With his swept-back silver ponytail, immovable dark glasses, and that impeccably tailored black jacket and tie silhouette – which alters only fractionally with the sartorial demands of the season – Karl Lagerfeld is one of the most recognisable personalities in fashion.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO KARL
While his exact age is open to interpretation (the German-born designer is thought to well into his his eighth decade), 2013 sees Lagerfeld celebrate 30 years at the design helm of French super-brand Chanel. He is famous for resurrecting the Parisian- born label from a comatose state in the eighties to a fashion empire which today turns over an estimated £2billion a year. “He has an intuition and ability to foresee trends while having at the same time great knowledge and respect for the past,” says Joanna Przetakiewicz, creative director of Polish label La Mania, and both mentee and friend of Lagerfeld. “It is this unique ability to reinterpret the characteristic codes of Chanel that has kept the brand at the same time modern and timeless.” What is amazing is that Lagerfeld has completed this phenomenal resurrection alongside his work with Italian accessories giant Fendi (a relationship which has lasted even longer than his three decades with Chanel), and a spell in the nineties at fellow French fashion house Chloé. Take into account the fact that he also has three of his own collections – premium label Karl Lagerfeld Paris, menswear arm Lagerfeld, and the embryonic KARL, a cosmopolitan, younger aesthetic launched in 2012 and sold exclusively online through Net-a-Porter, and you can understand why his ferocious worth ethic is well documented.
“He gives people what they don’t even know they want yet,” explains Ian Wright, fashion director at industry bible Drapers. “He’s so in touch with what’s out there and what’s cool, but he never repackages anything he sees in a derivative way. That’s the clever thing about him.” It is this drive to hunt out the next big thing that has helped extend Lagerfeld’s staying power to such a lengthy duration. There are myriad examples of his ability to set trends and push boundaries, froths theatrical Chanel shows – in recent seasons we have seen giant suspended silver globes, full-sized wind turbines, and Paris’ Grand Palais, decked out like a luxury jet – to his column inch-dominating accessories, such as this spring’s brightly-coloured plexiglass clutch boxes and hula hoop handbags. An ongoing selection brand tie-ups, including the first designer collaboration for Swedish high-street giant H&M in 2004, his candy-striped Diet Coke bottles sold exclusively through Harvey Nichols in 2011, and this year’s link up with quirky Brazilian footwear label Melissa, ensures he is omnipresent when it comes to commercial genre, fashion style, or financial capabilities: anyone can buy into a piece of Karl.