Karl Otto Lagerfeld is a German fashion designer, artist and photographer based in Paris. Lagerfeld was born on 10 September 1933 in Hamburg, Germany.
After attending a private school, Lagerfeld finished his secondary school at the Lycée Montaigne in Paris, where he majored in drawing and history.
He is the head designer and creative director of the fashion house Chanel as well as the Italian house Fendi and his own fashion label. Over the decades, he has collaborated on a variety of fashion and art-related projects.
Visionary, eclectic, and iconic, Karl Lagerfeld as a fashion designer, photographer, publisher, designer, and also film director, Karl Lagerfeld has created a universe in which every line is perfectly under control, each detail of absolute importance. The Cartesian mind has hatched a caustic, ultramodern, highly structured style, with an allure and a manner that emerges through graphic symbols that have become his unequivocal hallmarks.
Karl Lagerfeld instinctively grasps every molecule from the atmosphere and turns it into the mood of the moment. His style delves deep into his cosmopolitan background and into his perfect mastery of languages.
Karl Lagerfeld was hired as Pierre Balmain’s assistant after winning the coats category in a design competition sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat in 1955. In 1958, after three years at Balmain, he moved to Jean Patou where he designed two haute couture collections per year for five years. His first collection was shown in a two-hour presentation in July 1958, but he used the name Roland Karl, rather than Karl Lagerfeld. The first collection was poorly received. The UPI noted: “The firm’s brand new designer, 25-year-old Roland Karl, showed a collection which stressed shape and had no trace of last year’s sack.” The reporter went on to say: “A couple of short black cocktail dresses were cut so wide open at the front that even some of the women reporters gasped. Other cocktail and evening dresses feature low, low-cut backs.” Most interestingly, Karl said that his design silhouette for the season was called by the letter “K” for Karl, which was translated into a straight line in front, curved in at the waist in the back, with a low fullness to the skirt.
His skirts for the spring 1960 season were the shortest in Paris, and the collection was not well received. Carrie Donovan wrote that it “looked like clever and immensely salable ready-to-wear, not couture.” For his late 1960 collection, he designed special little hats, pancake shaped circles of satin, which hung on the cheek. He called them “slaps in the face.” Karl’s collection was said to be well received but not groundbreaking. “I became bored there, too, and I quit and tried to go back to school, but that didn’t work, so I spent two years mostly on beaches—I guess I studied life.”‘ In 1963, he began designing for Tiziani, a Roman couture house founded that year by Evan Richards. It began as couture and then branched out into ready-to-wear.Lagerfeld and Richards sketched the first collection in 1963 together. “When they wound up with 90 outfits, Tiziani threw caution and invitations to the winds, borrowed Catherine the Great’s jewels from Harry Winston, and opened his salon with a three-night wingding,” according to one report in 1969. Lagerfeld designed for the company until 1969.
Lagerfeld began to freelance for French fashion house Chloé in 1964, at first designing a few pieces each season. As more and more pieces were incorporated, he soon designed the entire collection. In 1970, he also began a brief design collaboration with Roman haute-couture house Curiel; its head was Gigliola Curiel.Lagerfeld’s first collection there was described as having a “drippy drapey elegance” designed for a “1930s cinema queen.” The Curiel mannequins all wore identical short-cropped blonde wigs. He also showed black velvet shorts, worn under a black velvet ankle-length cape.
His Chloé collection for spring 1973 (shown in October 1972) garnered headlines for offering something both “high fashion and high camp.” He showed loose Spencer jackets and printed silk shirt-jackets. He designed something he called a “surprise” skirt, which was in an ankle-length, pleated silk, so loose that it hid the fact it was actually pants. “It seems that wearing these skirts is an extraordinary sensation,” he told a reporter at the time.
From 1972, he collaborated with Italian fashion house Fendi, designing furs, clothing, and accessories.
Since the 1970s, Lagerfeld has occasionally worked as a costume designer for theatrical productions.
At the time, he was maintaining a design contract with Japanese firm Isetan to create collections for both men and women through 30 licenses, had a lingerie line in the U.S. produced by Eve Stillmann, was designing shoes for Charles Jourdan and sweaters for Ballantyne, and worked with Trevira as a fashion adviser.
In the 1980s Largerfeld integrated the interlocked “CC” monograph of Coco Chanel into a style pattern for the House of Chanel.
In 2002, Karl Lagerfeld asked Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, to collaborate with him on a special denim collection for the Lagerfeld Gallery. The collection, Lagerfeld Gallery by Diesel, was co-designed by Lagerfeld and then developed by Diesel’s creative team, under the supervision of Rosso. It consisted of five pieces that were presented during the designer’s catwalk shows during Paris Fashion Week and then sold in highly limited editions at the Lagerfeld Galleries in Paris and Monaco and at the Diesel Denim Galleries in New York and Tokyo. During the first week of sales in New York, more than 90% of the trousers were sold out, even though prices ranged from $240 to $1,840. In a statement after the show in Paris, Rosso said: “I am honored to have met this fashion icon of our time. Karl represents creativity, tradition and challenge, and the fact that he thought of Diesel for this collaboration is a great gift and acknowledgement of our reputation.”
Lagerfeld collaborated with H&M, which, on 12 November 2004, offered a limited range of Lagerfeld clothes for men and women, in certain outlets. Only two days after having supplied its outlets, H&M announced that almost all the clothes were sold out. However, Lagerfeld has expressed some fear that working with lower-end brands will taint his image; although, in the past he has worked closely with the hosiery designer Wolford.
Lagerfeld is also a photographer. He produced Visionaire 23: The Emperor’s New Clothes, a series of nude pictures of models and celebrities. He also personally photographed MAriah Carey for the cover of V magazine in 2005. In addition to his editorial work for Harper’s Bazaar and Russian and German editions of Vogue, Lagerfeld photographs advertising campaigns for the houses under his direction—Chanel, Fendi, and his own line.
On 18 December 2006, Lagerfeld announced the launch of a new collection for men and women dubbed K Karl Lagerfeld, which included fitted T-shirts and a wide range of jeans.
On 10 November 2010, Lagerfeld and Swedish crystal manufacturer Orrefors announced a collaboration to design a crystal art collection. The first collection was launched in spring 2011, called Orrefors by Karl Lagerfeld.
In 2013, he directed the short film Once upon a time… in the Cité du Cinemá, Saint-Denis, by Luc Besson, featuring Keira Knightley in the role of Coco Chanel and Clotilde Hesme as her aunt Adrienne Chanel.
In 2014, an auction house in Florida announced that many of Lagerfeld’s early sketches for the House of Tiziani in Rome would be sold.
In 2015, the first Karl Lagerfeld store opened at Lagoona Mall in Doha, Qatar.
In June 2016, it was announced that Karl Lagerfeld would design the two residential lobbies of the Estates at Acqualina, a luxury residential development in Miami’s Sunny Isles Beach.