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Karl Lagerfeld and his beloved cat, Choupette. Photo credit: Womens Wear Daily

Beginning your career as an assistant to Pierre Balmain portends a great future in fashion. That was certainly true for Karl Lagerfeld.  Add stints at Jean Patou and Chloè and his current positions as Creative Director at Fendi and Chanel, and his career seems touched by divinity.   But Karl is so much more than titles at fashion houses. Karl innovates constantly, never loses touch with what’s new, and listens to no one but himself (and perhaps his cat, Choupette).  At around eighty years old – he famously obfuscates his actual age – he has now influenced more than half a century of fashion worldwide.

The Karl Lagerfeld of today is an over-the-top fashion icon for several generations of fashionistas. The long white hair tied in a ponytail, the black and white ensembles, and the ever present black sunglasses and gloves only add to his chic mystique. His “look” is part uniform, part branding, and part crisp German perfectionism.

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A little known sketch by Karl Lagerfeld, photographed in the FENDI headquarters in Rome, Italy.

Some of his appeal stems from his unfiltered honesty and outrageous quotes.   One of my personal favorites is, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.  You lost control of your life and so you bought a pair of sweatpants.”  I can’t even read that line without chuckling.

And then there is his almost-as-famous cat, Choupette.  Anyone with a beloved pet can appreciate his love and attention to Choupette, but because he’s Karl, he’s taken this love to an outlandish level.  Choupette has two maids and gets her own hotel room when they travel.  He’s said that he would marry Choupette if it were legal, adding, “I never thought I would fall in love like this with a cat.”

Karl, who famously invented the Fendi double F logo (which stands for “Fun Fur”) and who is an accomplished photographer and artist as well as a fashion designer, surprisingly dismisses the notion that fashion is art, one of the pillars of truth for those in the fashion world. 

Equating fashion to art might be taking things just a bit too seriously for Karl.  After all, this is the guy who says, “Everything I say is a joke.  I am a joke myself.”

About the author: Layne Randolph

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