Karl Lagerfeld

He heads Chanel and Fendi and is a veritable font of fashion

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BY: Michael Perris

Not everyone can invent themselves, to transcend their flesh-and-blood beginnings and become something iconic. Karl Lagerfeld certainly has. He was born in Hamburg in 1933 to German industrialist parents (making him 83), though he has claimed younger birthdates and a Swedish ethnicity that by all factual accounts do not exist. He was schooled in Paris and worked his way quickly into the fashion world, starting as a designer in 1958 at Jean Patou, then Tiziani, then Chloé, then Curiel, then Fendi and then Chanel in 1983—not sequentially, but accumulatively, growing in influence and stature. Today he is head of design at Chanel, which he transformed into a fashion powerhouse, and Fendi and has his own eponymous line; he shuttles back and forth between his Paris base and Milan and New York. His creativity is inexhaustible; his sense of personal cool, relentless; his forward-thinking energy, eternal. Lagerfeld is also a sketch artist supreme, an acclaimed photographer and a filmmaker. And of course, he has a signature look: high, starched white collars; dark glasses; open-fingered gloves; silver-white hair pulled back in a ponytail. PROVOKR celebrates Lagerfeld: watch him discuss Chanel’s Fall/Winter 2016–17 show, above, and, in a demonstrably self-actualized way, discuss his own life and vision with Christine Ockrent, below.