The World According to Karl…

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February 19, 2019…

Karl Lagerfeld has died…


When I opened up my newsfeed early Tuesday morning,  I was shocked to see that Karl Lagerfeld had died in Paris.  In retrospect maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  At 85, he was not a young man… but he was always, always current, relevant.  There was an eternal youthfulness about him.  Somewhat eccentric, he was easily recognized in a high collared white button-up shirt,  black suit, black gloves, his powdered white hair styled in a ponytail and his signature tinted glasses.  We have lost a fashion icon…

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Karl Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1933.  Like Coco Chanel, he often altered the story of his origin.  Chanel never wanted her humble beginnings made public and often fabricated a more idyllic childhood.  Lagerfeld gave the impression that he was younger than his actual age and was misleading about his parent’s nationality and occupations.  Also, like Chanel, he worked right until the end of his life.

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Beginning his career as a design assistant for Pierre Balmain, he then moved on to Fendi and Chloe in the mid-1960s.  A decade after Chanel’s death (1971) Karl Lagerfeld took the reins at Chanel in 1983. Lagerfeld respected Chanel and her designs but set out to modernize the Chanel look. Even though there was always a ‘tweed jacket or suit’, and a ‘little black dress’ in every collection it was designed with a twist…nothing dowdy about Karl!


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Lagerfeld designed at least 6 collections for Chanel a year often presented in the Grand Palais in Paris. Every garment is made in the Chanel boutique at 31 Rue Cambon with only six weeks to produce each collection.  During the Spring/Summer 2019 couture fashion show, on January 22, 2019, the Grand Palais was ‘set‘ as a Mediterranean paradise.  The clothing was feminine,  in pastel colours. The fashion, as well as the model’s hair, was styled with a nod to Marie Antoinette reflecting a period Lagerfeld loved, the 18th century.

At the finale, Karl Lagerfeld did not walk out with the last model.  Hmmm…  This was the first time…  After the show,  an announcement was made that Karl was ‘feeling tired’…


***Although few of us will ever find our name on the guest list of a Chanel fashion show, we can watch the complete shows on the internet.

Netflix has a documentary series called “7 Days Out”.  One of the episodes features the week leading up to the Chanel Spring 2018 fashion show at the Grand Palais.  It shows the behind scene frenzy in the workrooms, the stress the four ‘premiere’ seamstresses are under to produce perfection, the model fittings, and most interesting was the interviews and comments of Karl Lagerfeld.  It is magical to see the Grand Palais come to life as a beautiful trellised garden.

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Karl Lagerfeld spoke his mind…often times not politically correct.  He had a sharp tongue not mincing words about the way people dressed or their ’roundness’.  By contrast, he was also sensitive. I’ve read numerous articles this week quoting colleagues and models who have worked with him, heartbroken that he is gone.  They waxed lyrical of his kindness and generosity.

Karl Lagerfeld’s creativity was endless.   Not only a genius in fashion design, but he was also a brilliant photographer, writer, and gifted illustrator/sketcher. An advocate for the arts, he also loved music and had thousands of books.  At one time he even had a small bookstore.

A trip to the Chanel boutique at 31 rue Cambon is a must whenever I’m in Paris.  The first time I visited the boutique was in 1990.  Over the years I have accumulated treasured accessories that I’ve worn over and over.  I can’t say for sure that Lagerfeld had a hand in designing these pieces, but it was during his years at Chanel.

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***I had my own close encounter with Karl Lagerfeld (brushing shoulders).  We were both at the cash desk at WHSmith bookstore on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris (which is just a block from the Chanel boutique).  He was ordering several books,  and not surprising, I was buying books.  Starstruck and mute, I wondered to myself as I walked out the door,  why couldn’t I have at least said “hello”?

Will the House of Chanel, couture, and high fashion ever be the same?   For all the faithful followers of fashion, this is a huge loss…




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