He was one of fashion’s most iconic faces, and this year the designer – who died in 2019 – is the theme for the Met Gala in New York. His personal style – the uniform dark suits, matching shades and ponytail – made Karl Lagerfeld instantly recognizable, and he was also known for his sometimes provocative comments.
But how do we remember the German designer? It didn’t have a distinctive look or design so much as an impact that hit home. Fashion shows today have arguably grown bigger than the collections they showcase – and none of those shows were bigger than Lagerfeld’s shows at the Grand Palais in Paris.
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“Nothing defined his style because he was a chameleon that changed colors depending on the house he was designing for,” Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told BBC Culture. “As he once said, he was Miss Chanel, Miss Fendi, Miss Chloe, (even, maybe, Miss Lagerfeld) – with different styles for each.”
Lagerfeld worked for several fashion houses over the years, and at the time of his death at the age of 85 he was the creative director of Chanel and Fendi, and also ran his own label.
His career began in the 1950s, when alongside another great, Yves Saint Laurent, he won a prestigious fashion award now known as the International Woolmark Prize. He soon became an assistant to one of the judges that year, Pierre Balmain, and his rise in the Parisian fashion world continued with a series of legendary French brands, including the fashion branch today now disappeared from Jean Patou and Chloé.