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Karl Lagerfeld: The greatest fashion revolutionary of our time
Karl Lagerfeld: The greatest fashion revolutionary of our time

He designed collections for Chanel, Chloé, Fendi and his own label. Two years after his death, his estate is now being auctioned. Including food bowls for his cat Choupette and 200 of his fingerless leather gloves. The portrait of an eccentric.

Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel Haut Couture
Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel Haut Couture

Career start in Paris and a coat that changed everything

He began his career in the fashion world in the mid-1950s in Paris, where he worked for Balmain, Patou, Chloé and other fashion companies. He came to the French capital at the age of 19 because his father, a German condensed milk manufacturer, had an office there. First, Lagerfeld attended the Lycée Montaigne in the Latin Quarter and finally a private drawing school. In a design competition, he submitted the draft of a coat and reached first place with the sketch. Fun fact: Yves Saint Laurent, later one of his biggest competitors, won another category at the same contest by drawing an evening dress. Lagerfeld was hired as an apprentice tailor by Pierre Balmain, who was on the jury for the competition produced the yellow coat designed by Karl: a collarless model, the buckle at the top of the button placket with a V-shaped back neckline. It is one of the pieces that paved the way for Lagerfeld to become a fashion legend.

Karl Lagerfeld coat
Karl Lagerfeld coat

Three years later, the German designer was called artistic director in the fashion house Jean Patous fetched. In 1958 he presented his first collection: Roland Karl. Another change followed: Lagerfeld was now working for Chloé, where he was appointed chief designer in 1963 and dressed the likes of Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot and Maria Callas. His big breakthrough came in 1972: He designed the Art Deco collection for Chloé, that made him world famous.

The coup of his life: Chanel

1983 - the year of his career high point: "Charlemagne" becomes Creative Director of the House of Chanel. In an interview he said: "All people told me: 'Don't do this, don't touch it. This is dead, this is broken'". Lagerfeld was not impressed by this. On the contrary. He transformed the company into a modern brand that now primarily addressed young people. He was the first to dare to change Coco Chanel's legacy. "Respect is the door to bankruptcy," he said, "in fashion you have to walk over corpses." There it is again - the provocative, pointed expression that Lagerfeld was notorious for and the unconventional way of approaching things and life.

In any case, he was more than right with his approach: Under his direction, the label transformed into a super empire with sales in the billions.

Many more fashion highlights and successful projects

  • He has been designing since 1965 Fur fashion for Fendi in Rome.
  • In 1984 he founded his own label Karl Lagerfeld.
  • From 1980 to 1984 he was the first fashion designer Visiting professor in the fashion class at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.
  • Lagerfeld accepted various design assignments, including for the Tiziano Roma brand.
  • In 2004 the designer became the first cooperation partner of H&M. In the same year Lagerfeld designed the stage outfits from Madonna's Re-Invention World Tour.
  • Overall, the fashion designer brought 16 (!) collections annually for the different brands on the market.
  • 2009 became a 25 cm toy figure modeled on him produced in a number of 1000 copies. Selling price: € 129 each.
  • A year later he designed a bottle for Coca Cola and a separate collection for Swarovski, including the diadem for the debutants of the Vienna Opera Ball 2017.

  • In 2015 a Cooperation with Zalando. He delivered an 18-piece women's collection to the online retailer.
  • Lagerfeld also created Perfumes: For Chloé he designed "Chloé for Woman" and several under his own name.
  • The designer was also available as a Costume designer for theater and opera employed. Among other things, 1980 at the Vienna Burgtheater and 1991 at the Salzburg Festival.
  • Lagerfeld published numerous photo books. He himself owned one of the world's largest collections of photo books.
Karl Lagerfeld play doll
Karl Lagerfeld play doll

His muses

Inès de la Fressange, Kristen McMenamy, Anna Piaggi, Amanda Harlech, Claudia Schiffer, Rihanna, Kristen Stewart and Lily-Rose Depp - they all inspired Lagerfeld to create his creations. In an interview he said: "Without 'muses' the creative process would be very abstract and lifeless. They help to give expression and shape to things." He even took model McMenay to the altar at her wedding to photographer Miles Aldridge in 1997.

Claudia Schiffer, Karl Lagerfeld
Claudia Schiffer, Karl Lagerfeld

Choupette: the most famous pet in the world

Actually, it was model Baptiste Giabiconi's cat. When he went away for two weeks and asked Lagerfeld to take care of her in the meantime, the fashion designer fell in love with the Birman cat. Upon Giabiconi's return he said: "I'm sorry, Choupette is mine now. I'm not giving Choupette back. " From then on, the animal led an unparalleled luxury life: Choupette ate her meals, prepared and served by a private chef, on silver plates at the table together with Lagerfeld. She had during Lagerfeld's lifetime a bodyguard, a family doctor and two cat-sitters.

Soon she was just as famous as her master with 240,000 followers on Instagram. Together with the Munich start-up LucyBalu, the celebrity pet even launched its own product: a hammock for design-savvy cats. Her book "Choupette: From the life of a cat at Karl Lagerfeld's side" became a bestseller, She made millions with advertising contracts for Opel and Japanese beauty products. Besides, she was Cover model for Vogue alongside the supermodels Gisele Bündchen and Linda Evangelista. After Lagerfeld's death, she is said to have come back to Baptiste Giabiconi.

The death of the greatest fashion revolutionary of our time

On February 19, 2019, Karl Lagerfeld died at the age of 85 in a suburb of Paris of complications from pancreatic cancer. His fortune is said to have been between 400 and 800 million euros and distributed to seven heirs: the models Baptiste Giabiconi, Jake Davies and Brad Kroenig, Lagerfeld's bodyguard and confidante Sébastien Jondeau, his PR agent Caroline Lebar, his housekeeper and cat-sitter Françoise Caçote and godchild Hudson Kroenig, son of dressman Brad Kroenig.

Karl Lagerfeld sponsored child
Karl Lagerfeld sponsored child

Now, two years after his death, should his estate will be auctioned through the auction house Sotheby's at the end of the year. Including around 80 food bowls from Choupette, more than 200 of his fingerless leather gloves and three Rolls Royce.

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