’t afraid to take on projects that weren’t in his comfort zone, yet he was still able to impress the public. Later on in his career, Lagerfeld chose to branch out and take in interior designing projects. In 2016, he designed two incredible suites in the Hotel De Crillon. The fine detail of this suite such as marble bathroom which includes marble walls, floors and bathtub is what gives it such a luxurious feel. The marble design makes the room look so different yet it is still so simple because there are no other designs or textures other than the marble. It is paired with a grey cushion chair for the vanity and a simple diamond chandelier. He also designed a 6-star, 290-room hotel in Macau in 2017 which had a much more classy and simple look then the hotel room in Paris. The shape of the paneling on the walls give the room an extremely luxurious feel. Lagerfeld kept everything quite simple for that room and added some accents such as the colourful pillows on the bed or the colourful sofas throughout the room.
Lagerfeld has made an impact in the industry. From re-designing Chanel with his “ready to wear” collection, to creating a collection for H&M which sold out in the first day it was launched, he somehow always created trendy pieces that were different but were easy enough to incorporate into everyday wear. He has definitely created a legacy that has changed fashion throughout the years and revolutionized all of the brands he has worked with.
Alain Wertheimer, CEO of CHANEL, said, “Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of CHANEL’s success throughout the world.” “There will never be another like you, my dear friend, and you will be truly missed,” wrote Kris Jenner.
He passed away peacefully on February 19th, at his home in Paris.
Image Credit:Wikimedia Commons/Siebbi