"I don't like standard beauty – there is no beauty without strangeness." Karl Lagerfeld.
German-born designer Karl Lagerfeld is widely known as one of the most prominent fashion designers of the late 20th century. Working for Pierre Balmain (1952-1957) at the age of 22, Lagerfeld, whose personal trademarks include a long ponytail for his powdered-white hair and sunglasses, is currently designing for three companies: his own label, Chanel, and furs for Fendi of Italy.
"What I enjoy about the job is the job." Karl Lagerfeld.
Childhood and Family:
”I'm at home everywhere. All I need is a hotel room. I don't need roots. It's for that reason fashion suits me so well. I make, I unmake, and I remake.” Karl Lagerfeld.
In Hamburg, Germany, Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born on September 10, 1938, to a wealthy family. He is the son of Christian Lagerfeld, a Swedish businessman who introduced condensed milk to Germany. His mother, Elizabeth, was German. Lagerfeld was their only child, born 10 years after the couple's marriage, when his mother was 42 and his father 60. Lagerfeld has several half-siblings from his parents' previous marriages. Although Karl states he was born in 1938, a Catholic baptismal record indicates his date of birth as 10 September 1933. He once told "Larry King Live" that he stopped celebrating his birthdays when he turned 30.
"Only the minute and the future are interesting in fashion – it exists to be destroyed. If everybody did everything with respect, you'd go nowhere." Karl Lagerfeld.
At the age of 14, aspiring fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who speaks fluently 4 languages, German, French, English and Italian, moved to Paris where he studied informally. Two years later, he won a prize for a wool coat from the Wool Secretariat, the same contest in which Yves Saint Laurent won an award for a dress. And the 22-year-old was awarded a position at Pierre Balmain for three years (1952-1957).
Lagerfeld recalled: "Yves was working for Dior. Other young people I knew were working for Balenciaga, whom they thought was God, but I wasn't so impressed.
In 1958, he moved to House of Patou. He also briefly freelanced at Krizia and worked for Chloe during 1959-1978. On moving from Pierre Balmain to Jean Patou, Lagerfeld said: "I became bored there, too, and I quit and tried to go back to school, but that didn't work, so I spent two years mostly on beaches -- I guess I studied life."
Meanwhile, Lagerfeld began designing furs for Fendi in 1965 and with money from his wealthy family, he set up a small shop in Paris. He launched his company, Parfums Lagerfeld, in 1975. At this time, he would often consult with Madame Zereakian, Christian Dior's Turkish fortune teller. Lagerfeld later revealed: "She told me I'd succeed in fashion and perfume."
From 1978 to 1982, he designed independently and began designing haute couture at the House of Chanel. In 1983, with the help of Gilles du Four, he added Chanel ready-to-wear garments to his list of responsibilities.
While maintaining her position as a designer for Chanel, Lagerfeld formed his own design business in 1984 and resumed designing for Chloe in 1992. And five years later, when design at Chloe was took over by former Beatle Paul's daughter Stella McCartney, Lagerfeld’s relationship with Chloe consequently ended. Meanwhile, Lagerfeld featured the "Wunderbra" and the "Wundercorset" in 1994.
In 2004 he designed some outfits for the international music artist's Madonna Re-Invention Tour, and recently designed outfits for Kylie Minogue's Showgirls Tour. Recently, Lagerfeld collaborated with the international Swedish fashion brand H&M.
Lagerfeld is also famous for a dramatic transformation of his body, when he lost around 80 lbs in one year, which led to a book called "The Karl Lagerfeld Diet.” He was the subject of a French reality series called "Signé Chanel" in 2005. The show aired on Sundance Channel in the United States during the fall of 2006.
Currently designing for three companies, his own label, Chanel, and furs for Fendi of Italy, Lagerfeld has played a role in equipping leading artists. He is a member of Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter in Paris.
An avid photographer, Lagerfeld often shoots his own press photos, and is sometimes called "Kaiser Karl" by the press. He produced Visionaire 23: The Emperor's New Clothes, a series of nude pictures of South African model David Miller.
"The reason American cars don’t sell anymore is that they have forgotten how to design the American Dream. What does it matter if you buy a car today or six months from now, because cars are not beautiful. That’s why the American auto industry is in trouble: no design, no desire." Karl Lagerfeld.