KARL LAGERFELD: Home call of a fashion legend
The creative world was thrown into mourning last Tuesday when news broke of the death of German Haute Couture designer, Karl Lagerfeld.
Lagerfeld, 85, one of the most acclaimed fashion designers in the world, died in American Hospital of Paris, following complications from pancreatic cancer.
The fashion icon’s state of health had become worrisome to industry practitioners after he missed Chanel’s show in Paris earlier last month.
Since his death on Tuesday, tributes have continued to pour in for Chanel’s late artistic director.
For a man who bestrode the global fashion world like a colossus for over half a century, British Fashion Council Chief Executive Caroline Rush noted: “We are deeply saddened to learn the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing today.
His unique contribution to the fashion industry changed the way women dress and perceive fashion. He inspired generations of young designers and will continue to do so.”
Born Karl Otto Lagerfeldt in Hamburg, Germany on September 10, 1933, to Christian and Elizabeth Lagerfeldt, the young Karl grew up in a wealthy home with his older sister Martha and a half-sister Thea. Reports indicate that intellectual activities were encouraged at their home especially with his mum who was an accomplished violin player.
From an early age, Karl Lagerfeld picked up interest in fashion and often cut out pictures from fashion magazines and was also critical of what others wore to school.
That early experience seemed to set the tone for the pursuit of his passion. At just 14 years old, he made the decision, with the approval of his parents, to move to Paris.
Two years later in 1954, he submitted a series of sketches and fabric samples to a design competition organised by the Secrétariat International de la Laine (International Wool Association), where he emerged first place in the coat category.
In that competition, he met another winner, Yves Saint Laurent, with whom he became life long, close friend and associate.
The coat which Lagerfeld had sketched was later produced by Pierre Balmain who offered Karl Lagerfeld, a job as his assistant and then as an apprentice.
Between 1957 and 1967, he traversed several fashion houses doing what he knows how to do best; Jean Patoux (1957), Fendi (1965), Chloe (1964). He was also at one time, a freelance designer shuttling fashion capitals; England, France, Italy and Germany.
One of his achievements included being the first fashion designer to introduce perfume, CHLOE, without having his label.
Early in the ’80s, he was named art director of the house of Chanel. Here, he brought a near dead brand back to life.
And finally, in 1984, the fashion house, Karl Lagerfeld was born. It became a label reputed for quality tailoring. In other to be commercially accepted, Lagerfeldt drooped the “t” at the end of his surname.
The visionary designer known for continually reinventing himself in 1987, moved behind the lens to start shooting his campaigns. He has since become renowned for his work as a photographer, with many of his images published by Steidl in book forms.
His track record of successes is unrivalled. He was a jewel in the fashion world, and the press greatly celebrated him.
Karl Lagerfeld’s relevance laid in his cutting-edge approach to style. His perspective on fashion and pop culture was novel, original and refreshing. At the turn of the century in 2000, he changed his look and redefined his image after losing 42 kilograms with a self- diet. A book, The 3D Diet, was published about the experience.
The achievements of the award-winning designer are legion. He was the first designer in the world to be asked by fashion giant H&M to collaborate on a capsule collection of 30 pieces.
In 2008, he made history when his name was added to Le Petit Larousse Illustré, France’s most iconic dictionary.
Two years later, he received the Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York.
In 2017, he designed two spectacular suites in the iconic Hôtel de Crillon in Paris. He was also named the recipient of the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the British Fashion Awards and the John B. Fairchild Award by WWD.
Karl Lagerfeld was a man of style. Years of working at Chanel helped to shape his style which became iconic- a classic men’s three-piece suit of black or grey colour, high, stiff collars, leather gloves, white hair in a ponytail and his compelling dark glasses that became renowned. He maintained this signature looks till death.
He was, by all means, a man used to style and luxury. He was a walking advert of his work, a true testament to class and style. For him to have done fashion for over six decades, he must have loved his craft. He had a significant influence on many young designers.
Karl Lagerfeld never married. Fashion was his love and life and perhaps, his cat chaupette, whom he became devoted to since 2012.
His death left a high vacuum that will be hard to fill.
By Jemi Ekunkunbor