Let’s face it: Karl Lagerfeld was an icon. A living, breathing, self-invented icon. He was also an incredible multitasker who designed collections for multiple labels (Chanel, Fendi, his eponymous line), worked as creative director and photographer, and had no interest in retiring or even slowing down.
In a sense, he was like the Joan Rivers of fashion – a profoundly productive rabbit with fingers in many different pies while wearing many different hats, only to be stopped by death itself.
Lagerfeld had his critics over the years, but his place among fashion legends is secure. I’ve heard some people say that Coco Chanel was rolling in her grave over what Karl had done with her house. But what he did with her house was turn it from a stale and stodgy label for rich old ladies into something that was exciting (and profitable).
Rather than inventing something completely new out of thin air, his real gift seemed to be riffing on what already existed. He never ran out of ideas for different things to do with strings of pearls or the Chanel Cs. And the fashion shows? Whether you’re into fashion or not, there is no denying that the presentation – between the clothes, the sets, the props, the colors, the themes – was thrilling.
And let’s talk about Lagerfeld’s own look for a second. The white ponytail, the shades, the white collar, the black jacket and tie, the gloves, the pout… like Thomas Jefferson’s gay brother who happened to be an EDM DJ. He had a uniform. The look was all his and it was fabulous.
Karl Lagerfeld was a freak. And I mean “freak” as the highest compliment, like the way Prince was a freak – a prolific visionary who always moved forward, creating a universe that gave us an escape from the bitch that is real life. He was an exciter.
A splash is the best that most can hope to make in fashion (or any industry, for that matter). Karl Lagerfeld made an explosion. And it was never boring.
Chanel fashion show photos via The New York Times.