Influential Fashion Illustrators: Karl LagerfieldCredit: fashionbombdaily.comKarl Lagerfeld started his career in the fashion industry when he won second place in the International Wool Secretariat in 1955 at the age of 17. His award was an apprenticeship to the famous designer Pierre Balmain. He worked at Balmain for three years before moving to Jean Patou in 1958. It was at Patou where he was able to get some experience in designing haute couture collections.  He worked here for the next five years before launching himself as an independent designer. His clients were some of the top Paris fashion houses such as Mario Valentino, Repetto, Krizia, Tiziani, and Charles Jourdan.

Around 1964, Lagerfeld also started designing a couple of pieces per season for Chloe until such time that he was eventually creating entire collections for the company. Around the same time, he started collaborating with the Italian fashion house Fendi to create accessories, fur, and clothing. By 1973, his Chloe collection was garnering him rave reviews and establishing his career as a fashion designer more firmly. While doing his work for the different fashion houses in Italy and Paris, Lagerfeld also ventured into costume designing for several prominent theaters in Milan, Vienna, and even for the Salzburg Festival (Downton, 2010, pp.80).

In 1982, Lagerfeld joined the house of Chanel and subsequently restored the brand’s elite status. He incorporated the brand’s signature of elegance and class with a sexy, youthful edge, making them again a much sought-after brand to wear. His reinvention of Chanel has established it as once again. While designing for Chanel and maintaining his long collaboration with Fendi, Lagerfeld launched his own label in 1984 (Tatham & Seaman, 2003, pp.89). The label, Karl Lagerfeld, will offer products that show “intellectual sexiness”. More than a decade later, he was dubbed as an “unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment” by Vogue. By 1998, he created another label, Lagerfeld Gallery, which showed his personal style and his many passions. This label focused on producing ready-to-wear collections.

With his fame and superior design firmly established in the industry, Lagerfeld went into a collaboration with Sweden’s H&M in 2004, creating mass-produced apparel that resulted in people clambering over each other to get his clothes. After his long career in haute couture, creating bargain-priced clothing further showed off his versatile talents that create fashion that appeals to all types of people. A year later, he sold his two labels to Tommy Hilfiger but still is greatly involved in the brands’ designs.

To date, he is still the creative director for Chanel and Fendi.

Bare and Simple Technique

Karl Lagerfeld believes that all designers should sketch. When creating his masterpieces, his favourite medium is paper, usually a sketch pad, and a black marker. For color, he mostly prefers to use Polychromos colored pencils.

Rebelliously Quirky

Lagerfeld is known for his bold designs, sometimes bordering on the quirky, and also for creating timeless classics with a twist. Through his work, fashion is no longer based on couture. Instead, inspiration for fashion can come from anywhere: the street, the people, the media. He constantly reinvents himself and his designs that he has become known as the “master of reinvention.” His constant reinvention is because of his keen attunement to modern times and his belief that fashion should be updated. It is believed that his talent was strongly influenced by his mother’s eccentricity (Downton, 2010, pp.80).

His great work in the fashion industry has rewarded him with recognitions from different awarding bodies. His collection of awards includes the Neiman Marcus Award in 1980, Golden Thimble Award in 1986, and the Fashion Footwear of America Award in 1991. He has also received numerous awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America starting in 1982. These awards include the Accessory Designer of the Year in 1991 and the Lifetime Achievement Award that was given to him in 2002 (Downton, 2010, pp.80). In 2010, he was presented with an award, The Couture Council Visionary Award, which was created for him by the Couture Council of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. More recently, he was given the Gordon Parks Foundation award for his contributions as a photographer, designer, and filmmaker.

Lagerfeld is a man of so many achievements that he can definitely be called today’s Renaissance Man. Aside from being head designer and creative director in two of the top fashion houses (Chanel & Fendi) and designing for his own label, he is also an accomplished photographer. Often, he shoots the ad campaigns of Chanel and his label, Lagerfeld. He has also had photo exhibitions and photography books published including A Portrait of Dorian Gray, Palazzo, and Metamorphoses of an American to name a few. Lagerfeld has also laid claim to several awards in photography. The Raymond Lewy Foundation awarded him the Lucky Strike Design Award and at the International Centre of Photography's Infinity Awards in 2007, he received the ICP Trustees Award. He also produced Visionaire 23: The Emperor’s New Clothes which is a series of nude photographs featuring the South African model David Miller.

His love for life includes a love of books. Earlier in his career, he created the illustrations for the Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. He also owns his own Parisian bookstore, 7L and his own publishing imprint, Edition 7L. He has also collaborated on a book “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet” that has sold worldwide.

Although he is well-known for designing clothes and footwear, Lagerfeld has also dabbled in designing delicate glassware for the Swedish company Orrefors. The crystal art collection was released under the label “Orrefors by Karl Lagerfeld”. Aside from designing glassware, he also has designed the latest collection for Diet Coke: Diet Coke Limited Edition by Karl Lagerfeld. Not only that, he has also started directing commercials such as the one he created for Magnum Ice Cream.

His talents, already many as they are, have also led him to create fragrances that are famous around the world. One of the top perfumes, Chloe, was developed by him. Other brands that are currently in the market include Sentimental, Karleidoscope Fragrance, Kapsule, Lagerfeld Perfume, and Paper Passion perfume to name a few.

This Renaissance man has not stopped here. He has also signed a contract with Dubai Infinity Holdings to create his latest venture: designing limited edition homes for Isla Moda, the first island in the world to become a dedicated fashion island. The homes will offer an exquisite lifestyle that has never been seen before and catapult the island into the future style icon.

Lagerfeld’s achievements and influence in and outside the fashion world will continue on as long as he is determined to face new challenges and create new trends. The good news is, there seems to be no stopping him.

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