A Celebration of Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld is regarded as one of the most influential and dedicated designers in the fashion industry. From Chanel to Fendi, Karl has served as the backbone for many haute couture brands by creating intricate looks that reflect the same principle: luxury. This year’s Met Gala-themed Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty is dedicated to honor the designer and all his work over the past few decades. Today, fashion designers and critics across the globe remember his legacy.
Karl Lagerfeld’s career began in Paris in the 1950s alongside fellow designers Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Balmain. Yet Karl’s career didn’t take off until the 1970s when he began working for Chloé. His most notable contribution to the brand was revolutionizing the “Soft Look” which eliminated linings and padding to create a sophisticated silhouette. Alongside this style, he also incorporated boned corsets similar to his designer counter partner Thierry Mugler. His work with the Chloé continued up until 1997.
From fur coats to the double “FF” motif, Fendi was transformed when Karl stepped up as creative director in 1965. His goal as director was to change the way fabric was used by developing light versatile pieces that felt luxurious. Fendi’s 1977 women’s ready-to-wear collection did just that by introducing elegant pieces with wearable fur. His work with the brand grew him to international fame, as new collections brought sought-after pieces. Karl worked with the brand up until his death in 2019.
In the 1980s, Karl began working for Chanel and helped bring the brand back to life. He revolutionized the Chanel look by creating the interlocked “CC” monogram that is seen today. He also revamped the ready-to-wear line with controversial tight skirts, high heels, and enlarged jewelry. Reflective of Coco Chanel’s work, Karl incorporated tweed back into the brand’s couture while also reinventing the iconic Chanel “Boy Bag.” This year’s Met Gala is expected to be filled with Chanel looks ranging across the decades Karl worked for the brand.
Alongside Karl’s creative vision as a director, he also contributed to transforming the catwalk. He is best known for his elaborate sets and poshed ambiance when it came to debuting a new collection.
Fendi F/W 2007
Fendi conquered the Great Wall of China for the brand’s 2007 F/W collection. Karl was heavily inspired by the architecture of ancient China which led him to choose this location to debut his new collection. This spectacle helped push Fendi onto the global brand map, as the show made a powerful statement on cultural appreciation.
Chanel FW 2014
Instead of having a traditional runway catwalk, Karl decided to put a twist on this collection by having models walk through a makeshift supermarket with shopping carts. When asked about the meaning behind this theme, Karl stated, “I wanted to make a modern statement of expensive things in a supermarket because even people who wear Chanel go there.”
Chanel FW 2017
This Chanel collection was heavily inspired by the Space Race and the Cold War era. Karl dressed his models in what he called a “Space Age futurism” that combined both astronaut and animal patterns. But the talking point from this collection was the 115-foot rocket, which blasted off in the Grand Palais.
Chanel SS 2019
A Spring/Summer collection wouldn’t be complete without a beach and a boardwalk as a runway. Karl filled the Grand Palais with sand and makeshift waves that only furthered the theme of this collection. Models walked barefoot along the sand to a relaxed ambiance of music.
Honoring Karl Lagerfeld
Chief editor of Vogue and organizer of the Met Gala, Anna Wintour decided to dedicate this year’s Met Gala and the May cover of Vogue to Karl. In a statement to Vogue, on her decision to tribute him, she stated, “ A tribute to Karl feels like a tribute to life itself, a celebration in its purest form. We all miss him so very much.” Designers from across the globe alongside some of Karl’s muses collaborated to complete the May cover which featured designs inspired by Karl’s work. The designers included the following: Thom Browne, Donatella Versace, Jun Takahashi, Christopher John Rogers, John Galliano, Balmain, Sacai, Gucci, and Simone Rocha. Models ranging from Shalom Harlow to Anok Yai were all featured on the cover shot located at the Grand Palais where many Chanel shows were held. The photo shoot even featured model Naomi Campbell holding Karl’s cat, Choupette.
Karl Lagerfeld passed away in February of 2019, leaving an undeniable impact on the fashion industry. His legacy helped redefine the codes for not just fashion but the purpose behind being a creative director. He inspired new generations in the industry and reminded the world that “I am a fashion person, and fashion is not only about clothes—it’s about all kinds of change.”