Image Source: Courtesy of The New York Times
More than a year has passed since we lost the legend, Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director, the designer, the photographer, the writer, the artist, and the renaissance of the Fashion World but he remains to omnipresent.
“Karl doesn’t create trends, Karl is the trend. When Karl does something, the whole world watches”: the legacy of Karl summed up by Christiane Arp, the former Editor in Chief of Vogue Germany.
Born to a wealthy business family of Hamburg Germany in the 1930’s, Karl had a privileged but unhappy childhood as he remembered it. An artist since birth, he spent his childhood drawing, reading and learned to speak French and English at a remarkably young age. Karl always had a knack for fashion, his classmates still remember him for his unusual (read: remarkable) sense of style back in the day. Moving to Paris, the Fashion capital of the world, in his late teens served as a stepping stone into the Fashion Industry for young Karl.
It was in Paris where Lagerfeld won his first International Wool Secretariat fashion competition and went on to work with Pierre Balmain. What may have been a major breakthrough for many, was only the first step for Lagerfeld with only one way to go: Up. He moved on to work with renowned designers like Jean Patou and Gaby Aghion. It was in 1965 when Karl partnered with Fendi- a record breaking partnership that has lasted for a more than 50 years- and it is to him we owe the pleasure for our beloved fur coats. It is him that turned fur from a status symbol into an exquisite clothing item.
The real breakthrough for Lagerfeld came with his magic midas touch, turning everything he touched into gold. Despite being a success in the 20th century, Channel had died down in the 1980’s. A man of great charisma, Karl took this challenge onto himself when no one else would and reinvented the entire brand without breaking its traditional ties. Starting from the double C logo, he maintained the exclusivity of the brand but incorporated the modern pop culture into it. This put Karl at the center of the Fashion World and this had to do with the fact that “This was the first time a designer remade a company” as designer Tom Ford puts it.
Out of his many endeavors for Channel, the one that has us in awe came from his idea of celebrating consumerism. In 2014, Grand Palais in Paris was turned into a supermarket with everything from salts, to cereals made by Channel. This in itself was revolutionary and to top it off, models strolled down the aisles with outfits incorporating the modern street culture.
His greatest legacy, which continues to outlive him, was not just limited to the reinvention of Channel, Karl redefined the role of the creative director and transformed the industry as we know it today. He is gone but certainly not forgotten.