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History of Karl Lagerfeld

Best known for his revival of French fashion house Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld was celebrated for his cutting-edge and modern approach to contemporary clothing design. 

Throughout his career, which spanned 65 years, he imparted his creative flair and eye for style to some of the world’s finest luxury brands, to include a childrenswear collection KARL LAGERFELD KIDS, launched in 2015 at Childrensalon. From ambitious couture assistant to global powerhouse, discover the inspiring journey behind one of the industry’s most iconic and treasured fashion designers

3 Sep 2019

Early Years

- 1930s - 

1933 - Karl Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany. Intellectual activity was strongly encouraged by his mother, and from a young age he began to explore his creativity and interest in illustrations. Already as a small child, he became fluent in French and English, in addition to his native German.

- 1950s -

1954 - Karl won the first prize in a contest organised by the Secrétariat International de la Laine (International Wool Association), for a sketch of a coat. The coat was produced by Pierre Balmain who offered Karl Lagerfeld, then 17, a job as his assistant. 

1957 - After three years working with Pierre Balmain, Karl left to become art director for fashion designer Jean Patou, where he remained for five satisfying but calm years. This relative freedom allowed him to deepen his knowledge in subjects that had passionately interested him for years: history, architecture, music and especially 18th century French.

- 1960s -

1962 - With the birth of ready-to-wear, Karl Lagerfeld became one of the first freelancers in the modern fashion industry, working between France, Italy, England and Germany.

1964 - Karl began his partnership with Chloé.

1965 - Karl was approached by the house of Fendi, which asked for his creative support in making fur a key element in fashion. The collaboration between Karl Lagerfeld and Fendi continued until his death in 2019. 

Joining Chanel

- 1970s -

1975 - Karl became the first fashion designer to introduce a perfume, CHLOÉ, without having his own label. He went on to launch numerous additional fragrances including LAGERFELD CLASSIC (1978), PHOTO (1991), JAKO (1998), LAGERFELD WOMEN and MEN (2003), KAPSULE (2008), KARL LAGERFELD WOMEN and MEN (2013), and PARFUMS MATIERES WOMEN and MEN (2017).

- 1980s -

1983 - Karl was named art director of the house of Chanel. A year later, he created his own fashion house, KARL LAGERFELD, while continuing his collaborations with Chanel and Fendi.

1987 Further expressing his extraordinary creativity, he moved behind the lens to start shooting his own campaigns. He became renowned for his work as a photographer, and many of his images were transformed into art books, published by Steidl. He also created countless editorials for the world’s most renowned fashion magazines.

- 1990s -

1992 - Karl Lagerfeld participated in numerous illustration projects. He created 60 colourful illustrations for the classic fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson.

1999 - Karl opened a bookshop in Paris, called 7L. A year later, he also became a publisher with the launch of the EDITIONS 7L publishing house, which specialises in books about visual knowledge and photography.

Building Success

- 2000s -

2000 - In his personal life, he redefined his image after losing 42 kilograms (93 lbs) with a self- imposed diet. A book, The 3D Diet, was published about the experience shortly thereafter; it sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide and was translated into several languages.

2004 - Karl was the first designer in the world to be asked by fashion giant H&M to collaborate on a capsule collection of 30 pieces. Since then, H&M has gone on to partner with numerous other renowned fashion designers.

2008 - In 2008, his name was added to Le Petit Larousse Illustré, France’s most iconic dictionary.

2010 - He received the Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York.

2012 - The launch of a new concept for the KARL LAGERFELD brand — a vision of accessible luxury. As a digital native brand, it was first available through Net-A-Porter, and later through KARL.COM and a global network of retail stores, which continues to expand.

2016 - At the request of choreographer and director Benjamin Millepied, in 2016 he designed the costumes for the Brahms-Schönberg Quartet production at the Opéra Bastille in Paris.

Legacy Lives On

- 2010s -

2017 - Karl was named the guest of honour at the PARIS PHOTO fair. At the fair, he selected 200 of his favourite photos, which were also featured in a special-edition book published by Steidl. The same year, he was named recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards, plus WWD’s John B. Fairchild Award.

Also in this year, he designed two spectacular suites in the iconic Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.

2018 - Karl designed a 6-star, 290-room hotel in Macau.

2019 - On February 19, 2019, Karl Lagerfeld passed away in Paris, France.

Throughout his career, Karl Lagerfeld created countless theatrical costumes including those for the Monte-Carlo Ballet, the Opera di Firenze, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Burgtheater of Vienna and the Salzburg Festival, to name a few. He also extended his design talent to architecture and interior design, including bespoke projects in Toronto, Miami, Berlin, Monaco and London. From 2012 to 2018, he was a monthly contributor of bespoke caricature sketches to F.A.Z, a supplement of the Frankfurter Allgemein Zeitung newspaper in Germany.

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