Guest Post: In praise of Karl Lagerfeld


Andy Wass writes…

Like any young professional, I constantly think about my resume – How long was that internship? Did I forget a recommendation? I’m pretty satisfied with my experience and look forward to a future of opportunity.

Then I think about Karl Lagerfeld.

Not only has he established himself as a hugely iconic and influential designer through his work with Chanel, Fendi and Chloe – he’s an all-around over-achiever, an A-student who does extra credit “for fun.” What’s his secret? Why do I envy him so, yet marvel at each factoid I learn about him? I don’t remember a love-at-first-sight moment, but my fascination with Lagerfeld has been gradual, weird and ever-increasing.

I post frequently about the Kaiser on my humor/fashion blog, Avant Garb, because he is a living oddity, and I have become obsessed with his mysterious larger-than-life image. His trademark look and four-language fluency are only the beginning.

First, some background for perspective:

Born Sept. 10, 1933, to a wealthy family in Hamburg, Germany, Karl-Otto Lagerfeldt moved to Paris at age 20. He apprenticed for Pierre Balmain and quickly established a freelance career and a shop in Paris.

In 1964 Lagerfeld freelanced for Chloe, producing an establishing collection. In the 1970s he started with Fendi, while also periodically designing theater costumes.

In 1982 he began his long-term engagement with Chanel. In the following years the scale of Lagerfeld’s work continued to escalate: his own clothing line (K Karl Lagerfeld) and fragrance collections, custom tour outfits for Madonna and Kylie Minogue, collaboration with H&M, self-shot fashion editorials and press kits, and continuing the Chanel legacy. Pretty impressive already, right? So what does the man who does everything do? More, of course! (By the way, I hardly named half the designers Uncle Karl’s worked for.)

Lagerfeld has racked up extracurriculars over the past decade, solidifying his overall artistry and creativity:

Nov. 1999: opened Paris bookstore 7L
Oct. 2000: launched publishing company Editions 7L
2002: published The Karl Lagerfeld Diet
2003: designed a limited-edition piano for Steinway’s 150th Anniversary
Feb. 2007: first authorized film biography, Lagerfeld Confidential, premiered at Berlin Film Festival (DVD released Feb. 2008)
Oct. 2007: personally designed a Chanel bicycle Dec.
2007: opened “European 20th Century Greek Revival,” at NYC’s Lorenzo Gallery, to exhibit Lagerfeld’s photography and furniture collections Jan.
2008: without permission to use his likeness, Volvo scrapped a Swiss ad campaign featuring multiple Lagerfelds photographing a new car Jan.
2008: German teddy bear company Steiff announced plans for a Lagerfeld bear
Jan. 2008: Colette sold limited-edition Karl Lagerfeld figurines
April 2008: appeared as a radio DJ in Grand Theft Auto IV

The Lagerfeld legend is so sweeping that in November The New York Times’ blog “T” suggested projects for the Kaiser, including “moderate Hedi Slimane’s MySpace,” and “partner with Johnson & Johnson on a hypoallergenic wig powder.” Lagerfeld reportedly has a butler on-hand at shoots to guard his goblet of Diet Pepsi, but come on – those suggestions are just ridiculous. The Kaiser would never do such things, right? …right?

Andy Wass is the editor and writer of New York-based fashion blog Avant Garb.  She has also written for Worship Worthy, ELLE.com, UNVOGUE, and The Fashion Spot.
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