Chanel has confirmed its creative director for over three decades Karl Lagerfeld passed away last night at the age of 85. Lagerfeld joined Chanel in 1983, years after the death of founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, and has been lauded as an icon in the fashion industry. Many have attributed Chanel’s success to Lagerfeld bringing the brand back to life in his own way. The German fashion icon was also leading Italian haute-couture brand Fendi and his own fashion line Karl Lagerfeld.
While sometimes unconventional, his assertive take on fashion and marketing has earned him the nickname of “kaiser” (emperor in German) in the industry.
One of his quotes in the 2013 book “The World According to Karl” reads, “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.”
Lagerfeld was known to be unafraid to speak his mind – which sometimes landed him in PR storms. He defended Fendi’s use of fur in an interview with BBC stating that, “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish.” According to the book, Lagerfeld also said on the topic, “It is farmers who are nice to the cows and the pigs and then kill them. It’s even more hypocritical than hunters. At least the hunters don’t flatter the animals. I don’t like that people butcher animals, but I don’t like them to butcher humans either, which is apparently very popular in the world.”
He had also made remarks about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s choice of pants, Michelle Obama’s hairstyle and the body weight of English singer Adele. In the book with his notable quotes, he had akin buying sweatpants to a sign that the shopper had “lost control of your life”.
It is therefore unsurprising that Lagerfeld’s strong personality has seeped into the brands under his charge. Among the widely-discussed was Lagerfeld’s strategy to make high fashion affordable, a move that is unorthodox in an industry that prides itself on exclusivity. This can be seen in Chanel’s affordable cosmetics and fragrances, despite its pricey range of clothes and leather. The move allowed the brand to ride on the boom in demand for beauty products.
Lagerfeld also made headlines when he announced his “Masstige” line, which promises to make prestige mass-market. The Karl Lagerfeld brand is known for ready-to-wear products ranging from T-shirt to cardigans.
Karl Lagerfeld has made a name for himself as head designer and creative director at Chanel. But his own namesake brand shows off the man behind Chanel’s more eccentric side, shilling T-shirts and handbags printed with cartoon robot versions of Lagerfeld and his cat, Choupette. Its e-commerce website, Karl.com, sells the “World of Karl” experience with a multitude of video clips, tweets, and photos in the form of a Tumblr-like feed.
Over at Fendi, Lagerfeld managed to appeal to a wider range of consumers with creating jewelry and charms instead of sticking with fur coats and jackets. In February 2014, during Milan Fashion Week, a “Karlito” charm made out of scraps of mink, silver fox and goats fur resembling Lagerfeld himself was paraded at Fendi’s show. By August 2014, the mini charms were available for pre-order with over 600 people on the waiting list who were willing to spend 1240 euros for one. According to the Fashionbi Index, the Karlito charm dominated Fendi’s Instagram and Twitter throughout February and March in 2014, while #karl and #karllagerfeld were also among the top trending topics during that period.
(Photo courtesy: chanel.com)