Dinner at The Alcazar, Paris in 1973. Karl (wearing monocle), and (left-right) Vern Lambert, Patrick Hourcade, Anna Piaggi, and Karls partner Jacques de Bascher
Karl Otto Lagerfeld left behind a legacy that is undeniably incomparable in the world of fashion.
Lagerfeld will remain to be one of 20th century’s more prominent designers with a dossier beginning with Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou, Fendi and designing freelance for Chloe, Charles Jourdan, Krizia and Valentino.
It was Lagerfeld’s revival of Chanel, a near-dead brand after the passing of Coco Chanel that created the legend we all know today.
During this time, Lagerfeld also began his eponymous “Karl Lagerfeld” brand.
However, to many, Lagerfeld will always be remembered synonymously with the house of Chanel.
I remember differently.Karl comes in 1st place of the 1954 International Wool Secretariat Competition in Paris 1954To me, Lagerfeld wasn’t just the designer behind Chanel. He wasn’t just that caricature of a black and white ensemble with the big black sunglasses and the platinum ponytail.
When I reflect on Lagerfeld what comes to my mind first and foremost is the man himself, in every essence.
Lagerfeld’s drive to succeed was monumental. It was not easy back then in the world of couture where talent was rich on a competitive stage.
Then there was Yves St. Laurent, do I need to say more?
Lagerfeld also had a very complicated friendship with St. Laurent.
They spent much time together experiencing a hedonistic lifestyle in St. Laurent’s hideaway in Morocco.
After years of designing for Jean Patou and Tiziani in Rome in the late 50's and early 60's, he began working as a freelancer for Chloé in 1964, and achieved worldwide recognition and acclaim when he released a monumental spring-wear collection for the brand. His fashion shows were entertaining and his designs were innovative, his time at Chloé launched him into the fashion stratosphere.
Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel 1984
Later during the 70’s a feud between both designers came to the forefront of their friendship. Their feud was the fashion world’s substitute of one of Hollywood’s greatest feuds, the one between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
Apparently Jacques de Bascher, the very handsome and decadent dandy who was Lagerfeld’s partner for close to two decades, was the catalyst of the feud.
Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld
On Jacques de Bascher:
“Lagerfeld portrayed him as cultivated — he was a voracious reader who could quote from Homer’s “Iliad” — and multilingual, with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humor. Both men were fascinated by titles and genealogy, with de Bascher fond of emphasising his aristocratic roots.
The German designer has explained before that they never had sex, despite being together for 18 years. “I infinitely loved that boy but I had no physical contact with him. Of course, I was seduced by his physical charm,” he said of de Bascher, whose wan elegance was immortalised by the British painter David Hockney.”
-“The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris” by Alicia Drake, published 2006
Top Left to Right | Left - Karl Lagerfeld and Jacques de Bascher 1973. Right - David Hockney, Nicky Weymouth, Yves Saint Laurent and Jacques de Bascher 1974
Bottom Left to Right | Portrait of Jacques de Bascher by David Hockney 1975 | Jacques and Karl date unknown.
1973 – Lagerfeld on his boudoir:
“If you see it you will think about everything except sex, because it is the unsexiest room ever. I love unsexy bedrooms.”
Lagerfeld was definitely a very interesting man on a much more intimate level.
What I admire most was his honesty.
No one was safe from his acidic assessment of one’s state of being.
Lagerfeld’s truth is dressed with a genius that is part wit, part charm and part theatre.
If there’s a book of quotes by Lagerfeld, I will be the first in line.
Above are various photo's taken in 1970 in Paris and St. Tropez by famed Fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez.
2010 – Lagerfeld on political correctness:
"Be politically correct, but please don't bother other people with conversation about being politically correct, because that's the end of everything. You want to create boredom? Be politically correct in your conversation."
No, Lagerfeld was not big on political correctness. He continues to use fur in his collections.
Lagerfeld was the target of a "pieing" by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 2001 at a fashion premier at Lincoln Center in New York City.
However, the tofu pies missed Lagerfeld and hit Calvin Klein instead!
In contradiction, Lagerfeld did not wear fur and hardly ate meat.
In June 2001 a gang of anti-fur protesters taking aim, screaming "fur pimp" and "fur kills", before Klein was pelted with a tofu cream pie, which, it later emerged, was meant for Lagerfeld.
"Hunters make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting, killing those beasts who would kill us if they could" and maintained: "In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish."
- BBC interview 2009
However in 2010, PETA cited Lagerfeld, who used fake fur in his 2010 Chanel collection, on its website as saying: "It's the triumph of fake fur… because fake fur changed so much and became so great now that you can hardly see a difference."
Was this Lagerfeld moving towards political correctness?
I would like to think that it was a marketing ploy and that he hasn’t compromised his priceless attitude.
I am however glad that he was persuaded to do so whether by self-persuasion or other.
Say “NO” to fur.
Lagerfeld was also a modernist.
He was quick to embrace the next new thing.
One can notice the speed of evolution on his runways but what amuses me is that Lagerfeld was always so excited by the little “new” things as there are many Lagerfeld quotes on faxes and iPods (when they were new!).
Lagerfeld is an ambitious undertaking to write about.
In this short article, I wanted to give you a glimpse of who Lagerfeld is, not the Lagerfeld who is defined by Chanel, the runways or the caricature of himself, but the Lagerfeld attitude; an attitude towards life, a life in the realm of genius.
“..Elegance is an attitude…”
-Karl Otto Lagerfeld 1933 - 2019
Karl was an innately talented illustrator and artist. Here he captures friend and mentor Vern Lambert in 1978. Vern was somewhat of a mentor to Karl through introduction by Anna Piaggi. Born in Melbourne, Australia in August 1937, Vern was an antiques Clothes dealer, writer (columnist for L'uomo Vogue) and teacher where he Lectured at the Domus Academy in Milan. Karl and Vern remained friends up until Vern's passing in 1992.
Left | Vern wearing black & White cotton sweater by Missoni with flecked tweed trousers. Right | A white peplum shirt by Kenzo. The white cotton shoes are the type worn by maids in Yugoslavia
Above are illustrations of Anna Piaggi, the doyenne of Italian fashion at the time. Anna was a fashion writer and was known as a style icon. Her style was extremely flamboyant and was known for he bright blue hair and personal style of mixing vintage and contemporary fashion.
Anna Piaggi & Karl Lagerfeld Italian Vogue 2nd March 1979
Fashion Illustrations featured in the 1986 book titled | Karl Lagerfeld - A fashion Journal by Anna Piaggi. Published by Thames & Hudson