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Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

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One of the most acclaimed fashion designers in the world, Karl Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany. While he’s never revealed his true birthday, it’s been reported he was born September 10, 1933. Known for his bold designs and constant reinvention, he’s been hailed Vogue magazine as the “unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment.”

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Sensing his future lay elsewhere, 14-year-old Lagerfeld made the bold decision, with the blessing of his parents, to move to Paris. He’d been there just two years when he submitted a series of sketches and fabric samples to a design competition. He ended up taking first place in the coat category and meeting another winner, Yves Saint Laurent, who would become a close friend.


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Soon, Lagerfeld had full time work with French designer Pierre Balmain, first as a junior assistant, and later as an apprentice. It was a demanding position, and the young designer remained in it for three years. He took work as a creative director with another fashion house before finally, in 1961, striking out on his own.

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Good work soon followed, with Lagerfeld designing collections for Chloe, Fendi (where he was brought on to oversee the company’s fur line) and others. Lagerfeld became known in the fashion industry for his innovative, in-the-moment styles. But Lagerfeld also had an appreciation for the past, and he often shoped in flea markets, finding ld wedding dresses to deconstruct.

Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour

By the 1980s, Karl Lagerfeld was a major star in the fashion world. He was a favorite among the press, who loved to chronicle his changing tastes and social life. Lagerfeld kept company with other major stars, including his good friend Andy Warhol.

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While he’s developed a sort of hired gun reputation for jumping from one label to the next, he’s also put together a track record of success that few designers can match. At Chanel in the early 1980s he did what few thought possible: He returned what was perceived to be a near-dead brand back to life with a revamped popular ready-to-wear lineup

7th Annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards - Inside

Around that time Lagerfeld launched his own label, in 1984, which he built around the idea of what he described as “intellectual sexiness.” Over the years, the brand developed a reputation for quality tailoring with bold ready-to-wear pieces like cardigan jackets in bright colors. In 2005 Lagerfeld sold the label to Tommy Hilfiger.

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Universally recognized as one of the most prolific and high-profile designers of the last 20 years, Karl Lagerfeld has maintained his reputation through consistently strong work for the numerous lines he produces every year. Each label has its own distinct look, while clearly bearing the bold, uncompromising Lagerfeld signature that guarantees the success of everything he produces.

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Moving between several main collections, Lagerfeld designs with consummate ease, displaying the skills he learned from his couture background in fine tailoring and flashes of surreal detailing. He has functioned best as a catalyst, reinvigorating labels and broadening their customer base. Since 1983 he most spectacularly demonstrated this capability at Chanel, where, despite some criticism, Lagerfeld brought the label back to the pinnacle of high fashion. He produced endless innovative variations on the signature tweed suits that often mix street style references, such as teaming the traditional Chanel jacket with denim miniskirts and the signature gilt buttons and chains.

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Lagerfeld also stretched the Chanel look to embrace younger customers, with club-influenced black fishnet bodystockings, the traditional Chanel camellia placed cheekily over the breasts, and hefty lace-up boots set against flowing georgette skirts and leather jackets. This combination of wit with recognizable Chanel symbols rejuvenated the house, making Lagerfeld’s fashion word an inspirational message to a new generation. His experiments have been at their most fantastic in the vibrant lines of the couture show, made more accessible in the ready-to-wear range.

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His own name label, KL, highlights these skills. Bold tailoring, easy-to-wear cardigan jackets in his favorite bright colors, combined with softly shaped knitwear, showed the breadth of his talents and ensured the longevity of his appeal. If his more outrageous combinations at Chanel have enabled him to outlive the excesses of the 1970s that trapped some of his contemporaries, then his clever manipulation of fabric and color has prolonged the life of his clothes still further.

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While he continued to move from label to label, never quite losing the freelance mentality of his early days, it is only the occasional lack of editing in his collections betraying how widely his talents are spread. Idea follows idea, frequently inspired by his current model muse as he reinterprets garments to create very modern styles. At Fendi this desire to continually push forward to greater modernity, absorbing the influences around him and seeking greater perfection in his work, led to his taking the furriers’ trade a step further. The lightness of touch that had established his name as early as 1970 led him to strip the Fendi sisters’ signature fur coats to the thinnest possible layer. He removed the need for heavy linings by treating the pelts to produce supple lightweight coats shown in 1973 with raglan sleeves and tie belts, which complemented the sporty feel of the knitwear he also produces for the company.

Karl Lagerfeld

Lagerfeld has proven he is equally adept in his bold strokes at Chanel as in his delicate shaping at Fendi, or in the vibrant classics of his own lines.

nacido en 1933 en el seno de una familia noble alemana, la vida de Lagerfeld como diseñador ha sido prolífica a la par que precoz: con sólo 12 años se trasladó a Francia para continuar con sus estudios y ya a los 16, tras abandonar la escuela, comenzó a trabajar para Pierre Balmain. Su carrera después ha sido larga, ha pasado por Fendi, casa en la que sigue trabajando, se consolidó como el gran referente de estilo que es como director creativo de Chanel –casa para la que además realiza las campañas publicitarias como fótografo– y consolidó su forma de entender el mundo creando su propia marca, Karl Lagerfeld. “Cuando entré en la Maison nadie quería ponerse su ropa ni llevar sus accesorios. Nadie vestía de Chanel. Así que me lo tomé como un reto. Los dueños me dieron carta blanca para crear, para hacer algo que funcionase, pero sin presión. Si no lo consiguía, venderían la marca: pero sí insitieron en que con mi llegada vendría el éxito, como así fue. A mí me atrajo la idea de resucitar algo que estaba muerto” comenta el alemán al respecto.

El Kaiser, como se le conoce popularmente, prefiere mirar a ser mirado, por eso siempre lleva gafas de sol y el pelo recogido en una coleta muy tirante. Una imagen tan intrínseca e indisociable de Chanel -comenzó a diseñar a comienzos de los años ochenta- como casi la de la propia Coco.

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Polofacético como pocos –diseña, fotografía, edita e ilustra, entre otras cosas–, asegura: “Me interesan casi todos los aspectos de la cultura y siento que todos me influyen de alguna manera. No existe una regla sobre lo que es inspirador y cómo puede afectarme. Para mí lo que funciona es observarlo todo, y luego olvidarte de ello y rehacerlo a tu modo”.

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