One of the most recognised faces in the fashion industry would have to be that of the man with the long white hair, black sunglasses and starched white collar. Known the world over, Karl Lagerfeld has sustained himself and his brand as a leader in high fashion. He has been in the industry for decades, and continues to break ground through his innovative designs, bold choices and daring outcomes. Heading up not only his own label, but many other prestigious brands over the years like Chanel, Fendi and Chloe, Lagerfeld is a name everyone who’s anyone loves to talk about.
Mystery has shroud the early life of Lagerfeld over the years, mainly because the man himself has kept an air of intrigue. Believed to be born on the 10th September 1933 in Hamburg, Germany, Karl Otto Lagerfeld lived an affluent life with his two parents, one sister and one half-sister. His father bought wealth to the family when he introduced condensed milk to Germany (I suppose someone had to do it!), and the family flourished from the profits made. His mother was a violinist, and the household was full of intellectual conversation and religious philosophy. When the reign of Hitler took hold during the Second World War, Lagerfeld and his family moved to rural Germany and were greatly protected from all the horrors of the Nazis. Lagerfeld has claimed that it wasn’t until later in life that he truly understood the pain and suffering inflicted on many during this time.
At the conclusion on the War, the Lagerfeld family returned to Hamburg, and Karl was finally able to immerse himself into the world of high fashion. It was something that he had been inclined to since childhood, cutting pictures out of fashion magazines and keeping them for himself. At only fourteen, with the blessing of his parents, he moved to Paris. His passion was truly nurtured during this time, and Lagerfeld continued to draw and sketch as much and as often as he could. Two years later, he won a competition with his designs for a coat, and the world of fashion was suddenly beckoning. It was during this early time in Paris that Lagerfeld met and befriended fellow design ingénue Yves Saint Laurent. Some big names in French couture began to recognise the talent Lagerfeld naturally possessed, and it was Pierre Balmain in 1955 who first hired him as a junior assistant. Lagerfeld soon proved his worth, and began to apprentice for Balmain. He stayed here for three years. Lagerfeld soon decided to venture out on his own, and in 1961, launched his own label. The Karl Lagerfeld brand is still going strong today, even after he sold it to Tommy Hilfiger in 2005, Lagerfeld still maintains full creative direction.
Other iconic fashion houses that Lagerfeld has been in charge of include Chloe, Fendi and unmistakably Chanel. He joined Fendi in 1967, and the following decade began his time at Chloe. But possibly the most renowned work that Lagerfeld has done is during his time is at Chanel. Relaunching the label in the 1980’s, Lagerfeld became a huge star. He returned Chanel to the top of the fashion empire with his ready to wear line, and has ensured the success of the French label.
During his time at Chanel, Lagerfeld has continued to grow the brand through innovation and risk taking. While he continually pays homage to the great Coco through the use of tweed jackets and skirts, Lagerfeld has bought this staple into the modern world by using colour and embellishments. He has also revived the trend by pairing it with sneakers instead of stilettos. The use of colour is something that the Chanel label had not seen much of until Lagerfeld took over, and he continues to produce garments in an assortment of hues depending on what trends he chooses for the season. Florals are another iconic look that Lagerfeld uses at Chanel, creating a somewhat romantic air to his collections. An unmistakable embellishment of a modern Chanel outfit would have to be the use of pearls, diamonds and chains. Lagerfeld uses these notions to accessories his couture outfits, as well as shoes, handbags and jewellery. The couture shows which Chanel take part in every fashion week are nothing short of epic. The scale of the production is something out of this world, with Lagerfeld dreaming up runway shows that to anyone else would seem impossible. Do yourself a favour and watch some of the recent Chanel productions, you will not be disappointed!
In recent times, Lagerfeld has turned his hand to photography and to film and costume design. He has designed the costumes for stars such as Madonna and Kylie on some of their recent tours. Lagerfeld has also collaborated with the department store Macy’s to create a capsule collection in 2011. Known as the man who continues to reinvent fashion and couture, Karl Lagerfeld isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. He continues to amaze us all with his Avant garde designs, breathtaking shows, and innovative style. He is bold, he is brave and he is truly a gift to the world of fashion. Lagerfeld is a name that will go done in fashion history as one of the best!
Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx