Karl Otto Lagerfeld was a German fashion designer, creative director, photographer, and artist. He was born on September 19, 1933, and d!ed on February 19, 2019.
Lagerfeld began his career in fashion in the 1950s and subsequently worked for Balmain, Patou, and Chloé until joining Chanel in 1983. He was Chanel’s creative director from 1983 until he d!ed in 2001 and was responsible for all of the company’s artistic activities.
He was instrumental in resurrecting the Chanel brand and restoring the firm to its former status as a global fashion leader. Karl Lagerfeld oversaw creative direction for the Italian fur and leather products company Fendi and ran his namesake fashion label.
Throughout his career, he collaborated with several talented artists and fashion designers. Lagerfeld’s legacy and vision live on in the fashion industry and among designers worldwide.
Who is Karl Lagerfeld?
Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg on September 10, 1933, to Elisabeth (née Bahlmann) and Otto Lagerfeld, a merchant. Karl Bahlmann, his maternal grandfather, was a local leader for the Catholic Centre Party, and his father owned a company that made and imported evaporated milk.
Lagerfeld regularly lied about his age and family history, even claiming to be born in a different year. He stated that he was born in 1938 to “Elisabeth of Germany” and “Otto Ludwig Lagerfeld” of Sweden. The fact that his father was born and raised in Germany, not Sweden, has ended these misconceptions.
His mother, Elisabeth Bahlmann, was the daughter of a middle-class local politician, but she never identified as “Elisabeth of Germany.” He insisted that no one knew his actual birthday. During a February 2009 television interview in France, Lagerfeld stated that he was born “neither in 1933 nor 1938.”
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What Made Him So Controversial?
While many regarded Lagerfeld as a fashion darling, others objected to the designer’s brazen and frequently offensive comments, which he made loudly and proudly in interviews throughout his career.
Lagerfeld wrote “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” a diet book, in 2005, detailing his experience reducing 92 pounds in just over a year.
“One fine morning, I woke up and decided I was no longer happy with my physique. Although overweight, I had gotten along fine and had no health problems. But I suddenly wanted to dress differently, to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane….But these fashions, modeled by very, very slim boys—and not men of my age—required me to lose at least eighty pounds,” says Lagerfeld, as quoted in the Amazon description of the book.
Lagerfeld was outspoken on the link between fashion and body image, claiming that junk food and television were more detrimental than anorexia and calling the style “the healthiest motivation for losing weight” in his book. He frequently made unsolicited comments about women whose bodies he felt did not meet a certain standard of modelesque beauty.
He declared award-winning artist Adele “too fat,” then apologized, saying he mistook her for another singer, Lana Del Rey. In a 2009 interview with the German magazine Focus, he called supermodel Heidi Klum “too heavy” and stated that “nobody wants to see curvy women.”
While Lagerfeld was well-known for his fatphobic and misogynistic remarks, he also sparked outrage in 2010 by dressing German model Claudia Schiffer in blackface and yellowface for the magazine Stern Fotografie.
On a French talk show in 2017, Lagerfeld called Muslim migrants in Germany an “affront to Holocaust” victims.
Furthermore, as the #MeToo movement gained traction worldwide, Lagerfeld expressed his displeasure with the reckoning against powerful and abusive men, saying he was “fed up with it” in an interview with Numéro Magazine.
“If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery; there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even,” Lagerfeld said.
#FASHION INTERVIEW –
“If you don’t want to have your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!” @KarlLagerfeld
Full interview: https://t.co/p1kr1U3299 pic.twitter.com/swpGrMNE9x
— Numéro (@NumeroMagazine) April 13, 2018
What is Lagerfeld’s Connection to the Met Gala?
This is not the first time Lagerfeld’s name has appeared as a theme at a Met Gala. The brand sponsored “The House of Chanel” theme in 2005, with Lagerfeld serving as co-chair alongside Wintour and actress Nicole Kidman.
“Period examples will be juxtaposed with the work of designer Karl Lagerfeld, who in 1983 revitalized the spirit and identity of the house,” said the Met in a press release about the exhibition.
“It is Lagerfeld’s masterful and often irreverent citations of Chanel’s work, as well as his combination of influences from high and low culture, that re-articulate Chanel’s innovations. Through his interpretations and refinements, the historical importance of Chanel is defined and asserted for the modern woman and the world in which she lives,” the statement continued.
The illustrated book accompanying the exhibition includes Lagerfeld’s essays, graphics and photographs.