Karl Lagerfeld (born Karl Otto Lagerfeldt on 10 September 1933 in Hamburg) is a German fashion designer, artist and photographer based in Paris. He has collaborated on a variety of fashion and art related projects, most notably as head designer and creative director for the fashion house Chanel. Lagerfeld has his own label fashion house, as well as the Italian house Fendi.
Early Career (Balmain-Patou)
In 1955, at the age of 22, Lagerfeld was awarded a position as an apprentice at Pierre Balmain after winning second place, behind Yves Saint-Laurent, in a competition for a coat sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. He told a reporter a few years later, "I won on coats, but actually I like designing coats least of all. What I really love are little black dresses." Yves Saint Laurent also won the contest for a dress award. "Yves was working for Dior. Other young people I knew were working for Balenciaga, whom they thought was God, but I wasn't so impressed," he recalled in 1976.
In 1958, after three years at Balmain, he moved to Jean Patou where he designed two haute couture collections a year for five years. His first collection was shown in a two-hour presentation in July 1958, but he used the name Roland Karl, rather than Karl Lagerfeld (although in 1962, reporters began referring to him as Karl Lagerfelt or Karl Logerfeld). The first collection was poorly received. Carrie Donovan wrote that "the press booed the collection". The UPI noted: "The firm's brand new designer, 25-year old Roland Karl, showed a collection which stressed shape and had no trace of last year's sack." The reporter went on to say that "A couple of short black cocktail dresses were cut so wide open at the front that even some of the women reporters gasped. Other cocktail and evening dresses feature low, low-cut backs." Most interestingly, Karl said that his designsilhouette for the season was called by the letter "K" (for Karl), which was translated into a straight line in front, curved in at the waist in the back, with a low fullness to the skirt.
His skirts for the spring 1960 season were the shortest in Paris, and the collection was not well received. Carrie Donovan said it "looked like clever and immensely salable ready-to-wear, not couture." In his late 1960 collection he designed special little hats, pancake shaped circles of satin, which hung on the cheek. He called them "slaps in the face." Karl's collection were said to be well received, but not groundbreaking. "I became bored there, too, and I quit and tried to go back to school, but that didn't work, so I spent two years mostly on beaches – I guess I studied life."
International Fame (1982-present)
At the time, he had also been maintaining a design contract with the Japanese firm Isetan, to create collections for both men and women through 30 licenses; had a lingerie line in the US, produced by Eve Stillmann; was designing shoes for Charles Jourdan, sweaters for Ballantyne, and worked with Trevira as a fashion adviser.
In 2002, Karl Lagerfeld asked Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, to collaborate with him on a special denim collection for the Lagerfeld Gallery. The collection, which was titled Lagerfeld Gallery by Diesel, was co-designed by Lagerfeld and then developed by Diesel's Creative Team, under the supervision of Rosso. It consisted of five pieces that were presented during the designer's catwalk shows during Paris Fashion Week and then sold in very strict limited editions at the Lagerfeld Galleries in Paris and Monaco, and at the Diesel Denim Galleries in New York and Tokyo. During the first week of sales in New York, more than 90% of the trousers had already been sold out, even though prices ranged from as high as $240 to $1,840. In a statement after the show in Paris, Rosso said "I am honored to have met this fashion icon of our time. Karl represents creativity, tradition and challenge, and the fact that he thought of Diesel for this collaboration is a great gift and acknowledgement of our reputation as the prêt-à-porter of casual wear."
Lagerfeld designed the costumes for the Carmen sequences in the 2002 film Callas Forever. In 2004, he designed some outfits for the international music artist Madonna, for her Re-Invention tour, and recently designed outfits for Kylie Minogue's Showgirl tour.
Lagerfeld collaborated with the international Swedish fashion brand H&M. On 12 November 2004, H&M offered a limited range of different Lagerfeld clothes in chosen outlets for both women and men. Only two days after having supplied its outlets, H&M announced that almost all the clothes were sold out. Lagerfeld has expressed some fear that working with lower-end brands will taint his image, although in the past he has worked closely with the hosiery designer Wolford.
Lagerfeld is also a photographer. He produced Visionaire 23: The Emperor's New Clothes, a series of nude pictures of models and celebrities. He also personally photographed Mariah Carey for the cover of V magazine in 2005. In addition to his editorial work for Harper's Bazaar, Numéro and the Russian and German editions of Vogue, Lagerfeld photographs advertising campaigns for the houses under his direction (Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous line) every season.
In the 1980s, the Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Emperor's New Clothes" was published with drawings by Lagerfeld.
The designer was also the subject of a French reality series called Signé Chanel in 2005. The show covered the creation of his Fall/Winter 2004–2005 Chanel couture collection. It aired on Sundance Channel in the United States during the fall of 2006.
He has also supported and encouraged the work of up and coming designers including Philip Colbert of Rodnik.
On 18 December 2006, Lagerfeld announced the launch of a new collection for men and women dubbed K Karl Lagerfeld. The collection includes fitted T-shirts and a wide range of jeans.
Lagerfeld has signed a deal with Dubai Infinity Holdings (DIH); an investments enterprise that will focus on first of its kind projects in non conventional growth sectors, in line with their mandate[ to fulfil unmet market needs. Lagerfeld is to design limited edition homes on Isla Moda, the world’s first dedicated fashion island, set in the iconic development, The World. This will be a collaboration between Dubai Infinity Holdings and Lagerfeld across the GCC and India.
In 2008, Lagerfeld created a teddy bear in his likeness produced by Steiff in a limited-edition of 2,500 that sold for $1,500. Lagerfeld has been immortalized in many forms: pins, shirts, dolls, and more. In 2009, Tra Tutti began selling Karl Lagermouse and Karl Lagerfelt, mini Lagerfelds in the form of mice and finger puppets respectively.
On 10 September 2010, the Couture Council of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology presented Lagerfeld with an award created for him, "The Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award", at a benefit luncheon at Avery Fisher Hall, New York.
On 10 November 2010, Lagerfeld and Swedish crystal manufacturer Orrefors announced a collaboration for designing a crystal art collection. The first collection was launched in spring 2011 under the name "Orrefors by Karl Lagerfeld".
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