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Kaiser Karl – The King of Fashion Lives On

World’s most iconic living legend in fashion design, Karl Lagerfeld passed away at a ripe old age of 85 years leaving behind a formidable design legacy.

Born as Karl Otto Lagerfeldt, this German polymath was a man ahead of his times with innumerable talents. The trademark silver ponytail, black suit and fingerless leather gloves are as iconic as the legend himself who single handedly succeeded Mademoiselle Chanel. He was a true disrupter before the Silicon Valley term became a thing. Sharp wit and keen attention to details got him equal amount of admirers and haters. Of course, his sense of entitlement didn’t come from nowhere.

An Everlasting Career

His career started at the second Woolmark prize, in 1954, where he won the Best Coat category. It also started his legendary rivalry with Yves Saint Laurent who won the Best Dress Design. Soon after began his tryst with the biggest luxury fashion houses.

  • His Woolmark prize won him an apprenticeship with Pierre Balmain
  • He was the man behind the iconic fragrance Chloé from the French fashion house of the same name. This was a first by any fashion designer without a proprietary label.
  • In 1965 he joined the Italian brand Fendi. It is here that he devoted his entire life creating new styles and bringing new audiences. The iconic Fendi bags are also his brainchild.
  • In 1983 he joined as the creative director of Chanel. He almost resurrected the iconic fashion brand post Mademoiselle Chanel and turned its boutique status into a global powerhouse.
  • In 1984, Lagerfeld built his eponymous brand where his entire look was the talking point.
  • In 2004, he was the first luxury designer to collaborate with a high street brand like H&M, which sold out in minutes. This was a game changer in the world of fashion.
  • In 2017, he was awarded Paris’ highest honour, the Grand Vermeil. This was when he hosted a show that featured a 38-metre-high replica of the Eiffel Tower on the catwalk.

Reinvention of Designs

The brand reinvention that he pulled at Chanel would soon be seen in his work at Fendi as well, as he would go on to reinvent fur for the brand with never before seen colors and cuts.

Despite being touted as an anti-feminist for his comments, his work would often reflect the ideals of the feminist movement. His designs would reflect the social revolution of post-World War II liberation of women.

His runways and sets were equally path-breaking as his designs. He took experiential to the extreme with Disney-style theme park installations, supermarket sets and even a custom made emoji. This kept his style relevant and trending, winning him loads of social media presence.

Lagerfeld the Polymath

There is very little that this polymath had not explored.

  • Actor:His tryst with pop culture began with Andy Warhol. Warhol used Lagerfeld and his friends in cult classic L’Amour.
  • Cultural Icon:A life size Lagerfeld teddy bear by Steiff and a $200 Barbie doll were made after him. He is also a character in Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • Author:He has authored of his own weight-loss book, The Karl Lagerfeld Diet. He documented his journey of loosing 42kgs in 13 months so that he could dress in Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme collection of skinny suits.
  • Photographer:He has photographed his own ad campaigns for his own Lagerfeld brand.

Work Ethics

As one of the only one of his contemporaries who hadn’t retired in his 80s, Lagerfeld worked right up to the day the day of his passing. Having said that “People buy dresses to be happy, not to hear about somebody who suffered over a piece of taffeta,” Lagerfeld was not one to support the notion of designers being overworked. He believed the vocation to be a privilege and was a proponent of calling a spade- a spade.