Beginning your career as an assistant to Pierre Balmain portends a pretty great future in fashion. That was certainly true for Karl Lagerfeld. Add stints at Jean Patou and Chloé and his current positions as Creative Director at Fendi and Chanel, and his career seems touched by divinity. But Karl was so much more than titles at fashion houses. Karl is a legend. He innovated constantly, never lost touch with what’s new, and listened to no one but himself (and perhaps his cat, Choupette). At 85, he influenced influenced more than half a century of fashion worldwide and 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.
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 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.”