Adieu, Mr. Lagerfeld


This morning we learned of the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, artistic director of Chanel, Fendi and his own brand, "Lagerfeld". He was a super giant in the world of fashion. The last of a generation of  couturiers who learn most of their skills on the job-from how to drape a garment to learning about the social lives of "women who lunch." Lagerfeld dominated the industry with his genius, his taste and the ability to excite everyone who entered his sphere. His passing is particularly difficult at a time when the current trends seemed to have spun out of control and into a trajectory that few of us--even the professionals--can comprehend. With all the craziness on the catwalk, we looked to Karl for eye candy, for something we could relate to. Instead of the post I've been working on, I decided to take a short break to pay homage to a man, who, throughout his 60 years in fashion, has been an inspiration to many around the globe..including here at Fashion Doll Stylist.
Again, I have a personal connection to this designer. He was someone I met and interviewed on two occasions. Lagerfeld was known for his cantankerous quips....something, I admit, intimidated me. Quotes like, "I hated the company of other children. I wanted to be a grown up to be taken seriously. I hated the idea of childhood; I think it is a moment of endless stupidity." Or.."When I was 4 years old, I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday." But a few friends (who were models) assured me that behind that caustic exterior, Mr. Lagerfeld was a really nice guy! The quotes made for interesting press and got everybody talking about him.

A chameleon in the world of fashion, Lagerfeld took on the identity of each fashion house for whom he worked. Born in Hamburg Germany, Lagerfeld went to Paris in 1952 at the age of 14 to attend school. Two years later, he entered a contest sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. Out of 200,000 entries, he won first prize for his coat design. (Participating in the same competition was Yves Saint Laurent!) Couturier, Pierre Balmain put the coat into production and hired Lagerfeld as an assistant. There he learned the basics of fashion design during his three-and-a half-year stay. From there he moved over to Jean Patou in 1958, where he worked as designer until 1963. Afterwards he freelanced for numerous design firms both in France and Italy before landing at Chloe as head designer for 20 years in Paris.

In 1983, 12 years after the namesake's death, Lagerfeld took over direction of Chanel and breathed new life into was was essentially a couture house on life support. I was there for that first show. It was quiet, respectful of the original spirit of the namesake. But six months later, with the musical score of  "Ghost Busters" wailing in the background, Lagerfeld broke with traditional Chanel style. Hemlines were cut short. Denim was used for suits. Lagerfeld borrowed design elements, including the logo normally reserved for the perfume, and incorporated them into the design of the clothing. Lagerfeld was quoted saying, "What I do, Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it's my job to update it. I do what she never did. I had to find my mark. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be." He understood that fashion evolves and in able to remain relevant, you have to keep up with the times!
The German designer also revived forgotten styles that he found deep within the archives, like Chanel's famous "ribbon dress (first debuted in her pre-WWII collections), pictured above. In fact, he was a genius of research and reinterpretation. On the flip side....his own label with his own ideas was never a huge success! 

After Coco Chanel's death in 1971, there was much speculation over where or not her house had a future. A succession of designers served merely to keep the company afloat with their own renditions of pseudo-Chanel suits and dresses that were rapidly drifting into clothes for the elderly. That changed with Lagerfeld's input. By 1994, Lagerfeld had helped boost Chanel sales to more than 67 million Euros. At the time of his death, the company's worth is estimated at more than 4 billion dollars.
Let's not forget Lagerfeld's link to our doll community....Lagerfeld Barbie! Taking inspiration from the designer’s signature style, Barbie Lagerfeld was born out of a collaboration between the designer and Mattel. This Barbie was dressed in the designer’s likeness with accents taken from his own collections. Lagerfeld Barbie is dressed in a tailored black jacket, a white high-collared men’s shirt with French cuffs, a black satin cravat, and fitted black jeans with an all-over print of Karl’s iconic silhouette. The platinum label doll also sports black fingerless gloves, sunglasses, black ankle boots, and a black leather purse with silver metallic accents. On September 29, 2014, at $200 each, Net-A-Porter sold all 1,000 (limited edition) dolls within an hour! And no, I was not one of the lucky ones who owns this Barbie! By the way....Lagerfeld Barbie is now listed for as high as $8,000 on Ebay!
The world of high fashion was once a place where no one retired. There were couturiers known to continue sketching out collections even on their deathbeds! Lagerfeld was old school. "Please don't say I work hard," he was quoted in the Independent. "Nobody is forced to do this job, and if they don't like it, they should do another one. People buy dresses to be happy, not to hear about somebody who suffered over a piece of taffeta." 
A total fabrication, we had fun coming up with the idea of a "Chanel Beach," imaging how elegant it would be. It was, however, Lagefeld who came up with the idea for Chanel's double C logo. 
Thank you, Mr. Lagerfeld, for taking us on a fabulous fashion ride of a lifetime. Thank you for suffering over that piece of taffeta, those few meters of chiffon, but most of all, for racking your brains and delivering six decades of creativity and style!


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