By Anna Heledd
Karl Lagerfeld, an icon in the luxury fashion industry, passed away on the 19thFebruary of this year. He was the creative director for French fashion house Chanel from 1983 up until his death at the age of 85. He not only ran Chanel, but was a brand in himself, and therefore left behind a legacy as a fashion mogul. To celebrate his life, the Karl For Ever memorial took place recently in Paris.
Lagerfeld’s career began at an early age, when he interned for Balmain. After shadowing Balmain for three years, Lagerfeld decided he would go on to more freelance work, and worked with brands such as Chloe and Fendi. One of Lagerfeld’s most notable moments in his career pre Chanel was being responsible for Fendi’s entire fur line. Lagerfeld even created his own brand in 1984, which he later sold to Tommy Hilfiger in 2015.
By being a successful business man and fashion designer, Lagerfeld bought Chanel out of its slump in the 80s, helping the company to rise to $10 billion dollars in sales. However, Lagerfeld’s success was often shadowed by frequent waves of criticism due to his controversial, and often offensive statements. An example of this would be the comments he often made about women and their weight. Lagerfeld often expressed his dislike for women who were bigger than the traditional catwalk sizes of 4 and 6. In a comment he later defended as being ‘taken out of context’, he called celebrities such as Adele ‘a little too fat’. Additionally, when asked about plus sized models becoming more of a frequent occurrence on the catwalks, he said that ‘no one wants to see curvy women’.
As someone who took inspiration and musings from the young and trendy celebrities of the now, this was the crowd Lagerfeld frequently related to. However, Lagerfeld continued his string of controversial comments, when asked about the rise in young models taking part in the ‘me too’ movement on social media. The ‘me too’ movement was created in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s assault cases by young movie stars and models. Many names of male moguls in the entertainment industry were also involved and ‘revealed’, so to speak. When Lagerfeld was interviewed on the matter, he claimed that he was ‘fed up’ of hearing all these allegations, and that ‘if you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model’. Therefore, in the wake of death, mourning celebrities and criticisms butted heads in the media.
Despite this, Chanel, the brand which Karl Lagerfeld was the face of for the pinnacle of his career, held a memorial service in his honour. The memorial, titled ‘Karl for ever’ was held in The Grand Palais, an Exhibition hall and museum on the Champs Elysees, one of the most famous shopping strips in the world. 2,000 mourners arrived for the memorial, to which Elle reported as being called ‘a show’, as it was such a vibrant and glamorous affair in the designer’s honour.
Tilda Swinton, Cara Delevigne and Pharrell Williams spoke at the ceremony, where Williams asked the attendants to ‘dance in honour of Karl’. Three screens graced the walls of the elaborate venue, which showed Karl in his iconic black suits. Archived footage and testimonials by many of his friends were shown in the space of 90 minutes, truly embodying the kind of person who had left all of his adoring friends and followers behind.
Elements of his character were discussed in the highest of affections by his friends, such as Gigi Hadid. Hadid chuckled at recalling how Lagerfeld was never afraid to say no to something, and was indeed, a perfectionist in every aspect of his life. Others claimed that despite this, he was a gentleman and incredibly kind. Anecdotes were shared fondly during the service, such as how he would always say goodnight to every single person in the studio before going home. Lagerfeld also would always hand write all of his notes to his loved ones.
The service incorporated stories and passages of things he loved. Tilda Swinton read aloud a passage from his favourite book ‘Orlando’ by Virginia Woolf. Someone else claimed that Lagerfeld had always wanted to learn the piano, so a Steinbeck piano was hoisted in mid air whilst pianist Lang Lang performed. His long time friend, Ines De La Frassange, humoured the crowd, saying that she knew Lagerfeld would be making fun of the elaborate ceremony and mocking it jovially.
Despite criticism and controversy constantly surrounding Lagerfeld’s career, he was a celebrated icon who helped one of the biggest fashion houses in the world rise from the ashes, and build the iconic brand which was the white hair, black suit, and provocative black sunglasses which he never took off.