i woke to an alert this morning that karl lagerfeld had passed away and immediately i felt a void in the fashion world. karl was next-level: eccentric, brash, creative, inspiring, outspoken, controversial. he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. a german tasked with taking over france’s most storied brand and then saving it. for years he put out numerous collections a year for not only chanel, but also fendi (where he had been creative director since 1965), and his own brand. he created the idea of runway as an experience, coming up with sets that seemed to get bigger and more extravagant—an airport, a dollhouse, a brasserie, a beach. it never distracted from the clothes. he knew how to keep up with the times, launching the high-low collab, doing editorials featuring the simpsons, partnering with pharrell, understanding the power of social media. he understood what people wanted even if they didn’t think they wanted it.
the chanel way of doing things seems so old school now, with designers becoming more role models than just arbiters of taste. look at how people have reacted to phoebe philo, maria grazia chiuri, virgil abloh—the designer as deity. but funny enough, when i first discovered chanel in the 80s, it was lagerfeld that seemed not from this world. chanel is still the ne plus ultra to me, to be able to sit at a chanel show is a dream, to buy a bag or jacket (even if it is second hand) feels extra special. even as a grown woman, i felt intimidated walking into a chanel boutique. with his passing, an era is coming to a close and i’m sad to see it go.
postscript: signé chanel (on youtube) is probably my favorite fashion documentary ever, but there’s also lagerfeld confidential and the recent chanel episode of 7 days out. also loved this piece on him from interview, this from the new yorker and this from numéro.
photos via pinterest, cr fashion book, marie claire, the foo faraw, en paper blog