Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld (Karl Otto Lagerfeld) born September 10, 1933, renowned worldwide for his aspirational, relevant and cutting-edge approach to style. He is a force of nature, coupled with an enigmatic persona and an original perspective on fashion and pop culture. The German designer was best known for his association with France’s Chanel, dating back to 1983. The brand, the legend now goes, risked becoming the preserve of monied grannies before he arrived, slashing hemlines and adding glitz to the prim tweed suits of what is now one of the world’s most valuable couture houses.
In addition to being the creative director of his signature brand, Lagerfeld oversees the creative direction of the Chanel and Fendi fashion houses. His visionary talent further expands beyond fashion to include illustration, photography, styling and publishing.
Sensing his future lay elsewhere, 14-year-old Lagerfeld made the bold decision, with the blessing of his parents, to move to Paris. He’d been there just two years when he submitted a series of sketches and fabric samples to a design competition. He ended up taking first place in the coat category and meeting another winner, Yves Saint Laurent, who would become a close friend.
Soon, Lagerfeld had full time work with French designer Pierre Balmain, first as a junior assistant, and later as an apprentice. It was a demanding position, and the young designer remained in it for three years. He took work as a creative director with another fashion house before finally, in 1961, striking out on his own.
Good work soon followed, with Lagerfeld designing collections for Chloe, Fendi (where he was brought on to oversee the company’s fur line) and others. Lagerfeld became known in the fashion industry for his innovative, in-the-moment styles. But Lagerfeld also had an appreciation for the past, and he often shopped in flea markets, finding old wedding dresses to deconstruct and reimagine.
1938: Karl Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany.
1954: He won first prize in a contest organised by the Secrétariat International de la Laine (International Wool Association), for a sketch of a coat. The coat was produced by Pierre Balmain who offered Karl Lagerfeld, then 17, a job as his assistant.
1957: He became art director for fashion designer Jean Patou.
1962: He became one of the first freelancers in the modern fashion industry, working between France, Italy, England and Germany.
1965: He began working for Fendi; their collaboration has continued to the present day.
1964: He began working with Chloe.
1975: He became the first fashion designer to introduce a perfume, CHLOE, without having his own label.
1983: He was named art director of the house of Chanel.
1984: He created his own fashion house, KARL LAGERFELD, while continuing his collaborations with Chanel and Fendi.
1987: He moved behind the lens to start shooting his own campaigns. He has since become renowned for his work as a photographer, and many of his images have been transformed into art books, published by Steidl.
1992: He created 60 colourful illustrations for the classic fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson.
1999: He opened a bookshop in Paris, called 7L. A year later, he also became a publisher with the launch of the EDITIONS 7L publishing house, which specialises in books about visual knowledge and photography.
2000: He changed his look and redefined his image after losing 42 kilograms (93 lbs) with a self-imposed diet. A book, The 3D Diet, was published about the experience shortly thereafter; it sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide.
2004: He was the first designer in the world to be asked by fashion giant H&M to collaborate on a capsule collection of 30 pieces.
2008: His name was added to Le Petit Larousse Illustré, France’s most iconic dictionary.
2010: He received the Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York.
2012: He became a monthly contributor of bespoke caricature sketches to F.A.Z, a supplement of the Frankfurter Allgemein Zeitung newspaper in Germany.
2016: At the request of choreographer and director Benjamin Millepied, he designed the costumes for the Brahms-Schönberg Quartet production at the Opéra Bastille in Paris.
2017: He designed two spectacular suites in the iconic Hôtel de Crillon in Paris. He was also named recipient of the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the British Fashion Awards and the John B. Fairchild Award by WWD.
Lagerfeld’s father, Christian, made his fortune by bringing condensed milk to Germany. Karl and his older sister, Martha, and a half sister, Thea, grew up in a wealthy home. Intellectual activity was encouraged at the Lagerfeld home. His mother, Elizabeth, was an accomplished violin player and talk at the dinner table often included subjects such as religious philosophy.
Says Lagerfeld, “What I enjoy most is doing something I’ve never done before.”
Last Updated On: February 19, 2019: Fashion designer Lagerfeld Passes Away at 85
Superstar fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has died, aged 85. His death was announced on Tuesday by Chanel.
“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.
- Karl Otto Lagerfeld Biography and Profile (Karl Lagerfeld / Biography)