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!


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.


Laura and Kate Mulleavy were the winners of this years Council of Fashion Designers of America Womenswear Designer(s) of the Year. Who are these award winning ladies, you ask? Well let me give you the run down.

In 2008 the sisters won the CFDA coveted award of Emerging Womenswear Designer Award and have won a following of people like Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Louboutin. However, they did not just appear in the fashion world, they worked their way up through the back door.

In 2005 Rodarte was founded by the Mulleavy sisters in Pasadena,California. The line, bearing their mother’s maiden name, was made after their graduation from U.C. Berkeley. Kate and Laura, 30 and 29 years old respectively, graduated college in 2001 with liberal arts degrees. They boarded the plane to New York with 10 garments on their laps and hope in their hearts that one day they would make their name in the fashion community. They arrived to the fashion capital and showed their collection to every editor and buyer they could track down. Their attention to detail would be their key to success. Their couture-like style shot them straight to the top and the awards began to pour in.

These two don’t look like your typical fashion-passion ladies but their work speaks volumes. They take the approach of minimal yet extravagant, rough yet refined, intellectual yet effortless, something I am a HUGE fan off. Their style is said to resemble the craftsmanship of influential designers like Coco Chanel. They have won even support from major Fashion Heads like Anna Wintour.

The sisters were destined for greatness at an early age. At the age of 5 they began drawing. Their mother, an artist, exposed them to the arts. Their father, a botanist, exposed them to math and science but also had an interest in photography. He took pictures of abstract patterns which have inspired their pattern choices of today.

They knew that if they would do fashion they needed to get out of Pasadena. Before they left to take their collection to New York they took a chance by sending a letter to Cameron Silver, a L.A. Stylist. They asked him to review the collection and from then on he has become their mentor.

When they first arrived to New York they had no appointments to show their collection. They were banking on their unique idea of look books made of paper dolls and sending those to top editors. They got their first call from Women’s Wear Daily and they were on the cover in a matter of 3 days.

In 2006 their line grew to 16 pieces but they were limited because of the complication of their fabrics and sewing process. They make each garment start to finish one at a time to make them beautiful and special. It has taken them 100 hours to make one knee length cocktail dress!

Despite the radiance of their line, they do not wear it themselves. Not only because they are self funded but because they need to be comfortable when sewing for hours on end.

The self taught sisters gained their designing skills from trial and error. They are not afraid of trying new things and learning from their team which works closely with them. The process they have is pretty simple. They start with inspiration and work in a abstract way to unfold the collection. They like to capture a moment or feeling as opposed to a literal translation of their ideas and inspirations.

Since they began they have won recognition such as:
2006 Runner up in CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Competition
2007 Rodarte gown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute
2008 Rodarte is selected a finalist in the ANDAM competition
2008 Rodarte is awarded the CFDA Swarovski Emerging Womenswear Designer award
2008 Rodarte is awarded the Swiss Textiles Award
2009 Rodarte is awarded Womenswear Designers of the Year

Rodarte is a marvelous and captivating collection with prices ranging from $1300 to $2000. Made form only the most expensive fabrics and time consuming techniques, the ultra feminine line is sold everywhere from Barneys to Bergdorf. Their clientele includes Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Obama and the style sweetie Chloe Sevigny.

These two sisters are an inspiration for me because, as a college student looking to get into the fashion arena, I want to know that there is hope for the untrained. After researching the journey of the Mulleavy sisters, I see that anything is possible with faith, talent, and tenacity. They are bringing back the importance of detail and care that should be put into every garment that a women wears. They certainly are hot up-and-coming designers that deserve all the success that is soon to come after their win at the CFDA awards.

So ladies, here is to you! Thanks for paving the way, now watch out for me!