KARL LAGERFELD – a fashion phenomenon is dead

“I would like to be a one-man multinational fashion phenomenon,” he once said.

Karl Lagerfeld, the most prolific designer of the 20th and 21st centuries and a man whose career formed the prototype of the modern luxury fashion industry, died on Tuesday in Paris.

He was extraordinary.  We would expect nothing less from a man who once said: “When I was four I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday.”

Mr. Lagerfeld in New York in 2002, when he received a lifetime achievement award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 40th awards gala.Credit: Bill Cunningham/The New York Times

Vanessa Friedman for The New York Times wrote:

Though his birth year was a matter of some dispute, Mr. Lagerfeld, who lived in Paris, was generally thought to be 85. His death was announced by Chanel, with which he had long been associated.

“More than anyone I know, he represents the soul of fashion: restless, forward-looking and voraciously attentive to our changing culture,” Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue, said of Mr. Lagerfeld when presenting him with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards in 2015.

Creative director of Chanel since 1983 and Fendi since 1965, and founder of his own line, Mr. Lagerfeld was the definition of a fashion polyglot, able to speak the language of many different brands at the same time (not to mention many languages themselves: He read in English, French, German and Italian).

In his 80s, when most of his peers were retiring to their yachts or country estates, he was designing an average of 14 new collections a year, ranging from couture to the high street — and not counting collaborations and special projects. “Ideas come to you when you work,” he said backstage before a Fendi show at age 83.

His signature combinations of “high fashion and high camp” attracted admirers like Rihanna; Princess Caroline of Monaco; Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and Julianne Moore.

Mr. Lagerfeld with the singer Rihanna at a Fendi dinner in New York in 2015.Credit: Danny Kim for The New York Times

Mr. Lagerfeld was also a photographer, whose work was exhibited at the Pinacothèque de Paris; a publisher, having founded his own imprint for Steidl, Edition 7L; and the author of a popular 2002 diet book, “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” about how he had lost 92 pounds.

His greatest calling, however, was as the orchestrator of his own myth.

A self-identified “caricature,” with his dark glasses, powdered ponytail, black jeans, fingerless gloves, starched collars, Chrome Hearts jewelry and obsessive Diet Coke consumption, he achieved such a level of global fame — and controversy — that a $200 Karl Barbie doll, created in collaboration with the toymaker Mattel, sold out in less than an hour in 2014.

He was variously referred to as a “genius,” the “kaiser” and “overrated.” His contribution to fashion was not in creating a new silhouette, as designers like Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Coco Chanel herself did.  Rather, he created a new kind of designer: the shape-shifter.

That is to say, he was the creative force who lands at the top of a heritage brand and reinvents it by identifying its sartorial semiology and then pulls it into the present with a healthy dose of disrespect and a dollop of pop culture.

Not that he put it that way exactly. What he said was: “Chanel is an institution, and you have to treat an institution like a whore — and then you get something out of her.”

“I don’t want to be real in other people’s lives. I want to be an apparition.”







Culture/Couture: Havana Good Time

Leave it to Karl Lagerfeld to achieve the unexpected and the spectacular.


It appears that each Chanel show is outdone by the next and this latest example was really something extra special.  For Resort 2017 Lagerfeld chose the intensely beautiful cityscape of Havana;  a locale at an historic turning point in international relations, and a collection that was relatable, wearable, exquisitely made, and joyfully youthful.

I visited Havana with a friend when I was living in Jamaica and we really felt transported back in time.  The people were vibrant and full of life and eager to make us feel welcome.  As tourists we visited all the touristy places including all the Hemingway hangouts but we also met locals who told us where we could find a very good authentic Cuban (off the beaten path) restaurant which we loved. Cuba held more allure for me since becoming friends with a close relative of Che Guevara; someone I met overseas. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget.  Of course the Mojitos were the absolute best.

The Chanel Resort Collection 2017 – May 2, 2016 (my picks from a ton of photos)

You cannot mistake this look
You cannot mistake this look


The American fashion press who flew into Cuba for the Chanel Resort show landed two hours before the first U.S. cruise ship to have docked in Havana in nearly 40 years. The passengers of the Adonia had no idea what to expect when they set foot on the dock; in the event, they were surrounded by crowds of Havana residents, high-fiving greetings. The historic thawing of relations between the Castro regime and the United States was palpable, a warmth that was stoked to fever level.havana8havana4

Seven hundred guests of Chanel were taken to the open-air street show in a multicolored convoy of the city’s open-top Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles. The owners tooted their horns through the streets of Old Havana, while people came out to line the streets, crowd dilapidated balconies and rooftops, wave and laugh. It could easily have gone the other way—who knew there could be such a welcome in a poor, communist country for a super-luxurious brand and the wealthy women who wear its finery? But it was the people of Cuba who set the atmosphere running—a sense of exuberant excitement that involved everyone from the models to the normally impassively unimpressible members of the press.havana7havana3

With guests sitting on park benches in the open air of the tree-lined Paseo del Prado, the models strolled naturally in flat brogues, flip-flops, and slides. Here was Chanel at full range—black spencer jackets over wide-legged cuffed pants; “debutante” dresses with swirly skirts hitting calf length in lace or organza; skinny long tube dresses in macramé or tattered tweed; huge floaty dresses, neatly belted, in ’50s car prints. The Chanel embroiderers had pulled out all the stops, decorating sleeves with dense layers of tattered fabric (a subtle homage to Hispanic ruffles, surely) and sequin-encrusted little dresses in the peachy-pinks, lemony-oranges, and greeny-blues you see in every direction in Havana.


Take a bow
Take a bow

It was Chanel that started the new lark of traveling Resort shows—immersive summertime trips to evermore far-flung locations—and Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci have been joining in. Occasionally, it has to be said that descriptions of spectacular locations can overshadow collections that aren’t so worth writing home about. But with this show, Karl Lagerfeld achieved it all.

 What made it work, in essence, was the easy styling, with T-shirts and flats, a casual attitude that the models clearly felt happy in—so happy that the end of the show broke out into an anarchic kind of carnival where the girls and the audience and the local band all got mixed up together, dancing.

Simply Fabulous!

Source: Vogue Runway