‘Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
In loving memory of Karl. (1933 – 2019)
Prolific and astute, Karl Lagerfeld was the most iconic and beloved designer who captured imaginations with his relentless creative output for nearly four decades. A visionary who worked for Balmain, Patou, Chloé and Krizia, Lagerfeld was a modernist who detested museums but whose homes were reminiscent of the court of Louis XV. An avid lover of poetry, philosophy, Hellenic classics and silent films, Lagerfeld embodied what the French call joie de vivre. His particular personality made him a natural target to hang tags on: Darling Dictator, King Karl and Kaiser Karl. Often slammed as a mercenary and control freak by his competitors, Lagerfeld prefered a subtler summing-up, describing himself as an ‘intelligent opportunist’. Designing apart, Lagerfeld had a flair for irony, a witty sense of humor and an aristocratic charm. His passing marks the end of a fashion era, leaving Fendi, Chanel and his eponymous label in a wistful search for his successor.
When Lagerfeld arrived at Chanel in 1983, he made it a phenomenon of the eighties and, in turn, the most significant signature of both centuries. He reinvented the classic Chanel tweed suit with endless permutations, positioning camelia on a plain white vest, putting the ‘double C’ insignia on stilettos and boots. He cleverly added a sporty feel, branding the puff jacket, leggings and haversacks with the Chanel signature and thus capturing a new generation of customers. Steering Fendi for more than fifty years, Lagerfeld redirected the famed Italian fashion dinasty from an anonymous luxury brand into a high-profile maison with elitist connotation. His extraordinary inventions with the use of animal fur were often found controversial. However, despite shifting tastes and phases of political correctness, Fendi has remained immovable and one of the most sought-after signatures on the planet. His eponymous ready-to-wear and accessories line allowed him the freedom he needed to dip into the delights of both mass market and couture.
Karl Lagerfeld was more than a fashion designer. He redefined the fashion industry as we knew it. Understanding both high and low culture, his sharp wit allowed him to transform wardrobe in the most peculiar manner. ‘I don’t want to be real in other people’s lives. I want to be an apparition’, stated Monsieur Lagerfeld in the 2008 documentary ‘Lagerfeld Confidential’. Known for denying his own mortality and statements like ‘I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth’, when Lagerfeld left this world on February 18, 2019 at the age of 85, he left behind him an inimitable fashion legacy. His spirit will most certainly live on for centuries to come.
Au revoir, Karl.