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Karl Lagerfeld, RIP

Lagerfeld said of fashion, “We created a product nobody needs, but people want. If you need an ugly old car, it can wait, but if you want a new fashion …
(Stephane Mahe/Reuters)Remembering the provocative, ingenious fashion designer, who died Tuesday at 85 years of ageYesterday, Karl Lagerfeld passed away at 85 years old.
The designer with the trim, powdered white ponytail and quadrangle black glasses was as iconic as his designs. He was sincere even when it was not charming, which endeared him to many and left a few cold.Lagerfeld said of fashion, “We created a product nobody needs, but people want. If you need an ugly old car, it can wait, but if you want a new fashion item, it cannot wait.” It was a surprisingly flippant statement from one of contemporary fashion’s great geniuses, but then Lagerfeld was like that, cultivating a public persona at once direct and enigmatic. “I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” he famously remarked.
“It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”Although instantly recognizable and a fixture of the fashion world, he hid his face nearly perpetually behind sunglasses and gave contradictory accounts of his life’s details, specifically those concerning his parents, childhood, and age. He had many friends, but in his later years insisted that he preferred to be solitary.He lived alone with his tawny Birmin cat, Choupette, whom he’d kidnapped years ago from a friend, and whom he once joked he would marry if it were legal. (Choupette happens to be one of the possible rumored heirs to his fortune.)Lagerfeld was also known for epigrams that were funny, controversial, and often truthful. Indeed, he lived by them.
He once said in an interview that “Berlin is like a human body with an arm and leg missing,” and the quip captures him to a tee: concise and acute in both his words and his designs. He saw things from a particular angle and expressed himself clearly.Of course, his bluntness could get him into trouble. To take but one of many examples, he was heavily criticized for telling Focus magazine that “no one wants to see curvy women.” But when one November he woke up and decided that he wanted to fit into Hedi Slimane’s slim Dior suits, he adopted a strict diet and lost over 90 pounds in 13 months.Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, wrote that “Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind.I will miss him so very much.” If anyone’s earned the right to heap such praise on him, it’s Win tour, who walked out of a 1993 show in which strippers modeled his seasonal Fendi collection. Lagerfeld was certainly not obsequious. He was one of those brash few who prioritized creative sincerity above niceties, a herd that thins out a bit more every day.
Although sometimes transgression for transgression’s sake, evenly cheaply so, he was not a sycophant.One of the secrets to his success was an ability to keep an eye on the new without abandoning the old.He successfully synthesized traditional designs and contemporary trends, rather than regurgitating tired forms or relying on anachronisms masquerading as classics. He renewed for each decade the magnetism that had originally attracted crowds to a legacy brand.
Lagerfeld did not have much patience for those who were unable to adapt. “I get along with everyone except for men my age, who are bourgeois or retired or boring, and cannot follow the evolution of time and mood,” he told New York magazine.The world changed enormously during the course of his life, but he never condemned the past or fell out of touch with the future. “It is up to us to adjust to our times.The times are not supposed to adjust to our, perhaps passé, taste.”Lagerfeld found success early.At a tender age some say 18, others 21 he entered the coat category of the International Wool Secretariat (now the International Wool mark Prize) in Paris. He won the prize with a daffodil-yellow coat.He had his first show at Chanel in early 1983. The house was considered past its prime and on its last legs in the wake of Coco Chanel’s 1971 death.
As creative director, he revitalized the brand, combining its trademark pearls, quilted leather, and tweed jackets with his keen eye for balanced and forward-looking luxury aesthetics. He later became creative director at Fendi, and then founded his own eponymous fashion brand.
Lagerfeld had a gift for guiding the spirits of titanic-but-stolid fashion houses into the future. He once remarked Each season, they tell me [the Chanel designs] look younger.One day well all turn up like babies. He remained at Chanel for the rest of his life.
For better or worse, he was known for his work with furs, which earned him the occasional wrath of animal-rights advocates. In 2001, he was confronted at Lincoln Center by PETA activists who pelted tofu pies at him and called him a “fur pimp.” The protesters’ aim was as good as their pies; they hit Calvin Klein, whom Lagerfeld was walking next to, in what one of the activists called a case of friendly fire. Still, he was undeterred.Brigitte Bardot once wrote a letter to Choupette, asking her to “purr at [Lagerfeld’s] ears” entreating him to stop using fur. Lagerfeld never complied, or perhaps Choupette never bothered to ask him (though he did draw PETA’s praise for using fake fur in his 2010 Chanel collection).
While at Fendi, originally a furrier, Lagerfeld injected a newness into their furs that had been around for decades, updating but not corrupting their signature focus. Silvia Venturini Fendi collaborated with Lagerfeld on the 2013 Fendi fall ready-to-wear line, Lagerfeld’s 96th collection for the house.
The line included a dyed-blue fur, cropped jacket with blood orange trim, a fur sweater-vest, and caps blooming with oversized feathers.Fendi said upon Lagerfeld’s death, “For Fendi and myself the creative genius of Karl has been and will always be our guiding light.

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‘He had complete control’: Why Karl Lagerfeld was the exception to fashion’s new rules

With the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the world of fashion lost one of its most indelible personalities.
In many ways, Lagerfeld shaped the brands he worked with, rather than the other way around.Today, a brands business objectives often stand in the way of a creatives vision.Lagerfeld’s room-filling personality was the subject of many retrospectives and obituaries when the news of his death broke Tuesday morning.He was notorious for his ease in front of the camera and how frequently he gave media appearances. For decades, the man Karl Lagerfeld was inextricable from the brands, like Chanel and Fendi, that he fronted.His personal aesthetic was a major factor in what the actual brand looked like. Womens Wear Daily noted that Karl Lagerfeld either personally saw to or supervised nearly everything himself, rarely delegating any aspect of Chanels operations, even personally proofreading press releases.But the era of the fashion designer as ultra-celebrity and driving force of the brand is ending, said some industry insiders.People often complained that Chanel was too much the same each year or that it was missing out on the zeitgeist, said Stefan Siegel, CEO of fashion platform Not Just A Label.But that sort of complete control, working every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.completely hands-on, thats what Karl brought to the brand. He was one of the last designers like that we will ever see.I think it will become more like music. I saw the new Freddie Mercury film, and I think someone like him will never happen again.Instead of a few mega stars, you have many, many artists with smaller but more dedicated followings. I think fashion is going the same way.There are a number of major designers who still have some form of star power. Alessandro Michele at Gucci, Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton and Hedi Slimane at Celine are just a few examples of designers who have shaped brands around their personal aesthetics.Still, the role that a designer plays particularly how their personal aesthetic plays into the brand is changing, according to some industry insiders.I think were at a fork in the road, said fashion writer Christina Binkley.We have brands like Celine who went from one big-name designer to another and completely changed the brand. Hedi Slimane completely rebuilt [Celine] into his own image.It went well for him when he did the same thing at Saint Laurent, and it seems like its going well at Celine now. Then we have brands where the designers come and go, but the brands largely stay the same.
While Slimane completely changed the brand, other designers have been less successful. Binkley pointed to Raf Simons’ stint at Calvin Klein  the overall look of the brand remained mostly unchanged throughout his tenure there and after.Simons departure was attributed to differing creative visions, according to Calvin Klein. After he left, the brands first campaign without him was highly reminiscent of the brands traditional aestheticsThis shift ultimately comes down to the relationship between the artistic and business sides of a fashion brand.
Where once the designer was the ultimate arbiter of what a fashion brand’s identity was, now the business side typically plays that role.Its easy to forget [how things work].We get so excited about designer shifts, but not about CEO shifts, Binkley said. Most people could not name the CEOs of the big brands, but youd be hard-pressed to find a truly wildly successful brand now that isnt a partnership of the designer and the CEO.
Gucci is a great example of that. Alessandro is extraordinary, but I don’t think there’s a whiff of a chance of that success without Marco Bizzarri making sure things were going well.Chanels CEO Alain Wertheimer allegedly told Lagerfeld that he did not like what Chanel was and handed Lagerfeld complete creative control over shaping the brand when he joined 30 years ago. “They allowed me to have a contract to do what I want, where and when I want,” Lagerfeld reportedly said.The era when the designer was in complete control of a brand’s aesthetics seems to be coming to an end. Lagerfeld’s outsize personality and exacting control over every visual detail of the brand may have been the last and most notable example of this specific type of designer-controlled environment.As fashion brands evolve into massive commercial juggernauts, the dominance of the business side will likely continue, according to Siegel.MORE FROM GLOSSY ON FASHIONVrai and Oro’s Vanessa Stofenmacher: ‘Modern luxury is much more inclusive’FEB 20, 2019‘It’s a re-unveiling of the brand’: Modcloth enters period of rapid retail expansion FEB 15, 2019’We were first’: Faced with new competition, eBay wants to remind the sneakerhead industry of its rootsFEB 15, 2019‘I’ve seen people cry’: A NYFW security guard on 24 years of fending off crashers FEB 14, 2019Get news and analysis about fashion, luxury and technology delivered to your inbox every morning 2019 Digiday Media. All rights reserved.
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