On Monday morning, the world lost a true icon of the fashion world – Karl Lagerfeld. Although many of us are not in tune with fashion culture, Lagerfeld’s influence spread far beyond just the needle and thread. A pioneer and a giant in design, Karl Lagerfeld was the truest of creatives.
Speaking of how he would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, scribble it down onto a piece of card, and then work at it tirelessly in the morning so he wouldn’t forget it; Lagereld’s work was less a passion, more an obsession.
As if he felt burdened by the weight of the world to bring beauty to it, he worked right up to his death at the age of 85.
Lagerfeld’s career started at the haute couture house, Balmain, in the 1950s.
After Balmain, he became the artistic director at Jean Patou in 1958, but quickly became tired of the haute couture culture, and wanted to free his designs. No longer was he to make formal dress for the super rich; he went at it alone as a freelance ready-to-wear designer, which at the time, was very bold indeed.
“He knew he wanted to do his own thing and not in some old couture house”
His work at Chloé completely transformed the brand into a huge, global powerhouse and it was clear to see the Lagerfeld effect from early on.
After beginning a collaboration with Fendi, which would span his entire career, it was his appointment at Chanel that would put him right at the top of the fashion world.
“I’m a kind of fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm”
Lagerfeld was seen as a maverick, especially to the traditional, classic style of Chanel lovers, so his new role at the fashion house was controversial to say the least. People doubted his ability to truly further the brand, but this was no skin off his nose.
“What I do Coco would have hated” he said, “The label has an image and it’s up to me to update it. I do what she never did. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be, could be”
“It had been to something else”
And something else he made it too, unfussed by the noise around him. Not one to lessen his workload either, he set up his own eponymous ready-to-wear label in 1984.
“I have spies all over the place, I know everything. Very few people are as informed as I am”
He also began photographing his own campaigns, he created a bestselling diet book, The 3D Diet, and became the first fashion designer to collaborate with high-street brand H&M.
He turned a catwalk into a supermarket for the Chanel AW14 show, and also in 1991, he presented a rap and hip-hop themed show considered risqué and distasteful for the venerable French fashion house.
“Rappers tell the truth – that’s what’s needed now”
“I design like I breathe. You don’t ask to breathe. It just happens”
He even staged the first international fashion show in Cuba since the 1959 communist revolution in 2016.
Lagerfeld’s constant desire to stay relevant and continually evolve is what has made him a titan of fashion and design for so long, and his desire to let fashion be accessible for more than just the elite is also what has endeared him to so many around the globe.
His enormous influence on fashion will be sorely missed but his legacy will be everlasting.