Karl Lagerfeld could be described as a man with many talents. He was a creative director, fashion designer, photographer, artist, and self-proclaimed caricaturist. However, he may have been best known for his position in Chanel as creative director from 1983 and Fendi since 1965 until his current death. In his later years, Lagerfeld was easily recognizable with his white hair, black sunglasses, high collars, and fingerless gloves, and outspoken personality. Although he was not highly regarded by everyone, his impact on the world of luxury fashion will not be forgotten any time soon.
Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born on September 10, 1935 in Hamburg, Germany. He reportedly disliked his childhood. His father, Otto Lagerfeld, moved his family and him to a small town. He was different and didn’t to fit in a school wearing his suit and tie. His mother, Elisabeth Lagerfeld, is where he attained his quick-spoken nature. Her words and actions shaped who he would become. While answering his mothers questions, the answer “…had to be quick, and it had to be funny. If I thought of something ten minutes later she would slap me.” Because of his unsettling childhood, he fled to Paris, where he ended up winning a coat design competition that had been sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. With this recognition, he became the assistant and apprentice of Pierre Balmain, a French fashion designer.
As Lagerfeld worked and studied even more, he became associated with names such as Jean Patou, Tiziano, Chloe, Charles Jourdan, Krizia, and Valentino. His love and expertise for high, luxury fashion flourished. He was recognized and hired by Fendi in 1967 to update their fur line, introducing rabbit, squirrel, and mole pelts. Lagerfeld was never truly admired for his own clothing line, rather, he was recognized for the improvement and modernization of already-existing lines.
About a decade after the death of Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld was hired by the near-death company. With the loss of Coco Chanel, the company had struggled to keep up with the high fashion industry, becoming quite basic and boring. However, with the help of Lagerfeld, the company revamped its way to the top. He introduced the two intertwined C’s, so easily recognizable today and created looks inspired from Coco herself.
Lagerfeld and his team would pace themselves in the shoes of Coco in order to get the best designs possible without her being there for guidance. Her signature looks consisted of simplicity, elegance, nautical, stripes, and an abundance of large faux pearls. Coco was also known as the inventor of the little black dress and made sure to follow her style and not the latest trends.
To the left is a short black wool crepe Chanel dress created by Karl Lagerfeld. Coco Chanel was known for her faux pearls and pockets in her dresses. With this dress, Lagerfeld kept her style alive by sewing pearls onto the dress and adding pockets. To the left is another design by Lagerfeld created at the turn of the twentieth to twenty-first century. It is both a sign of the past and look to the future. The outside is has an acetate iridescent finish, a modern and futuristic look. However, on the back we see Lagerfeld uses a smocking technique. This technique was especially popular in the mid-twentieth century, specifically among young girl’s dresses. Overall, this unique trench-style coat is both leaving the past behind while saying hello to the new century.