On February 19, 2019, the fashion world mourned the sudden loss of one of the most iconic and creative visionaries that graced both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Recognized by his dark sunglasses, fingerless gloves, tailored black suits, and low ponytail, he embodied what the luxury designer industry is for the last six decades. As a tribute to this tenacious, controversial, and enigmatic man, Rebag reflects on the life of Karl Lagerfeld.
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Born in Germany to middle-class parents, Lagerfeld did not start out as an immediate success and surprisingly failed many times before he became a household name. Starting as Pierre Balmain’s assistant in 1955 and working his way between various design houses, he created his first haute couture show in 1958 for Jean Patou, which was poorly received. So poorly received, in fact, that it has been recounted that the collection was booed at. For the next five years, Lagerfeld persevered, and created two haute couture shows a year for Jean Patou until he moved to Tiziani, where he honed his couture skills. Eventually, he began to freelance for Chloe, designing clothing and eventually collections, while simultaneously designing clothing, fur, and accessories for Fendi in the mid-1960s.
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It wasn’t until a couple of decades later, in the 1980s, when he brought Chanel back on the map that he began to rise to iconic fame. It was his ability to push boundaries, question norms, and shock the masses that hoisted him into the spotlight. Most notably, his ingenuity brought forth the double C logo that Chanel is most recognized for. While Chanel has always been an innovative and leading fashion brand, Lagerfeld has managed to consistently design 14 fresh and contemporary collections a year. He has taken what is normally a straightforward runway event, and turned it into an immersive experience every season, setting the bar incredibly high for his next successor. Under his tenure, Chanel has become the pinnacle of high fashion thanks to this incredibly talented man, paving the way for a legacy that will surely never die.
“Luxury bags make your life more pleasant, make you dream, give you confidence, and show your neighbors you are doing well.” –Karl Lagerfeld