Black blazers, black gloves, a silver ponytail and dark glasses are all things that many will think of when they hear the name Karl Lagerfeld. The German designer who during his career was the Creative Director of Chanel, as well as Fendi and his own eponymous label has sadly died at the age of 85.
His career spanned decades, with him being arguably, more iconic than Coco Chanel herself. Lagerfeld’s status over the years has been made clear through the respect he has received from the fashion community. During fashion week, a picture with Karl Lagerfeld is worth a thousand ‘double taps’ and the sheer number of models, actresses and muses who share a picture of themselves and the designer speaks volumes for the admiration many have for him. The career of Lagerfeld is one that will be difficult to outdo, his personal style as iconic as the designs he has overseen for Chanel.
However, as with anyone who has been in the public eye, Lagerfeld has not gone through his career without a few scandals. To name but a few, he claimed that Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery was her own fault, and publicly called Meryl Streep cheap. But there have also been more serious reports of Karl Lagerfeld’s intolerance; for example, intolerance for women with fuller figures and intolerance of Islam. In 2017, the French equivalent of Ofcom received complaints after Lagerfeld appeared on French television saying ‘Muslim migrants are an affront to holocaust victims.’ His claims came after he explained he doesn’t think Muslims should be welcomed in Germany, a country which treated Jewish people so badly, despite the fact that decades have passed since the events of the second World War. His comments, rightly, sparked outrage amongst viewers of the French show and within the wider global community once the news got out.
Similarly, his comments on curvier women were unwanted and criticised. It’s an issue which has plagued the fashion industry since what feels like the beginning of time but in this era of inclusivity, Lagerfeld’s comments have no place. In 2008 he was quoted as saying: “No one wants to see curvy women. You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Later, in 2012, while acting as a guest editor for the Paris edition of Metro, Lagerfeld served an almighty backhand at Adele saying: “She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice.” Lagerfeld’s intolerance for women of a certain size was not of this time, with inclusivity now being a hot topic in the fashion world.
Of course, Karl Lagerfeld’s shortcomings do not lessen the extreme sadness of his death, both to those who knew him and to the fashion community. However, it certainly highlights the things he got wrong in his life alongside his amazing successes. If anything, it makes the fashion icon seem a little more human and a little less ethereal.
Dozens of celebrities have posted tributes to the designer, who has had many famous muses over the years. English singer Lily Allen said: “You made me feel like a princess” whilst editor-in-chief of Elle magazine Nina Garcia tweeted: “He lived one hundred lives and his creative brain was always looking at the future instead of looking at the past.” While this is true in terms of his designs, Lagerfeld’s opinion on some topics were clearly rooted in the past. Nevertheless, a great man was lost. If the tributes for him flooding in, are anything to go on, the lives Lagerfeld touched and kindness he exhibited to many throughout his career cannot be downplayed and he will be sorely, sorely, missed.
[Originally published on The Huffington Post 20/02/19]