The Infamous Karl Lagerfeld

September 2, 2009

Anyone breathing should know who the name: Karl Lagerfeld. He is a design genius who has worked with and for some of the most well known people in the fashion and entertainment world. He is one of the worlds greatest designers and it would be a shame if all you knew about him is that he designed for Chanel. That’s why I am here to let you in on his life because apparently it doesn’t revolve around Chanel.

He was reportedly born on September 10th, 1933 as Karl Otto Lagerfeldt in Hamburg, Germany. Some speculation has been stirring around his birthday, some say it was 1938 but many sources have confirmed 1933. However, Karl doesn’t want anyone to know his real birth date, he was even quoted saying “born neither in 1933 or 1938.” He has one older sister named Martha Christiane and a half sister , Thea.

As for his last name, he changed it because Lagerfeld “sounds more commercial.”

His father was German and made a lot of money from introducing condensed milk to Germany. His mother was a lingerie saleswoman in Berlin when she met her husband in 1930. His family was very wealthy. He was raised on a 12,000 acre estate. At the age of 4 he insisted on having his own valet because he liked to change clothes several times a day. His mom was kind of… I’ll just say different. She didn’t want him to wear glasses, though he needed them, because she said children with glasses are the ugliest thing in the world. She criticized his smoking because he had to show his hands which she believed where not beautiful.

Karl moved to Paris in the early 50’s. He worked as a draftsman for a fashion houses. A draftsman drew pictures of fashions instead of having photographers. This made his drawing skills in tip top shape.

(this is supposed to be Michelle Obama)

During the mid 50’s at the age of 22 Lagerfeld was given the position as an apprentice at Pierre Balmain after winning getting second place ( to Yves Saint Laurent) in a competition for a coat sponsored by International Wool Secretariat. This was the birth of a rivalry.

A while after his second place win he told the press that designing coats was his list favorite thing to design and that he really loved little black dresses. But then, YSL won the contest for a dress design, beating Lagerfeld.

This led Lagerfeld to say that he wasn’t very impressed.

After three years at Balmain in 1958, he went to work for Jean Patou where he was given a lot of experience. He designed under the know Roland Karl and his first collection was not very well liked. However his second collection was a great improvement. In the 1960’s he made a collection with vary short skirts, the shortest in Paris and needless to say, people did not like it.

He decided that he had enough of Paris and moved to Italy to continue his fashion education. He didn’t exactly go back to school while in Italy, he spent 2 years mostly on the beaches where he claimed to have ” studied life.”

He worked as a freelance designer for brands like Mario Valentino, Repeto, and Monoprix. He also was able to open up his own shop with the help of his parents.

In true Karl Lagerfeld fashion, outside of the box, he consulted with a lady named Madame Zereakian, Christian Diors’s Armenian fortune teller who told him that he would succeed in fashion and perfume.

Karl designed for a Roman couture house called Tiziani founded by Evan Richards of Texas. When the brand decided to do ready to wear in about 1963 Evan and Karl sketched up 90 outfits. Karl remained with the company until about 1969 after bringing in fans of the label such as Elizabeth Taylor, Dorix Duke and Lollobrigida.

Karl freelanced for Chloe in 1964 starting off with a few pieces and ending up making a whole collection. In 1970 he collaborated with Curiel. His first collection with them was “drippy drapery elegance.” There were velvet shorts and black ankle length capes. True to Karl’s personality.

his Spring 1973 collection for Chloe got Karl a lot of press. He made the surprise skirt that was ankle length pleats and actually pants and he designed looks inspired by Carmen Miranda, mini bra dresses and short skirts.

He makes a lot of clothing that is inspired by people in culture. He line of Chanel that was inspired by Amy Winehouse.

In 1972 Karl worked with Fendi making furs, clothing and accessories. During the 70’s he also designed costumes for theatrical productions. Being a costume designer really helps with your couture work and vice versa. No wonder he is such a genius !

In 1983 Karl was hired by Chanel’s corporate head to reinvent the Chanel brand since the death of Coco in 1971. Karl was said to have a weird psychic connection with Coco saying that he could Chanel her to reinvent the brand, but he never wore Chanel himself.

Here is a quote for thought: Luxury is not the opposite of poverty but the opposite of vulgarity.

Karl had a lot of international success as well. He worked with H&M, Trevira, Wolford and Philip Colbert.

In 2006 he announced his launch of his new collection called K Karl Lagerfeld with T shirts and jeans. Karl has a deal with Dubai Infinity Holdings to design homes on Isla Moda, the world’s first dedicated fashion island. Fashion Island?!!?!? Can we say SPRING BREAK!

Karl has done a little of everything. He is truly well rounded in the fashion and design world. However, he didn’t become so renowned without a few hiccups along the road.

  • In the 90’s Anna Wintour walked out of one of his shows because he hired strippers and an adult film start to model his collection for Fendi.
  • PETA had a some issues with Karl, of course because they have problems with almost every major designer. He believes that banning fur is childish and in a meat eating world it would be absurd.
  • He had a few problems with Heidi Klum saying that she was no runway model, that she was too heavy. He reportedly said she was a commercial model. Then stories developed that he did not say that and it was in fact a quote from Wolfgang Joop. Karl said that he didn’t now Heidi because she never worked in Paris.
  • Karl did, however, give his take on Seal’s skin, saying ” I am no dermatologist but I wouldn’t want his skin. Mine looks better than his. He is covered in craters.”
  • Karl, in his interview as Coco Chanel in Harper’s Bazaar, said that he ( Coco) was never a feminist because she was never ugly enough for that.
  • Karl was not happy with the movie Coco Before Chanel’s lead, Audrey Tautou and told the press he would have rather Penelope Cruz play the part, this followed his anger towards the actress for wearing Chanel Rubber Boots to an interview. He said he was unaware that Chanel made rubber boots, inferring that her boots where knockoffs.
  • Of course there is some weight controversy. In the issue he believes that we should focus on the amount of obese people in the world rather than on the small amount of women who are considered underweight.

Speaking of weight, Lagerfeld lost 90lbs on a low calorie diet and turned this infamous diet into a book. He lost the weight because he wanted to dress differently and wear clothes by designer Hedi Slimane. Right now his ambition in life is to wear a size 28 in jeans.

btdubs ( btw) he met Beth Ditto and considered her a muse, and she is two of the things he doesn’t like, fat and a feminist.

I really respect Karl for all the work he has done. He is definitely an inspiration to us all. I am really astonished to learn that he was not the best friend of Coco Chanel because how I have him associated in my mind is only with Chanel and no other brand. I mean he had a whole career before Chanel and he has his own thing going on while he is with Chanel. I appreciate his honesty and his ability to stay true to himself and what he believes in, whether or not the public likes it. For example, his list of 10 things that he CAN do without include: food, fat people, children, going to other places that involve people, going to other places at all, people who try to touch him, people who try to analyze him, the nineties, technology and the Internet, and love. If that isn’t honest I do not know what is. He is very against the norm, he ever said he is pro-prostitution.

I’ll leave you with Mr. Lagerfeld’s words: “This is not an easy job, because I have the understanding about Chanel and couture design that nobody has anymore. I have the training that nobody else has. This job is not free. I am not going anywhere.”

Also check out his twitter page… 95,933 followers and following no one. Typical!


Very rarely do we ever speak of the department stores that house some of our favorite designers, and some undiscovered gems. For this reason, I absolutely must tell you about some of these places that are pretty much fashion churches. We have to dress a certain way to attend, we must be respectful of what is inside, and we must pay the utmost thanks to the people who made all the clothing and accessories that surround us while we are in these sanctuaries.

Today we are gonna start with the almighty BG: Bergdorf Goodman. In 1899 the company kind of started when an Alsace immigrant, Herman Bergdorf, opened a tailor shop just above Union Square in Manhattan. As an employee of Herman’s, Edwin Goodman, purchased the store in 1906 and moved it to 5th avenue.

In 1914 Goodman became the first couturier to introduce ready to wear.

In 1928 the store moved to its current location at 5th and 58th. Goodman’s son Andrew, who was the president, opened a fur salon, made a perfume called Bergdorf Goodman Number Nine, and created Miss Bergdorf, a line for younger customers.

In 1953 Goodman retired as the most celebrated merchant of his time.

During the 60’s and 70’s BG wasn’t doing so well. They tried to build other BG’s but only one in White Plains, NY was made in 1972 which was made into a Neiman Marcus in 1981. In order to pull them up from this slump they hired Dawn Mello in 1975 as the vice president of fashion.

Dawn was able to bring life to this conservative store making it more successful. She was named president in 1984. She left in 89 to work for Gucci and returned to BG as the president again in 1994. The CEO of Bergdorf Goodman today is James J. Gold.

So in the 90’s the Chairman and CE Ira Neimark enlarged the women’s store by 300% resulting in the men’s store having to move across the street to the old FAO Schwartz space. Poor guys!

BG was just beginning to get bigger and bigger. In 1997, the former Goodman Family house, the penthouse at the top of the store was made into the John Barrett Salon and Susan Ciminelli Day Spa. More spas opened in 1999 under the main floor and a cafe.

Dramatic renovations took place in 2002 on the main floor of the women’s store. This lead to the introduction of the new boutiques of Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Versace, and YSL in 2003. In 2004 their website launched to bring their goods across America. Though, I feel like it just recently got really good.

As you can see BG is like one the resting places of luxury. I mean seriously, they have Fur storage to hold your furs over the summer. Really? You even get the option of having your fur glazed. What on God’s green earth does that mean?

Anyways BG has a lot of other unique aspects. Like their infamous windows. Some windows are dressed by regular sales associates whose bosses told them to do it last minute and give the sale associate get their pick of the clothes in which to dress it. Not here! BG’s windows require way more work. I mean these people are wearing construction hats, to build a window display. YES! It’s that serious.

This is a store that focuses more on the act of shopping, making it an entire sensory experience that you pay for through the prices of the clothing. However , to some, the experience is priceless and I think that everyone should at least experience the luxurious way of buying designer clothing at least once, even if its only a lipstick. The joy that one feels with the BG bag swaying from their wrists as they proudly walk out of the large doors is something that can not be described.

So the reason I think it is important to be aware of these stores beyond the surface level is because these are the places where designers are given their chance to shine. Though it is owned by Neiman Marcus, it still serves its own space in the hearts of fashion lovers everywhere. I also think there is a great deal of effort and thought that are put into the window designs that they should be admired by the world and serve as an inspiration to its onlookers.

This is a store that focuses more on the act of shopping, making it an entire sensory experience that you pay for through the prices of the clothing. However , to some, the experience is priceless and I think that everyone should at least experience the luxurious way of buying designer clothing at least once, even if its only a lipstick. The joy that one feels with the BG bag swaying from their wrists as they proudly walk out of the large doors is something that can not be described. Fashion is not only an art, it is a life style and an experience.

Enjoy the pics!

Citations: 1

I have to admit, I had never heard of Isaac before his run with Target, but I do not feel as bad because most of his success became before I was even born or able to talk properly. In Isaac’s lifetime, success can not simply be measured by mastering one craft but by doing everything you ever dreamed of doing. Isaac is one of the few people who I know that has been thoroughly involved in every aspect of pop culture from movies, to books, to fashion, and television. He has done it all! Let’s take a stroll down the path of his tireless journey.

Isaac was born October 14, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Ocean Parkway New Jersey. He must have been born with a fashion gene because at the age of 4 his mother began to notice his attraction to the details of her shoes. His mother often took him shopping with her at Saks and Bergdorf’s and ,honestly, who can resist falling in love when introduced to these fashion paradises at such a young age. His father was a merchandiser of children’s clothing, so design was nothing new to this semi-traditional Jewish family.

By the time Isaac was 10 years old he had moved back to Brooklyn and had been given his first sewing machine from his father. He made clothing for puppets to wear during birthday party appearances. By 13, he was making clothing for his mom, dad, and his mother’s friend Sarah Haddad.

While in Brooklyn his parents wanted him to attend a Jewish school, however his rebellious personality got him kicked out on numerous occasions. His mother had to come to the school and bail him out of trouble constantly. Finally, Isaac had enough. He enrolled in New York High School for the Performing Arts to persue his passions in drama, music, and dance. Isaac lost 75 pounds his first semester and gained it all back in confidence.

While in high school Isaac took some evening classes at Parson’s. Upon his high school graduation he studied full time at Parson’s developing his skills that would one day land him the title of one of the Best American Fashion Designers of his time.

After his third year at Parson’s, he got a part time internship working with Perry Ellis. Mr. Ellis became his mentor and after graduating from undergraduate, he went to work for him full time. Isaac worked very hard for Ellis and in return her received experience and training that would be priceless in this industry.

After he left Perry Ellis, he worked for Jeffrey Banks and Calvin Klein. Not long after , in 1987, Isaac started his own line with financial support from family friend Sarah Haddad. He began small designing in a small loft and selling from the back of a car. In the spring of 1988 he had his spring show. There were few guests , only there to see if anything interesting would come from this new designer. All the guests were floored with surprise at the fresh feeling he brought to fashion, Isaac became an over night success story. From that moment forward, his life began moving full speed ahead.

He began to win awards and designing costumes for ballets and theater in the early 1990’s. In 1994 he was going to introduce his fall line and his preparations for his line would be filmed for his hit documentary called Unzipped. The documentary was directed by Isaac’s ex lover Douglass Keeve and it was released in 1995. It contained footage from his childhood and footage of his life as a designer working with models and at shows. This documentary took him from beloved fashion designer to beloved celebrity fashion designer.

In 1997 he wrote a comic book series called Isaac Mizrahi Presents the Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel. The series featured the supermodel facing all the stereotypical problems that a supermodel would face in the industry. Critics and fans alike loved his rendition on the life of a model. This was a cherry on top of his sweet career.

Little did he know that in 1998, Chanel, his financial backer, would pull out and cause him to have to shut down his business. He had other options that would possible keep the company rolling, but he decided to move on. Which today has proved to be a good idea.

In 1999 he started in a one-man off Broadway cabaret act that critics called charming and engaging. From there he was given his own talk show on Oxygen where he had a plethora of celebrity guests and a wide array of activities.

Reverting back to designing, he signed a five year deal with Target to design a line of affordable fashions ranging from $10-$70. I have to say that he made some really cute things for target that were sold out in a heart beat. In 2007 he made wedding gowns for Target as well. He made target more than $300 million per year. He also had his own line which he referred to as Isaac Mizrahi to Order where he designs gowns starting at $4,000 a pop.

In 2008 he split with Target and went over to Liz Claiborne to resuscitate her dying line. He has made a fall 2009 line which has won rave reviews. He is now the host of a show called The Fashion Shows on Bravo, which is a different spin to the once hit Project Runway. Isaac has made many appearances on all the fashion forward shows and movies including Ugly Betty and Sex in the City. Today he is in the works of directing his first movies, The Extra Man.

Though we all know Isaac as an outspoken and almost flamboyant person, you can’t help but love him . However, in the 2006 Golden Globes I couldn’t help but shutter with horror at some of the things he was doing, such as squeezing Scarlett Johansson’s breasts, looking down Terri Hatchers dress, and asking people if they had undies on. I am willing to look past that if you are 😦

Recently, Isaac Mizrahi has been named to a newly created role of Senior Vice President, Managing Director at Alma DDB effective July 13, 2009.

Isaac’s Award Center
2002 won the Drama Desk Award for his costume designs for The Women.
1996 won the Eddie for Best Edited Documentary.
1995 won the audience award for best documentary.
1991 won CFDA Womenswear designer of the year award

If you wanna keep up with Issac, watch him at by clicking HERE.

I chose Isaac for my blog because he embodies what it means to follow your dreams and that anyone could do anything as long as they want it bad enough. He had a few hurdles, some avoidable and others not so much, but he came through them better than ever. It is not always about how someone does while they are already successful and loved, but how someone does when they are going through hard times. He has shown his dedication to the arts and his passion to do any and everything he set his mind to. We should all be so lucky to accomplish the things this man has. Here’s to you Isaac, ” Fat is the new black.”

One of my absolute favorite designers is the late Yves Saint Laurent. His legacy still lives on today after his death on June 1, 2008 at the age of 71. As one of the greatest designers in French fashion in the 1990’s, and I believe that continues into the 2000’s. But how did he get to that noteworthy position in fashion history, you ask? Oh, please allow me to tell you the full story, its pretty extensive.

Yves Mathieu Saint-Laurent (his government name) was born in Oran, Algeria in 1936, which technically makes him French and African. His family was considered very prominent in Oran with his father being the President of an insurance company and the owner of a chain of movie theaters. His mother Lucienne-Andree, half Belgian and Spanish, was where he got his sense of style.

A little bit of a history side: His family was not affected by WW II because their father was not drafted and they lived far from France. But that Karma would soon come back around to effect Yves personally.

Yves was led to fashion through a back door, theatre. Because he was bullied at school he took refuge at home. He was able to use a spare room to act out plays by Moilere and Giraudoux for his family, plays he spent most of his days studying and practicing. Becoming more fascinated with theatre, he began to read the reviews in the French magazine Vogue. It was when he the descriptions of the costumes worn by actors when he became hooked. Fashion was beginning to mean as much to him as theatre.

After entering a contest for young designers,International Wool Secretariat, in 1950 and gaining third place he was able to attend an award ceremony in Paris. In Paris he met Michel de Brunoff who was the editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue who was impressed by Yves and told him to study at Chambre Dyndicale de la Couture. He packed up and left to study but he left after a short while because he found the syllabus frustrating.

For a second time in 1954 he entered the International Wool Secretariat and won first place beating out legendary Karl Lagerfeld. He took the winning sketches to the editor-in-chief of the French Vogue. Brunoff noticed similarities between his sketches and those of Christian Dior, sent Yves over, and Dior hired him on the spot.

Yves Saint Laurent did not get special treatment at Dior, he had to do normal intern-like work, sounds familiar? After proving his place, he was able to submit sketches for the couture collection. More and more of his sketches were being accepted and in 1957 Dior had formally chosen Yves to succeed him as a designer, the same year that he passed away.

At 21 years old he was thrown into the spotlight, having to save the Dior house. His used secret weapon to save the day,his famous Trapeze line. The narrow shoulders and wide swinging skirts were a hit because people were getting tired of girdles. This success was short lived because the following collections where chewed up and spat out by the press. At a not-so-high point in his career he was drafted into the military. He was shortly released due to nervous depression, but that was not a surprise to business partner and former lover, Pierre Berge. Pierre said that Saint Laurent was born with nervous depression. To top is allll off Dior fired him while he was away for only 20 days.

In 1962 he was back on his feet opening a house with Berge. The first line under his label was compared to those of Chanel, the suit QUEEN. His muse for many years was Catherine Deneuve. He empowered women with his masculine and elegant trouser suits for women. Other popular pieces of his were tight pants, trapeze dresses, peasant blouses, smocks, thigh high boots, see-through blouses and tuxedo jackets. Smoking Jackets were also his trademark and very controversial because is made women able to affirm themselves as men.

In 1969 he pioneered designer men’s wear, ditching pin stripes and modernizing the male look. His feelings on clothing were carried on threw his designs: He detested fashion, but lived for style. And style is what he brought to mens and womenswear.

He was also the first designer to use black models in runway shows and among the first to use Asian and Pacific Island models.

Yves Saint Laurent went through spells in 1967 and 1971 of horrible controversy over his collections. These hard times fueled his lifestyle of being a party boy, seen at plays like Studio 54 often drinking and doing cocaine. His use of drugs increased more and more as the stress of making 2 ready to wear and 2 haute couture lines weighed down on him.

In 1970 he came out with a perfume line called ” Opium” ( wow ironic), which he posed nude with his classes to advertise. You can image how well that turned out.

After a horrible 1987 ready to wear show he turned over his ready to wear line to his assistants, who kept up its momentum.

In 1983, then Vogue magazine editor, Diana Vreeland constructed a solo exhibition of Saint Laurent. He would be the first living fashion designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The retrospective has over 300 pieces exhibited. In 2001 he became the commander of the Legion d’Honneur by Jacques Chirac. He created a foundation with Berge to trace the history of YSL, is consists of 15,000 objects and 5,000 pieces of clothing.

He sold his company to Gucci Group for $70 million and remained as an advisor for a few years.

After 40 years in the industry he retired in 2002.

Saint Laurent’s personal life with Berges was not so personal a few days before his death when they were joined in same sex civil union so that he could receive his assets after being together for 50 years

Yves’ success was rarely registered to him, according to his love Berge. His depression ran deep and he rarely found joy in what he did. The times that he did have joy, it was hard for him. His instability is the reason why Berge was glad he was unaware of his brain cancer.

In 1996 Saint Laurent was the first couturier to have his Couture show live online and in that same year he stopped making huge shows for his ready to wear, only showing them by appointment.

I love Saint Laurent because he believed that fashion was to be worn, not made into a catwalk show, but into theatre. He was a true designer with his heart in the right place, but unfortunately his mind wasn’t. However with all the up and down responses to his clothing and his early childhood and adulthood traumas, depression was sure to follow. He once said “I’ve known fear and terrible solitude,” he said. “Tranquilizers and drugs, those phony friends. The prison of depression and hospitals. I’ve emerged from all this, dazzled but sober.”

For such a sad guy he had a hell-of-a lot of talent. It make me sad to know that he would never be able to fully appreciate his gift because of his mental issues. However, that is why us fans write about him and remember him to this day, because of his contributions to fashion. He was once the under dog and he help those who may not be considered front runners to get their share of popularity. Yves Saint Laurent changed the way that clothing looks and feels today and everywhere we look we see his influence. I appreciate him for all his work, good or bad, because it made him the legend his is today and gave me someone to look up to with hope that one day I can succeed if I persevere and cut through all the BS any way that I can, just like Yves.