European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

EFHA Focus: Karl Lagerfeld Fashion Show, Spring/Summer 1985

contemporary fashionFrench fashiontribute

A tribute to one of the designers who most contributed to make fashion an ever-relevant – and fun – subject.

Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most mesmerizing, enigmatic and controversial people working in fashion. His many talents spanned from designing clothes and accessories, to photography, cinema and art.

Doubts surround his birth date, which he himself never confirmed. He was born in Germany probably around 1933 and left at a very young age to move to France.

His career in fashion took off in 1955, when he participated in a competition sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat, for which he designed a coat that made him win. He then started working for couturier Pierre Balmain and then, in 1958, became the artistic director for Jean Patou. In 1964, he went to Rome designing freelance for brands as Krizia, Chloe and Valentino, and then became a lifelong collaboration with Fendi. In the 1980s, Lagerfeld was hired by Chanel, then considered a “near-dead brand. He managed to give new life to the brand, making it one of the most relevant voices of the fashion world, miking the codes of the maison with innovative designs. On his role at Chanel he said: “What I do Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it’s up to me to update it. I do what she never did. I had to find my mark. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be, could be, what it had been to something else.”

In 1984, a year after his start at Chanel, Lagerfeld began his own eponymous “Karl Lagerfeld” brand. Amongst his many projects, Lagerfeld was also the first high-end designer to collaborate with H&M to produce an accessible line, launched in 2004 and immediately sold out.

His career spanned almost seventy years, and ended with his death on 18th February 2019. Certainly he did stay true to what he declared back in 2012, talking about retirement:

“Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die and it’ll all be finished. I’m lucky to work in the most perfect of conditions. I can do what I want in all kinds of areas. The expenses are not expenses. I would be stupid to stop that. Work is making a living out of being bored.”