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An Ode to the Ingenious Instigator: Karl Lagerfeld's Past, Proclamations, and Patrimony

“It’s dead, don’t touch it” is what Lagerfeld heard in 1982 when he was asked to design for Chanel. Years later, the very motifs that were once proclaimed deceased, have risen and catered to today’s generations, just as much as they did in the 1930s when Gabrielle Chanel poised for Man Ray with the famous pearl necklace, and in 1960s when Jackie O. coined the double-breasted Chanel suits as her immortal style.

Jackie O in Chanel

Karl Lagerfeld was the creative director of Chanel, Fendi, and his own line, Karl Lagerfeld. He was illustrious for his out-spoken moments, his legendary Spring/Summer 2015 protest at the end of the Chanel show, and his persona binding to pop culture references – anyone saw a Karl Lagerfeld costume this Halloween as well?

Celebrities who have dressed as Karl Lagerfeld and his cat, Choupette: Ryan Seacrest, Fergie & Josh Duhamel, Kendall Jenner (left to right)

For those who don't know the impact this man had, imagine this: Lagerfeld has worked in the era where Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer were the game's frontrunners, and was still relevant 25 years later when Kaia Gerber (Cindy Crawford's daughter) and Gigi Hadid are all the rage.

Karl Lagerfeld with Cindy Crawford & Claudia Schiffer in 1993 

Karl Lagerfeld with Kaia Gerber & Gigi Hadid in 2018

This unfaltering kind of impact is not easy to come by, especially in the fashion world where labels stay, but the individuals behind them almost always change and evolve. Karl Lagerfeld's unparalleled mind caught up with every single decade change from the socio-cultural references to design and art directions, while never changing his aesthetic. We have witnessed an uncontainable, indescribable legend, and although anything we say will never amount to his legacy, this tribute is merely appreciation and gratefulness for the magical myth that is Karl Lagerfeld.

Under Karl Lagerfeld's direction: Claudia Schiffer for Chanel in 1992

Under Karl Lagerfeld's direction: Gigi Hadid for Fendi FW18-19

About His Passionate Past
The multilingual Lagerfeld has worked as an assistant to the Pierre Balmain himself, before moving on to other European fashion houses, Jean Patou, Tiziano, Chloé, Curiel, Fendi, before stepping into Chanel in the 80s. In 1984, he founded his own fashion line, only to sell it two decades later. However, when he passed away he was still its paramount creative director.

Karl Lagerfeld at Balmain

His sovereignty at Chanel took its toll on answering the present’s demands. Meticulous, artisanal processes and grander craftsmanship were still taken highly into consideration in an era where Kim Kardashian’s dress is replicated overnight at a low-cost atelier and sold to the bloggers in the form of sponsored pictures Instagram posts.

Karl Lagerfeld's designs for Chanel in the 1980s

Creating the theme of next fashion sensation isn’t the only thing in Lagerfeld’s realm as he also ventured into photography, filmmaking, caricature, and literature. What you might not have known is that the copious creator owns 7L, charming bookshop in Rue de Lille, Paris, where a collection of curated collections books on fashion, food, fine art, photography, design, and architecture.

Karl Lagerfeld's bookshop 7L

Apart from shooting Chanel’s advertisement campaigns, Karl Lagerfeld directed a short movie, Once Upon A Time, where Keira Knightley starred as Gabrielle Chanel, he was the costume designer for Babette’s Feast, an Oscar winning movie, and directed Reincarnation, another short film for Chanel with Pharell and Cara Delevingne.

Karl Lagerfeld's Once Upon A Time

About His Peculiar Proclamations
It’s safe to say that Karl Lagerfeld’s outdoor voice has been plastered on many cultural, social, and sometimes political, happenings around the world. His words have even been transformed into today’s most universal means of online communication, the meme, and while Lagerfeld’s idiosyncrasy and political incorrectness is quite out there, to say the least (his thoughts on Angela Merkle, Pipa Middleton, Seal, and Meryl Streep), his wickedly humorous avowals will continue to contest time.

The man speaks his mind unapologetically, and even proclaims that he often doesn't say all of it. Maybe that's why reporters scatter around the descendng steps post a fashion show to catch what he will be saying that day. Here are some of his most famous declarations:

1. “What I've done, Coco Chanel would never have done. She would have hated it.”

2. “They grow so fast, and having adult children makes you look 100 years old. I don’t want that.”

3. “I don’t make intellectual conversation. I’m very superficial. I’m just a fashion designer.”

Karl Lagerfeld and a model in Paris 1954

4. “There is no marriage, yet, for human beings and animals… I never thought that I would fall in love like this with a cat.”

5. “I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that. It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”

6. “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”

Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent

7. “Blue, blue, blue, blue, blue,” on Choupette’s eyes.

8. “I have no human feelings.”

9. “When I was 4, I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday.”

10. “I don’t go to movie theatres because I don’t want to be photographed by strangers. People bother me wherever I go. I like to imagine the world my way. I don’t want second-rate images of the world.”

11. “If you throw money out of the window throw it out with joy. Don’t say: 'one shouldn’t do that' - that is bourgeois.”

Our absolute favorite would be the one where Karl Lagerfeld schools people about professional work ethic and how one has to be fervent about his/her job, or not be in it at all. This exact thinking propensity is what got him to where he is now – an uncompromising and adamant aptitude towards what he does:

“Please don't say I work hard. Nobody is forced to do this job and if they don't like it, they should do another one. If it's too much, do something else. But don't start doing it and then say, 'Aaaah, it's too much'. Because a lot of people depend on it. What we do at Chanel, thousands of people work on these things; these things are sold in hundreds and hundreds of shops all over the world. People like the big machine, and the money the big machine involves, but the effort... Then, suddenly, they become artists. They are too weak. Too fragile. Non. We have to be tough. We cannot talk about our suffering. People buy dresses to be happy, not to hear about somebody who suffered over a piece of taffeta. Me, I like to make an effort. I like nothing better than concrete reality. I'm a very down-to-earth person, but it is my job to make that earth more pleasant.”

About His Prosperous Patrimony
From stating that the discussion of fur is “childish” to initiating fake fur in a 2010 Chanel collection; using mundane dry shampoo to designing the most expensive safe in the world, suitably named the Narcissus; causing The Anna Wintour to walk out of his show in 1993 because he hired adult-movie actors to model his collection and nonetheless never budging from his untouchable standing. The virtuoso reveled in his vices and at the same time almost always gave us something to dangle from, as we hang on his every word, every style accessory, and every eccentric artistic edict.

Being one of the industry’s festooned names, his death on the 19th of February came as a shock to the masses. He will remain to be fashion’s ultimate paradigm for many, many years to come. Karl Lagerfeld was one of the greats, a master of applied arts and an industry molder like no other.

The identical everyday ponytail, the blackout glasses, the embellished leather gloves, and the little broche clinging to his tie are the tropes of his sagacity, and now will become relics of his legacy.

Flowers in front of the Chanel Shop at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris

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