The man was an icon. The prolific designer was the creative director for both Chanel and Fendi, as well as running his own brand. With the run down way he was looking recently, we must have known it was coming. But we weren’t ready. Yet here we are. Karl Lagerfeld dead this morning at 85.
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Legendary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has passed away at the age of 85. He began his career as an assistant to designer Pierre Balmain in 1955 and joined Chanel in 1983, where he spent a record-breaking 36 years. “I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth”, he once said. Photos: Charles Platiau + Dominique Charriau + Bertrand Rindoff Petroff + Pierre Vauthey + Pierre Guillaud
The man was unstoppable in his creativity and impeccable taste. In Chanel, maybe we didn’t get to see it as much, hidden behind such strict house codes. But at Fendi….his visions danced on fabric and fur. My eyes were first opened to high fashion by a small grouping of designers – Lagerfeld, Versace, Valentino, de la Renta. And of course, the romanticism of Coco Chanel’s story drew my attention even earlier than that, and so too Lagerfeld caught my unrefined eye at a young age.
I was anti-fashion for the longest time. I couldn’t understand why people would go out of their way to spend more money on different brands of clothing or jeans just because they had *that* particular name, but otherwise had the same cut, color, etc. It made no sense to me. You’re just paying for a name. And often that is the case. I won’t spend $800 on a t-shirt just because it has D&G on it. Extreme poor investment for brand flashing. 👍
But Lagerfeld is one of the first that introduced young me to the idea that high fashion is not at all about the brand; It’s about the artistry. The creativity. The craftwork. The signature codes the designer does so well, they are known for them worldwide.
What I do Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it’s up to me to update it. I do what she never did. I had to find my mark. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be, could be, what it had been to something else.”
Chanel was a hard label to take over and renew. Some said it was on death’s door and it couldn’t be revived. But I think in the end, Lagerfeld had completely refreshed Coco’s creation. And perhaps if Coco were alive she indeed would have hated the changes. But who knows? People change with time. I look back at some of the reviews that I wrote just three or four years ago, and I would have picked favorites differently. I would have had entirely different thoughts. People evolve. In general though, Lagerfeld kept the brand relevant and identifiable as Chanel, and I think that’s ultimately what was important.
Fendi. Ah, Fendi! I can’t imagine a Fendi without Lagerfeld. And though I’m not a fur kinda girl, his creations at Fendi (which has moved toward faux fur, btw) has been inventive and covet-worthy, with a steadfast following. While Fendi’s sets weren’t as grand as Chanel’s (Karl shared the helm with Silvia Venturini Fendi), they were often dreamlike. My favorite was hands-down the Trevi Fountain clear plexiglass runway, which looked like the girls were often walking on water. They were celebrating the brand’s 90th anniversary, and the couture looks matched the level of grandeur in the setting. So. Amazing.
I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that. It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”
And his namesake collection lends to his sense of humor and playfulness, creating graphics of pop art like the Tokidoki collab, and his Ikonic line – I mean who doesn’t love the little caricature version of Karl with a giant bobble style head? Plus it’s much more accessible than the other brands.
Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die and it’ll all be finished. I’m lucky to work in the most perfect of conditions. I can do what I want in all kinds of areas. The expenses are not expenses. I would be stupid to stop that. Work is making a living out of being bored.”
He worked at his brands up until just about the very end. He was out and about, involved in shows and events just a matter of weeks before his passing. I did note that he looked a little run down recently, but…the guy was 85. Lagerfeld just looked tired, and it was apparently his time. Karl Lagerfeld’s death, while it may not be surprising, will leave a big impact. I will miss his contributions to this world. He remarked that his work was to bring smiles and to make people happy. It may seem small, and young me would have agreed. But not anymore. With all the ugliness in the world out there, much like an artist, you don’t have to own a single thing made by Karl Lagerfeld to allow his work to make you smile.
RIP Karl Otto Lagerfeld
Sep 10, 1933 – Feb 19, 2019