KAISER KARL

  • “It’s yellow, it’s ugly it doesn’t go with anything but it could save your life ” Oh yes, he was the first to wear a yellow safety vest with class! That was back in 2008 for a road safety campaign. But who? Why Karl Lagerfeld of course, one of the last great giants of fashion, a workaholic and a genius Jack-of-all-trades! From Balmain to Patou, from Chloé to Chanel via Fendi and his own labels, the Kaiser knows how to do everything and is to be found everywhere. He is, in turn, fashion designer, editor and director, his photos have stunned and seduced since 1987 and now a wonderful new book has been published featuring his best publicity campaigns for Chanel. You go, Coco!

  • Claudia Schiffer /D'management Group - Karl Lagerfeld/ © Chanel
    Claudia Schiffer /D'management Group - Karl Lagerfeld/ © Chanel
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    The recent passing of Hubert de Givenchy left us all feeling sad and perplexed. Of the major haute couture houses launched at the end of the Second World War, sadly few founders remain today. Pierre Cardin and Valentino are still with us… check! But Karl Lagerfeld surpasses them all, as if time has no effect on him and his actual age remains a mystery. Ever young and dashing, he is now bearded and svelte since he fell in love with the Dior suits designed for a more adolescent frame by Hedi Slimane in 2001. A modern dandy, his secret is a healthy lifestyle (that’s just basic!) and Diet Coke, taking an interest in everything, being where it’s at and so setting and breaking trends. You could add to the list a healthy dose of biting humour, a few truculent “karlisms”, two of three caresses from his cat Choupette and a 15-hour working day! Because this workaholic creates more than 12 collections a year himself including ones for Chanel, Fendi and his personal collections. And that’s not counting his countless collaborations of all kinds. From giving the Coke can and the newspaper Libération a makeover to designing a bankable H&M collection in 2004, he is quite ubiquitous. He is channelling Gabrielle Chanel!

     

  • Slasher chic

    Born around 1935 in Hamburg, the young Karl Lagerfeld worked for a while as a fashion illustrator and then, on November 25, 1954 won first prize (together with a young Yves Saint Laurent) in the International Wool Secretariat’s competition in Paris. Pierre Balmain, a member of the jury, was so impressed with his talent that he employed him as an assistant from 1955 to 1962. Yves Saint Laurent, who would become a friend, joined Christian Dior, the competition’s other patron. 1954 was the beginning of a brilliant career! While he was at Balmain, the young Lagerfeld became Artistic Director for Jean Patou in 1959. A short time later, he decided to make a bid for independence and design contractual collections around the world. In 1963, back in Paris, he created collections for the House of Chloe. where he would stay for 20 years. In 1965 he joined the House of Fendi in Rome in parallel and he is still its designer today. 1983 would be the second key date in his intense career. The Wertheimer family, owners of the House of Chanel since 1954, had been trying to relaunch the virtually moribund label for a dozen years following the death of the great Mademoiselle in 1971. Given his impressive CV, Karl became the man of the moment. Erudite, talented, addicted to work and with a sharp whit, the dandy became the Artistic Director of the House of Chanel. “I’m a bit of a strange Coco,” he joked.

  • Karl Lagerfeld/ © Chanel
    Karl Lagerfeld/ © Chanel
  • A beautiful book for his library

    Interested in all forms of art, it was almost by chance that Lagerfeld turned to photography. Indeed it was after he was unhappy with the work of three successive photographers during the making of a press pack for Chanel that he decided to pick up the camera and take the photos himself. If you want something done, then do it yourself, as the saying goes! In 1987 he opened a studio with six people with whom he would create all publicity campaigns for Chanel and also for Fendi and even Dior Homme! This wonderful work from publishers La Martinière compiles, for the first time, all the Chanel campaigns from 1987 to the present day – that’s a total of almost 600 photos, each more stunning than the last. This is really a historical manual of Chanel during the era of the Kaiser! Lagerfeld’s inspirations come from German expressionism from the 1920s, as well as the work of the great fashion photographers of the 1950s such as Irving Penn or the maestros of the 1980s including Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon. More recently, he has been inspired by Steven Klein and Steven Meisel. Preferring black and white, Lagerfeld works with both traditional and digital cameras. His aesthetic style is based on strong contrasts, sculpted light, architecture and the portrait technique. The choice of dazzling personalities ensures the house is both modern and immortal; Inès, Claudia, Christie, Linda, Kristen … Yes! It is such a delight to find our muses and beloved supermodels from the 1990s in these pages, along with newcomers such as the actor Kirsten Stewart. This work will enchant anyone who loves fashion and photography. And, as Karl put it so well: “The smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world!”

     

    By Yvo Deprelle

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