Published: 2022-12-12 ǀ Updated: 2023-05-31
Karl Lagerfeld Biography
Karl Otto Lagerfeld (* September 10, 1933, in Hamburg; † February 19, 2019, in Neuilly-sur-Seine) significantly shaped the style of the international fashion world. Unmistakable are the designer's trademarks — the white powdered pigtail, a towering patricide, dark sunglasses and, until the early 2000s, a hand fan, which he said he used as protection against paparazzi and to ward off cigarette smoke. The eccentric designer, fashion designer, photographer and costume designer is largely responsible for the revival of the French fashion house Chanel, whose rise he accompanied as chief designer since 1983.
Karl Otto Lagerfeld grew up in affluent circumstances in and around Hamburg.
He moves to Paris for the first time and lived there in a dormitory for minors in Rue Sorbonne.
He wins first place in a competition of the International Wool Secretariat for the design of a coat. This is followed by an apprenticeship as a tailor with Pierre Balmain, who himself is a juror of the competition.
Lagerfeld moves to the successful designer Jean Patou, where he held the position of artistic director until 1963.
Lagerfeld designs collections for the Italian fur and fashion company Fendi (now LVMH).
After working as a freelance fashion illustrator for some time, the then Chloé managing director Rosemarie Le Gallais hired him.
Lagerfeld starts his first own company in Germany, Karl Lagerfeld Impression. He ends his work for Chloé for now.
The designer works for various companies, including again for the house of Chloé.
Lagerfeld designs the first costumes in Genoa. Projects for the Vienna Burgtheater and the Salzburg Festival follow.
Lagerfeld was the first fashion designer to hold a guest professorship at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.
Lagerfeld became designer of the haute couture collection at Chanel, helping the then dusty fashion brand regain its splendor and rise to become an internationally successful billion-dollar corporation.
The fashion designer starts his label Karl Lagerfeld together with the French textile manufacturer Bidermann. This has been sold on several times since 1987, before the brand rights revert to Lagerfeld himself in 1997.
Lagerfeld receives the Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The KL line, which has been existing since 1988, is available in the Quelle catalog (popular German shopping catalog like the Sears catalog).
Lagerfeld is once again chief designer at Chloé.
Lagerfeld is awarded the Culture Prize of the German Society for Photography.
He designs a women's collection under the name Lagerfeld Gallery while opening boutiques of the same name together with Andre Putman selling not only clothes, but also books and exclusive photographs.
Lagerfeld's collaboration with fast fashion company H&M caused an international sensation. Lagerfeld is the fashion discounter's first design collaborator and establishes a series of collaborations.
In the same year, Lagerfeld designs stage outfits for Madonna, and the following year also for Kylie Minogue.
The Lagerfeld brand becomes the property of the U.S. based Tommy Hilfiger group and subsequently changes ownership several more times.
In the following years, Lagerfeld is repeatedly involved in a variety of design projects away from the world of fashion, such as the creation of a Steiff teddy (2008), participation in the design of The World (Dubai, 2008-2010, discontinued), a limited edition Coca-Cola Light bottle (2010) or a Swarowski collection (2010).
He designs a women's collection for German online fashion-retailer Zalando.
Lagerfeld dies of cancer in 2019 at the age of 85.
The US group G-III (including DKNY, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger) takes over the Karl Lagerfeld brand. Handelsblatt
- The biographical data on Lagerfeld's age contradict each other. According to his information, he was born in 1938 or 1935, the official birth announcement and excerpts from the baptismal register of the city of Hamburg point to the year 1933.
- Lagerfeld is considered the discoverer of Claudia Schiffer.
- Lagerfeld was considered a good photographer, who repeatedly staged products (e.g. for VW), published illustrated books and photographed Natalia Wörner for the German edition of Playboy magazine.
- He possessed one of the world's largest collections of photo books.
- Lagerfeld's Burmese cat Choupette was featured on the cover of German Vogue together with Linda Evangelista.
- In 2019, a jumping spider will be posthumously named after Karl Lagerfeld. The jotus karllagerfeldi reminded the drawing of the spider of Lagerfeld's simplistic style.
- Oscar winner Jared Leto — himself a great admirer of Lagerfeld — stars in the upcoming biopic. Spiegel.de