The highly anticipated annual event, The Met Gala, is a glamorous fundraiser for the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It brings together A-list celebrities, top-rated fashion designers, models, and other prominent personalities, making it one of the most sought-after fashion events worldwide. The event takes place on the first Monday of May every year, with an exclusive theme corresponding to the Costume Institute’s current or impending exhibition. This year, the theme is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” a celebratory tribute to the legacy of the late Karl Lagerfeld.
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Karl Lagerfeld: a fascinating life full of paradoxes
Karl Lagerfeld was an enigmatic figure in the fashion world, known for his signature black and white ensembles, powdered ponytail, sunglasses, high-collared shirts, and fingerless gloves. His love for his feline companion, Choupette, was legendary, and his sharp wit and eccentric personal style will be remembered for years. Despite his penchant for the spotlight, Lagerfeld was a private individual who lived a fascinating life full of paradoxes.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1933 to a wealthy family, he had a comfortable upbringing. At age 14, he ran away to Paris, where he enrolled at Lycee Montaigne and learned how to sketch. At age 21, after winning a competition for drawing a coat, he caught the eye of Pierre Balmain, who hired him as a designer. Looking for more progression, he moved to Jean Patou in 1958, where he designed the shortest skirts in Paris. However, frustrated by his lack of freedom at Patou, he went freelance and worked for major clients such as Valentino and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1964, he was hired by Gabby Aguentar and made the creative director of Chloe, a role he held for 16 years.
54 Years of Innovation: Karl Lagerfeld’s Legacy at Fendi
In 1965 he was hired by Fendi to oversee the brand’s fur collections. In 1966, he debuted his first collection for Fendi, which received high praise for its innovative use of fur. Ten years later, in 1977, he was appointed the Creative Director of Fendi and held the position for over 40 years. During his tenure, he introduced Fendi’s now-iconic double “F” logo and launched the brand’s first ready-to-wear collection in 1985.
His last collection for Fendi before his death was the Fall/Winter 2019-2020 collection, showcased during Milan Fashion Week in February 2019, a day after his passing. As part of the press materials for the show, Fendi released sketches that Lagerfeld had created for the collection before his death. The show was a touching tribute to Lagerfeld’s contribution to Fendi and his creativity and influence on the fashion industry.
36 years at Chanel: Reviving a Near-death Brand
In 1983, Chanel offered Lagerfeld a rumored $1,000,000 salary to join their team. He then left Chloe to revive Chanel, using his energy and incredible mind to create iconic pieces like the CC flap bag. One of his most significant contributions to Chanel involved updating the classic Chanel suit with a modern twist and introducing new materials and colors to appeal to younger generations. He also introduced new styles like slim-fitting pencil skirts and cropped jackets, which have since become staples of the Chanel brand. Karl Lagerfeld’s final collection for Chanel was presented at the Grand Palais in Paris during the Paris Fashion Week on March 5, 2019. The collection was a tribute to Lagerfeld’s legacy and his 36 years at Chanel. The show concluded with an emotional tribute to the enigma who revived Chanel. Models walked down the runway to David Bowie’s “Heroes,” a song Lagerfeld loved.
Launching his own successful label
In 1984, he launched his own successful label, which he later sold to the Tommy Hilfiger group in 2005 but remained as its chief creative director. In an interview with Vogue, the fashion icon expressed, “I haven’t been dreaming all my life of having my name over a shop. However, we will put it there because it’s the right moment to do so. I made this name; why not use it?”
Collaboration with H&M
Karl Lagerfeld collaborated with H&M in 2004 to create a highly anticipated and successful limited-edition collection. The collaboration marked the first time a high-end fashion designer had worked on such a large scale with a mass-market retailer. The collection’s launch was met with incredible hype and enthusiasm from fashion fans worldwide. Many people waited in long lines for hours to get their hands on a piece of the collection, which quickly sold out in stores and online. The collection’s success resulted in the increasing trend of high-end fashion collaborations with fast-fashion brands.
Karl Lagerfeld, despite being openly gay, kept his romantic life private. Not much is known about his personal affairs, but he did have one known partner, Jacques de Bascher, a French socialite known for his flamboyant lifestyle. Lagerfeld regarded him as the love of his life, and they were often seen together at fashion events and parties. However, De Bascher’s infidelity, including a brief but intense affair with fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, complicated Lagerfeld’s and Saint Laurent’s already tense relationship, which was never fully resolved. De Bascher passed away in 1989 at the age of 38 due to AIDS-related complications, and Lagerfeld cared for him until the end.
Lagerfeld was a controversial figure known for his blunt remarks, which often resulted in strained relationships with others in the fashion industry. He had complex relationships with Anna Wintour, Pierre Bergé, Giorgio Armani, and Tom Ford. Lagerfeld once referred to Wintour as his “enemy” and accused her of interfering with his work, but they later reconciled and became very close friends. Lagerfeld and Bergé had a longstanding feud, with Bergé accusing Lagerfeld of being opportunistic and insincere and Lagerfeld accusing Armani of copying his designs. Lagerfeld and Ford were once close friends, but their relationship soured in the early 2000s due to Lagerfeld’s accusations of design theft by Ford.
Karl Lagerfeld received multiple awards for his contributions to the fashion industry, such as the Fashion Group International Night of Stars award for Fashion Leadership in 1996, the Council of Fashion Designers of America International Award in 2000, the highest civilian honor in France, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2002, the Bambi Award for Fashion in 2002, the Fashion Group International Superstar Award in 2006, the Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award in 2010, and the Designer of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards in 2015.
Lagerfeld’s passing in February 2019 marked the end of an era as the fashion industry mourned the loss of one of its most brilliant and influential designers ever. At 85, Lagerfeld left an indelible mark on the fashion world, and his legacy will never be forgotten.