The Sayings of Chairman Karl
The Photography, The Fashion & Choupette
“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
The iconic Karl Lagerfeld was never known for his reserved demeanor. Quite the contrary, actually. Lagerfeld’s sharp tongue and legendary designs made him a formidable force in the fashion world, and the words “Lagerfeld” and “Chanel” became one in the same throughout his storied career. To remember his colorful and storied life, and keep opinions about his “acerbic” personality at bay (which you can definitely find elsewhere), I’ve listed some key milestones and quotes from Lagerfeld you may not be familiar with that shaped both who he became and the designs he created.
1933: Karl Lagerfeld is born on September 10 in Hamburg, Germany. He will continue to refute this for years, even claiming to be born in 1938 to “Elisabeth of Germany” and “Otto Ludwig Lagerfeld of Sweden.” Neither one of his parents held titles.
“When I was four I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday.”
1955: Lagerfeld enters and wins a coat-making competition sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. Soon after, he was hired as an apprentice for Pierre Balmain.
1958: Lagerfeld becomes artistic director for Jean Patou. He also did freelance designing for brands like Chloe and Valentino.
1967: Fendi brings Lagerfeld on to modernize their fur collection. He does just that, using mole, rabbit, and squirrel pelts for the first time in a high fashion house. He stays with Fendi until his death, and to this day Fendi remains (love it or hate it) THE fur destination among designer names.
“I am a fashion person, and fashion is not only about clothes – it’s about all kinds of change.”
1983: Chanel, a near-dead brand at the time, brings Lagerfeld on board. He completely revamps Chanel’s read-to-wear line and reinvigorates the brand’s interlocked “CC” logo into a bona fide style pattern.
1984: Lagerfeld launches his own “Karl Lagerfeld” brand. Its goal? “Intellectual sexiness.”
1993: Anna Wintour walks out of Lagerfeld’s Fendi show during Milan Fashion Week after he uses strippers to model his black-and-white collection.
“Everything I say is a joke. I am a joke of myself.”
2001: Animal rights activists hurl tofu pies at Lagerfeld during a fashion premiere at Lincoln Center in NYC. The pies miss Lagerfeld and instead hit Calvin Klein. Whoops.
2006: Lagerfeld launches K Karl Lagerfeld, a collection for men and women including fitted T-shirts and a vast array of denim.
2010: The Couture Council of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology creates an award for Lagerfeld and presents it to him: The Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award.
“I’ve always known that I was made to live this way, that I would be this sort of legend.”
2012: Controversies abound. Lagerfeld calls singer Adele “a little too fat” and says Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa, “should only show her back.” Needless to say, furor erupts in the U.K., and Lagerfeld issues apologies.
“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.”
2013: Lagerfeld directs the short film “Once Upon a Time” with Keira Knightley in the role of Coco Chanel. The same year, he also declares that he would have his beloved cat, Choupette (rumored to actually be awarded the bulk of his estate), married if it ever became legal.
2018: Carpenters Workshop Gallery collaborates with Lagerfeld to launch a collection of functional sculptures called “Architectures.”
2019: Following a period of declining health, Lagerfeld is moved to a hospital in the Parisian suburbs, where he succumbs to complications from pancreatic cancer on February 19.
“We have to be tough. We cannot talk about our suffering. People buy dresses to be happy, not to hear about somebody who suffered over a piece of taffeta. Me, I like to make an effort. I like nothing better than concrete reality. I’m a very down-to-earth person, but it is my job to make that earth more pleasant.”