An Focal · Fashion · Features

The Eccentric Genius of Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld is one of the biggest designers of our time and maybe the most eccentric man on the planet.

He was born in Hamburg on 10 September 1933, but he is known to insist that no-one knows his real birth date.

He has collaborated on a variety of fashion and art related projects, most notably as head designer and creative director for the fashion house Chanel. He also has his own label fashion house.

In 1955, he was awarded an apprentice position at Pierre Balmain after winning second place, behind Yves Saint-Laurent, in a competition for a coat sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat.

In 1958 he moved to Jean Patou where he designed two haute couture collections a year for five years. After launching himself as a freelance designer, he set up a small shop in Paris.

Lagerfeld began to freelance for French fashion house Chloé in 1964, at first designing a few pieces a season but he soon designed the entire collection. In 1972, he began to collaborate with Fendi, designing furs, clothing and accessories.

His career has been marred with controversy giving him quite an infamous reputation. In 1993, he caused US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour to walk out of his Milan Fashion Week runway show when he employed strippers and adult film star Moana Pozzi to model his black-and-white collection for Fendi.

He was also the target of a pieing by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 2001 at a fashion premiere at Lincoln Center in New York   City in protest of his use of fur within his collections.

In 2004, he designed some outfits for Madonna, for her Re-Invention tour, and recently designed outfits for Kylie Minogue’s Showgirl tour.

Lagerfeld in 2009 joined critics of supermodel Heidi Klum saying that he didn’t know Klum as she is “more bling bling and glamorous than current fashion.”

He also created an international uproar on 9 February 2012, when he called the singer Adele “A little too fat”. Adele hit back by saying she is like the majority of women, and she is very proud of that fact.

This comment may be surprising when you know that Lagerfeld lost over six and a half stone in 2001, his explanation was “…I suddenly wanted to dress differently, to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane but these fashions, modelled by very, very slim boys…”.

Lagerfeld later caused controversy on 31 July 2012 when he criticized Pippa Middleton for her looks. Lagerfeld was praising Kate, Duchess of Cambridge for her “romantic beauty” before adding “I don’t like the sister’s face. She should only show her back”.

It is behaviour like this that keeps him at the cutting edge of the fashion industry.

(Original text was published in An Focal XXI Issue 5 on 13th of November 2012 and online at


One thought on “The Eccentric Genius of Karl Lagerfeld

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