Style / Trends

KEEPING UP WITH THE KAISER

ByAndy Wass

Like any young professional, I constantly think about my resume – How long was that internship?  Did I forget to include an award I won in college?  For the most part I’m pretty satisfied with my experience so far and see nothing but bigger and better opportunities in my future.

And then I think about Karl Lagerfeld.

Not only has the icon established himself as one of the most influential designers of the past century through his work with Chanel, Fendi and Chloe – he is also an all-around over-achiever.  He’s that A-student who does extra credit “for fun;” he’s that gorgeous girl who claims she grew up an awkward tomboy.

What’s his secret?  Why do I envy him so much and yet marvel at each factoid I learn about him like I’ve just found a vintage Chanel 2.55?  I don’t remember a love-at-first-sight moment, but my fascination with Lagerfeld has been gradual and weird, but ever-increasing.  On my humor/fashion blog “Avant Garb” (www.avant-garb.net), I frequently post about the Kaiser because he is a living oddity, and my brother and I have become obsessed with his mysterious larger-than-life image.  His classic, trademark look and four-language fluency are only the beginning.


Let’s start with a little background for some perspective.
   
Born Sept. 10, 1933, to a wealthy family in Hamburg, Germany, Karl-Otto Lagerfeldt moved to Paris at age 20.  He apprenticed for Pierre Balmain, designed for Jean Patou, then established a freelance career and a shop in Paris. 
   
In 1964 Lagerfeld freelanced for Chloe, producing a collection that won him a lot of attention.  Then in the 1970s he started to work with Fendi, while also periodically designing theater costumes.  In 1982 he began his long-term engagement with Chanel.

In the following years Lagerfeld continued to escalate the scale of his work, establishing his own clothing line (K Karl Lagerfeld) and fragrance collections, designing custom tour outfits for Madonna and Kylie Minogue, collaborating with H&M, personally photographing celebrities, fashion editorials and his own press kits, and making himself synonymous with the Chanel legacy. 


Pretty impressive already, right?  So what does the man who does everything do?

More, of course.

First, consider that I hardly name-dropped half the designers Uncle Karl’s worked for.  I just pointed out the biggest names for Americans.


Next consider that even though he’s over 70, Lagerfeld has been racking up the extracurriculars in the past decade, solidifying his overall artistry and creativity:

Nov. 1999: opened Paris bookstore 7L

Oct. 2000: launched publishing company Editions 7L

2002: published The Karl Lagerfeld Diet to share his weight-loss methods with the world.

2003: designed a limited edition piano for Steinway’s 150th Anniversary

Feb. 2007: his first authorized film biography, Lagerfeld Confidential, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival

Oct. 2007: personally designed a Chanel bicycle

Dec. 2007: opening of “European 20th Century Greek Revival,” at NYC’s Lorenzo Gallery; this exhibit displayed Lagerfeld’s photography and furniture collections

Jan. 2008: after failing to obtain permission to use the Kaiser’s likeness, Volvo scrapped a Swiss ad campaign featuring multiple Lagerfelds snapping shots of a new car model


Jan. 2008:  German teddy bear company Steiff, however, announced plans for a Karl Lagerfeld bear

Jan. 2008: Colette sold – and sold out of – its limited-edition Karl Lagerfeld figurines

Feb. 2008: Lagerfeld Confidential is released on DVD

April 2008: Rockstar Games announced that Lagerfeld will be a radio show host in the new installment of “Grand Theft Auto”

The legend of the Lagerfeld is in fact so sweeping that The New York Times’ blog “T: The Moment” even posted a list in November suggesting other projects for the Kaiser, including “create a quilted Diet Pepsi can cozy,” “moderate Hedi Slimane’s MySpace page,” and “partner with Johnson & Johnson on a hypoallergenic wig powder.”

Lagerfeld does reportedly have a butler on-hand at photo shoots to guard his goblet of Diet Pepsi, but come on – those suggestions are just ridiculous.  The Kaiser would never do such things, right?
   
…right? 

 

Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.