On 10 September 1933 in rural Hamburg, Germany, one of the greatest contributors to the art, photography and most notably fashion industries, Karl Otto Lagerfeld, was born. As one of the most skilled haute-couturiers the world has seen, he stood at the helm of creative direction for not only fashion house Fendi but of course Coco Chanel up until his passing at age 85.
In an ode to his passing, this loss leaves a great void in not only the fashion world but art as a whole, as he was, amongst being a fashion designer and creative director, too a caricaturist and photographer. Best known for his trademark look of pony-tailed white hair, black sunglasses and high starched collars, Lagerfeld took to these style staples of shirts, high collars ties and bow ties since childhood.
He described himself as “a caricature of myself. It is like a mask”, and thus labelled his signature black sunglasses as his “burka”.
Karl’s creative inspirations were deeply rooted in his fascination with the 18th Century aristocrat times. He had tied up his suited-and booted look with his powdered ponytail since 1976 and finished it off with his most famous fingerless black gloves by historic French manufacturer Causse.
Karl was known for his appreciation and grandiose collection of rings, which he wore in rotation daily and ranged in detail from vintage Goth to Art Deco design. He had more recently switched it up somewhat, in making away with his before carried collection of fans which he used in his 70s and 80s nightclubbing years to waft away smoke. He, himself, taking a more clean-living approach and not smoking or drinking.
Having been a self-confessed “shirt freak”, Lagerfeld combined classic with contemporary, donning pieces by Haider Ackermann, Sacai to Dior. He had not always carried this fixed silhouette though, as seen in the Rudolphe Marconi documentary ‘’Lagerfeld Confidential’’, he opens up on the experimental phases of his youth with “I did everything. I did the hippie look, with chains and things, fur capes, high boots, Renoma suits and large lapels.”
Being a great lover of Advertising, he had a knack for marketing and was solely in charge of the creation of his image. This iconic look lead to collaborations with multiple big brands including Diet Coke and even Vans.
Growing up in suburban Hamburg, Karl was raised under the influence of his acerbic mother whom he adored greatly. It was said that his favourite childhood look was a gold-embroidered black velvet Tyronean suit. Her influence still carried forth years later, as she told him as a child that “if you smoke, you show the hands, and as yours are not beautiful…you should not”, thus resulting in his attraction to gloves and rings in concealing them.
From his daily whitened ponytail down to his knee-high socks, Karl Lagerfeld has left us with one of his greatest art piece contributions in the ornately detailed ensemble of his trademark silhouette.
When asked about how close to the real him he lets the world get, he said “I have played so much in constructing a certain image of myself that I think it’s pretty impossible and that is my wish, even for those that I love deeply, I want to remain impossible.” Undoubtedly Mr. Karl Lagerfeld is to thank for so much creative genius the world has seen and will forever be remembered. May he rest in paradise wherever he is sitting in his 17th century style Hilditch&Key nightshirt while sketching and day dreaming.