How Karl Lagerfeld Changed Fashion Forever
Last week fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld passed away at the age of 85, or 85-ish as he was notoriously cagey about his birth year.
Now, everyone calls him a legend, and the King of Fashion, etc., etc., which isn’t wrong. He took the house of Chanel, a dying brand and turned it into an unimaginable success, and kept it that way for 40 years, all the while turning out collections for Fendi, and Chloe and his own line.
But here’s why he really mattered to fashion and why anyone in the retail game owes him a huge debt:
He invented the concept of the modern day “Brand”: It’s hard to remember, but fashion used to just be a man in Paris designing dresses and then everyone would buy them or copy them. But in the 1970s, Karl saw that it wasn’t just a dress, it was a lifestyle. It was about infusing travel and accessories, music, celebrity, influencers, interior design, everything now that we consider part of a “brand.”
In other words, he invented the aspirational lifestyle which dominates the fashion industry today.
He was incredibly well-read and knowledgeable about everything, which is no doubt the source of his clever, razor-sharp tongue. Despite his severe look, he never missed an opportunity to make a joke. His one-liners are endlessly amusing, even when some of them were quite mean and got him into trouble. Even during the final fitting for his last Chanel couture show, he was cracking jokes. “I’m just working class … well, ok I work and I have class.”
“That skirt looks like an old man’s armpit. Maybe you can fix this yes?”
He brought fashion to the beach. He actually used to be a body builder back in the day.
A big part of his success was his incredible work ethic: His secret to life and success, “Get to work. Don’t smoke, don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. You’ll survive longer.” As he made clear over the decades, he hated the notion of the tortured artist. He believed in hard work and he did so until the very end.
Auf Wiedersehen Kaiser Karl.