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!


Ok , so today’s post is about Hermes. The title is just a little something I cooked up because that is what I think of when I think of Hermès. There are other things that Hermès should be associated with and that is what we are going to talk about today.

Ok so some history on Hermès. This label has been around for quite sometime. In 1837 it was first established by Thierry Hermès as a harness workshop in Paris dedicated to survey European noblemen. He wanted to make the best harnesses and bridles for carriages. People waited years for his designs the wait list was crazy.

In 1855 the company won its first prize in its class at the Paris Exposition. In 1967 Hermès won the first class medal at the Exposition Universelle.

So in 1880 Theirry’s son(Charles- Emile) took over and moves the shops location where he introduced saddlery and began retail sales. Soon after they served the elite of Europe, North Africa, Russia, Asia, and America.

In 1900 came their first bag made for riders to carry their saddles with them.

After Charles retired his sons ( Adolphe and Emile Maurice) took over the company and renamed it Hermès Frères ( Hermes Brothers). Sometime around 1914 Emile got the rights to the use of the zipper for leather goods and clothing and was the first to introduce the device to France.

The first leather golf jacket with zipper was introduced in 1918.

Emile, as the sole head of the business, bred his three son-in laws to be business partners.

Hermès introduced the first leather garment for the Prince of wales. In 1922 the first leather handbags were made, the JACK POT for Hermes.

In 1929 the first women’s couture apparel collection was previewed in Paris. However it wasn’t until the 30’s that Hermès really got the ball rolling.

In 1935 Hermès made the Kelly Bag ( Sac a depeches, named about Grace Kelly the new Princess of Monaco) and in 1937 scarves were debuted. This was an accessory that was made part of French Culture and still is to this day. During this decade Hermès also tried introducing its products to the USA through Neiman Marcus but later withdrew.

1946 marked the launch for Hermès silk ties and in 1949 the first Hermès perfume was made, Eau d’Hermès.

Hermès’ philosophy by way of Emile was “Leather, Sport and a tradition of refined elegance.”

In the early 50’s the first non-Hermès born successor was leading the company. Robert Dumas was connected to the family through marriage. The 50’s also brought the introduction of the logo with the carriage and horse and signature orange boxes.

In the 1960 Hermès tried again with Neiman Marcus, this time with silk scarves that were offered through a toll free number.

In the 19070 the company began to slacken in comparison to its competitors because it wanted to make products only from natural materials unlike other companies. At this time Jean-Louis Dumb-Hermès, the son of Robert Dumas was the head of the company and in 1978 he revamped the company by adding more product groups.

The new leader brought in designers like Eric Bergere and Bernard Sanz to revamp the clothing making python motorcycle jackets and ostrich skin jeans. during the 70’s a new subsidiary was introduced in Switzerland, La Montre Hermès.

In the 1980’s Hermès grabbed a tighter hold on their suppliers and launched themselves into the table wear market, which became its most promising business subsidiaries for the 90’s.

In June is 1993 Hermès went public on the Stock Exchange. This equity sale helped alleviate family tensions about the business. In 1993 Laurent Mommeja ( a 6th generation Hermes descendant) took over the head of Operation for US business in Hermès.

By about 1995 the family had about 80 percent of the company and the entire family was on the Forbes List of Billionaires. Jean Louis Dumas began to decrease the Hermès franchises from 250 to 200 and increased the company owned stores to control the sales of its products. In 1996 they opened a company operated boutique in Beijing.

In 1999 Hermes brought up 35% of the Jean Paul Gaultier fashion house.

Things were smooth sailing until now financially. Jean Paul Gaultier eventually became the head designer at the house. Jean Louis Dumas retired as the leader and was succeeded by Patrick Thomas, the first Hermès CEO with no family relations.

WHEEWW !! That was a lot. Now with all this success and history you would think that I would hear Hermès mentioned by more people. I wonder what’s that all about? Is our society too much into the flash of labels and not the actual product. I mean I have only ever heard Jay Z and Beyonce mention Hermès briefcases, Birkins, and boat shoes. Is that weird that I look for unique designer label mentions in music? lol

Anyways I can think of one why people may not be spilling their guts about Hermès: Oprah Winfrey.

Supposedly in 2005 Oprah was turned away from the Hermès boutique in Paris because they argued that they were having problems with North Africans. But the store also said they only stopped her from shopping because there was a private shopping event taking place. Oprah says she heard an employee say that she was just “one of those pesky North Africans.” Now Pause… you don’t know Oprah? One of the most influential people on tv? You must be crazy.

Anyways, Oprah felt like it was one of the most humiliating moments of her life. She canceled her $6,500 dollar order for a Birkin bag and called Robert Chavez personally ( the president of Hermès in American) and told him she will never shop from his stores.

Of all the people you could turn away from your store, you choose Oprah? Really. I mean I know high fashion has its race issues but seriously, all money is green and ultimately that’s what these companies are looking to make.

Another problem with Hermès is that they are on PETA’s bad side. So Hermes has an Australian Crocodile farm where it breed crocs for its famous Birkin Bags. So here is a quote from PETA on the matter:

The thought of purposely breeding and killing crocodiles for an outdated, overpriced handbag should make any fashionista’s skin crawl,” the group said in a statement. “If Hermès really wants to be a leader in the fashion industry, it should stop killing animals for cold-blooded vanity and use cruelty-free mock croc and fake snake instead.

So the thing is, if people stop buying it then they may consider stopping this purse farm. However, people continue to shell out the $50, 000 for these purses which are pretty cute. I mean at a time when people can barely afford to eat are in the same city as the people keep Hermès afloat b buying these purses, its both amazing and insane. p.s. faux reptile skin is more expensive.

Despite these little bumps in the road, Hermes is still thriving in this recession. I mean they are expanding in San Diego in Fashion Valley in July of this year. Other places that Hermes is moving to are New York City fifth ave, New York City Soho, and Bellevue.

Honestly, how can Hermès ever fall off. The Birkin bag alone can support the company. People will never stop buying that bag. It’s kind of like a status symbol. I remember seeing my first real life Birkin, it was everything I imaged it would be. Brightly colored, smooth leather with shiny metal, the whole shabang. I know that will be one of my first three big purchases when I get start to get my fat checks. House, Car, Birkin !

Let me give you the quick 411 on the Birkin because surprisingly enough, some people know nothing about it.

It was first made in the 80’s for Jane Birkin. She was next to Jean Louis ( the CEO) on a plane and expressed to him how she needed a perfect weekend bag. He asked her to describe the bag and next thing you know she received her dream purse with a note.

Today the purse is a staple in handbag history. The price ranges from $5,000 to over 6 figures. The waiting list is about 4 years long because the bags are not sold online or in stores. The list is long because A. it takes 48 hours to make the bag, and B. Celebrities come first.

These bags are made of a variety of skins such as salt water crocodile and goat skin.

So now do you see what all the rage is about ?
The most expensive Birkin. 1.63 Million dollars ! See Below!

I appreciate the legacy that Hermès has contributed to fashion. A family owned business that was founded on the hard work and dedication of a person with a dream. the family was persistent in ownership and top notch products and that is what made them so popular. The reasons they are thriving through this economic downturn are fairly obvious. There was no funny business in their company and they stay true to their label and not to trends and phases. their following will love them from the beginning until the end with no question.

We can all learn a thing or to from Hermès, in particular, just knowing the importance at becoming the best at what you do. They perfected their quests before taking on more feats and that contributed to their success.

btw. Hermes also got into a lot of different areas like boats, cars, and other aspects of luxury.

enjoy some pictures of Birkins and clothing from recent lines.

Living it, Loving it, Owning it

Citations: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Donna Karen of New York has truly become a household name. In my house especially because I refuse to buy jeans or denim from anyone else but her. I get so many compliments that my jeans look tailor made for me, and that does nothing but fuel my addiction to those fabulous pants. However, we are not here to discuss my love of her denim, but to talk about DKNY.

Donna Karen, whose birth name is Donna Ivy Faske, was born on October 2, 1948 in Forest Hills, Queens. She grew up in Long Island with her stepfather ( a tailor who died when she was 3) and her mom ( a model), which is a perfect formula for success in the fashion industry. Her stepfather was also in the fashion business.

She began selling clothing at the age of 14( a true hustler) on Cedarhurst a Central Avenue in New York. In high school she interned for Liz Claiborne. Additionally while in high school she designed her first line and put on her first show. In 1966 she graduated from Hewlett High School and went to Parsons School for Design, like many other famous designers that we know and love. Similarly, she left after two years, which is also a trend among great designers, to work for Anne Klein. While at Anne Klein in 1973, she married her first husband Mark Karan and divorced him in 1978. She worked her way up to the head of the design team at A. K. and held that position until 1985.

(side note: Wow, she stayed at A. K. longer than she was married to her first husband.)

When she left A.K. she started her own company and created/ invented “the body” ( one of the most practical items of clothing to come out of the 80’s). That was her claim to fame. Her Essentials line offered seven pieces that wrap and sculpt the body, which every woman should have and of course, has expanded to about 200 pieces.

In 1988/89 she introduced a less expensive DKNY line, in order to dress her daughter. She designs all her lines without thinking of the top model, but the actual end consumer of her products. She calls her DKNY line the fast food to her caviar of her signature collection.

During the early 90’s her and her husband, Stephan Weiss whom she married in 1983, ran her company. In 1995 Weiss stepped down to concentrate on his real passion, sculpting and in 1997 Donna resigned as the CEO of her company. Soon after in 2001 her husband died of lung cancer in 2001. That same year Donna Karan’s line was acquired by LVMH for around $643 million dollars ( 2/3rds of that went to Donna personally), however Donna still remains in creative control of the company’s lines.

Donna relinquished her powers within her company because her husband was fighting cancer, which can surely cause enough emotional and physical strain and stress. From that experience, she was able to launch Urban Zen project in 2007. Her interest in Yoga came from the times that she shared yoga with her cancer stricken husband as a way to help ease his treatments. She has given millions to teach patients and care givers these techniques as well.

Donna has experienced her share of hurdles in her life. In February of 2008 she fired her assistant after she allowed animal right activists in her home. Karen, at the time, had been targeted by PETA for her fur designs during fashion week. When she came home to the activists they tried to show her a graphic video. Karen and a female activist got in a verbal debacle. The protests didn’t stop there. The activists attended her show soon after wearing masks resembling Donna and carrying bloody, dead rabbits. Eww. Karan never lost her cool throughout that whole charade because of the kind hearted person that she is. Karan, for her 2010 collection will go Fur Free… I guess the trespassing and harassment by PETA really worked. Or maybe it was the website or a video received from Tim Gunn that urged her to cease her use of fur. Either way, PETA and Tim got what they wanted.

Karan is also a major believer in the support . She recently told 150 customers at Neiman Marcus not to feel bad about buying expensive things because it is actually helping the designers, in addition to all the people involved in the making, advertising, and selling of the garment. She also supports a lot of charities and philanthropic causes.

Karen, known for her innate ability to understand a woman’s body, has been humbled by her years in the industry. She is thankful for her family that helped her get through everything. Though times got tough for her she always had the underlying support of her 3 children and 7 grandchildren. A touching quote from her comes from NY MAG:
“My husband, my mother, and my boss all died on a day of a show,” Karan says. “Black and white. Birth and death. I have to believe it has something to do with karma. That’s how I cope.” I know that has to be hard. But she did pull herself to date again which has kept her happy.

As a great entrepreneur, wife, mother, and designer, many women look up to her. She had to balance the good and bad in life with no breaks in between. She knew, however, that in being successful you must take risks and that is exactly what she has done. Her risks have paid off and have been recognized by organizations near and far. In the 80’s she won 3 Coty awards. She won Womenswear designer of the year in 1990 and 1996, followed by winning Menswear designer of the year in 1992. In 2003, Karan was the first American designer to receive Fashion Group International’s “Superstar Award.” A year later, Karan’s Alma Mater Parson’s gave her an honorary doctorate to commemorate her contribution to the school and fashion industry. That same year she won the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award as well. Finally, in 2007, Glamour magazine named Karan one of their Women of the Year.

In addition to receiving awards, she has also been know for her generous giving of both her finances and her time. She raises money for AIDS awareness and education with Seventh on Sale, a apparel sale which the procedes go to Karan’s cause. She is a co chair the “Kids for Kids” events for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation as well. She also participates in “Super Saturday” which is a flea market that benefits the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. She also co founded the Karen Weiss Foundation in 1999 with her late husband, for which she also runs her Karan’s Urban Zen Initiative.

I chose Donna Karen as the focus of my blog today because she has pushed through a lot of hard times and has still turned out successful and grounded. She was able to withstand divorce, deaths, criticisms and much more and still remain a kind hearted , generous ( not to mention fabulous looking) 61 year old designer.

P.S. Donna has also been compared to Oprah because of her weight ups and downs and here is what I have to say to those people, get a life. If you were going through a quarter of the things Donna experienced I am sure you wouldn’t handle it any better.

Donna K. please, keep doing what your doing and do not EVER stop designing clothing that fits my body perfectly , sans tailor. You are the best and I admire your strength and tenacity.