A colleague remembers this 21st of June 2010 as if it were yesterday. That day, Karl Lagerfeld had come "redraw Release" as a special guest. The fashion designer, smoked glasses, powdered catogan, black jacket and white shirt with a collared collar, observed the model of daily life displayed on the wall, followed closely by a butler in livery with a silver tray where a bottle of Coca-Cola was enthroned. light, the cute sin of the fashion designer (he drank gallons). So was Karl Lagerfeld, outrageous in his manners and his pace, offbeat in every way, ostensibly fortunate, cantor of no limit and spendthrift assumed, he who had lived only in luxury and his attributes. The extravagances of the German have, in part, his legend. Capable of bloody protests, polemical statements, he has hit the headlines as much as he has mollified, with a submachine gun flow with a strong Germanic accent. Its longevity, never equaled at this level in the industry, allowed him to remain master until the last day of the Chanel house. Lagerfeld marked the fashion of its imprint, less for key pieces that would have revolutionized the women's wardrobe than for a system, a vision, a never-satiated creativity and multiple collaborations operated on all sides, sometimes far from the spheres of luxury.

Release of June 22, 2010One of Release drawn by Karl Lagerfeld on June 22, 2010. (Click to scroll through the number, subscribers)

Karl Lagerfeld has had many lives, running for two centuries, which in the end look like a long, well-controlled reign. In January, his unpublished absence at his last two parades had worried. He finally died on Tuesday. Karl Otto Lagerfeld had no age, or at least did not wish to disclose it. The exact date of his birth fluctuated according to his words and the inquiries made about him. Was he born on September 10, 1933 or five later, in 1938? According to baptismal documents published in 2003 by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, and the testimony of a former college teacher, he was born in 1933 in Hamburg. On this subject, Karl Lagerfeld carefully scrambled the tracks, until celebrating his 70th birthday in 2008 and declaring in 2013 (in an interview with Paris Match), that his date of birth was fixed in 1935. German, he had only one passport. He used to launch, as in 2017 in our columns: "Schleu one day, Schleu always" when asked about his alleged dual nationality when he shared his life since the 1980s between France and Monaco, and was returning little feet in his homeland for which he had little interest, not enough "Chic" for the snobbish, that's saying little, he was.

To read also, two portraits of the couturier, in 1999 and 2004Self-mode man
Lagerfeld, mercenary of the provocation

On the other hand, he claimed to assume everything, even the macabre past of his people that he did not support, he who had been raised "In the cult of Germany before 1933". During his lifetime, Lagerfeld never put a ballot in the ballot box, proclaiming himself neither left nor right, but disgusting especially to pay taxes. Her recent outbursts on migrants, Jews and Angela Merkel's policy have reiterated how much he could be more than borderline, testing the limits of his interlocutors, always ready to erode public opinion.

"Draw and shut up"

Gosse of the rich, raised as an only son, although he had an elder sister and a half-sister who was not loved by his parents and to whom he himself was not attached, Karl-Otto Lagerfeld was an early boy sure of him and his superiority. Trilingual at age 6, gifted for drawing and caricature ("I was born with a brush in my hand"), he has, small, an adult's head on a child's body, always dressed to the nines. Elisabeth Bahlmann, her German mother of Prussian origin, makes sure that her offspring look good. His father, Otto Lagerfeld, a Swedish industrialist, spends a short time with his offspring. His son introduced him as the man who brought Gloria concentrated milk to Europe. Karl Lagerfeld grew up in the family estate of Bad Bramstedt not far from Hamburg. He goes to school but finds "The humiliating child condition" and uses his comrades as servants to his service. He has always assured to be missing the war, sheltered from fighting and air raids in this green countryside where his parents have installed him.

Read also Karl Lagerfeld in 2005: "Endless arms and legs and a very small head"

To illustrate his position as a visionary, he claimed to have dreamed his life from childhood, would have seen, almost mystically, a great man, celebrated when he was only 6 years old. Raised by an authoritarian and merciless mother whom he quoted extensively through interviews, Karl Lagerfeld could have remained the eternal victim of these diatribes launched "Like knives" by his own admission. Rather, it was a course of action, a way of adapting to everything, even to criticism. "Draw and shut up", he hammered Elizabeth to stop chattering or mistreating the family piano. This hard woman, an enlightened but amateurish violonist, would have been a lingerie saleswoman in Berlin before meeting Otto and marrying her in 1930. Elisabeth Bahlmann was an example that he followed and never questioned the guidelines. She had early accepted the homosexuality of his son and had formulated him as well when he asked about his own preferences: "It's like the color of the hair. It's nothing. There are people who are blond and some who are brown. This is not a topic of discussion. " Has he suffered from extreme rigidity? Reply : "No, it's the only correct way to raise someone. Today, parents are far too kind, too lenient with children " (Release in 2005). But it was before becoming the master (dad cake) of Choupette, cat to whom he had a tenderness that grazed the embarrassing. At his sacred Burma, he allowed everything, giving him the benefit of his largesse to include on his will. He had the same tolerance in the last years of his life with Hudson Kroenig, his godson, a 10-year-old American, son of one of his fetish models, whom he described in private as a capricious and arrogant child but who he seemed to really like.

Read also Karl Lagerfeld in 2004: "I like the idea of ​​being one of the symbols of absolute luxury"

The young Lagerfeld spends his time reading and drawing. At the age when others are slumming, he deviates wisely to the sketch of fashion. He left Germany in 1952 to live alone in Paris when he was not 20 years old and no diploma in his pocket. On the other hand, he has enough confidence and means to fly on his own. In spite of his annuities, he thinks only of working. He wants to dress women: "At the time, it was hard to imagine that we could live decently in this business. Fashion today is something completely different. In the 50's, it was not trend-trendy at all to be part of this universe. But I have always been interested in what people wear. I love clothes. " In November 1954, he won among the 200,000 candidates the first prize in the International Coats Wool Secretariat competition. On the day of the awards ceremony, he meets another laureate (category dress) looking shy and still unknown, Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent. They will become one of the best friends of the world, spend their nights dancing in the clubs of Saint-Germain-des-Prés with Victoire Doutreleau, the first model of young Yves. Karl Lagerfeld is already imposing a code of conduct to help him avoid a hangover: no cigarettes, no alcohol and no drugs. But a cranium that the halo of mystery, armor from which he will never depart, he seen furrowing the streets of the left bank in racing cars to envy his contemporaries. Fashion is haute couture, nothing else. The system is extremely hierarchical. Less fortunate French women dress with tailors who reproduce the patronage that houses broadcast. In terms of style, everything is very codified. We are witnessing the end of a world, in the era of wise women who must avoid scandal. Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld therefore start two parallel careers that will quickly follow separate paths. The first wants to be devoted to the head of his own house, the second chains contracts with claws of all kinds without his name is put forward.

"I like being everywhere"

At the moment when Saint Laurent enters Christian Dior's home, first as a model assistant to the fashion designer before taking over following his death, Karl Lagerfeld becomes Pierre Balmain's second. He stays there for three years. "I was tired of being a simple assistant. I was not born for that. " He leaves the house for Jean Patou where he is named artistic director. "He told me one thing I will never forget: never make an ugly dress, because someone could buy it." The time of fashion imposes between fifty and seventy sewing silhouettes a year. He walks without marking the spirits of this glitzy but aging area: "This world has disappeared. I could write a book about some high fashion finishing. That said, at the time the backstage was sordid. Today, everything is sublime, see the Chanel workshops of unheard of luxury. But when I started, it was not really impeccable at Balmain or Patou. " Lagerfeld and the house Patou separate in 1963. That's for sewing. He swears by ready-to-wear, more in tune with the jolts of the world and their impact on the women's locker room. He will return to Haute Couture later, in the Chanel era. Karl Lagerfeld is a chameleon who wants to keep his freedom. His adaptability is plethoric, coupled with a speed of execution that prints each of the workshops he goes through. "I like it to go fast, I know what I want and I'm not here to rely on chance." He considers himself an illustrator before being a dressmaker. He did not tolerate any name, stylist, fashion designer, designer or artist. He does not sew (Azzedine Alaïa has always held him rigorous, considering that they did not do the same job), but his drawings are precise enough for a first workshop to discern the essential. Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld follow parallel destinies throughout the 60s and 70s. The first knows the recognition from his first parades at the head of his eponymous house run by Pierre Bergé, companion, man crutch. Lagerfeld has always made it known that these honors were not of interest to him. He sails alone, wants fortune. Glory, at first, it happens. His creativity is sprawling. Independent stylist, he works for a string of brands sometimes simultaneously, more or less respected, when they pay. In the XX Fashion Dictionarye century (Editions du Regard) are indicated: Timwear, Krizia, Ballantine, Cadette, Charles Jourdan, Mario Valentino. AT Release in 2014 : "It corresponds to my deep nature. […] I like being everywhere, I like to do everything, to participate in everything, to know everything. The ubiquity of fashion and its different categories is my chosen and freely chosen fate. " He joined Chloé in 1964 in the accessories department. This is one of the most fashionable claws of the sixties. And one of the first to evolve in a new market: luxury ready-to-wear. At the creative studio, he is not alone. A team of stylists is in charge of drawing the collections. Lagerfeld quickly puts them to the fine. He says he is lazy so he always produces more than others, comrades and competitors, he puts on the hot seat because the work force, it's him. Gaby Aghion, the founder of the house once confided that Karl Lagerfeld was perhaps not the best technically, but he was on all fronts, teeming with ideas, the first to make his drawings and the last from. In 1965, on the sidelines of his work with Chloé, Lagerfeld began a collaboration with the five Fendi sisters, his family at heart. He imagined their logo and will draw until the end the ready-to-wear Italian label, now owned by the LVMH group, which places it in the camp of Bernard Arnault.

Karl Lagerfeld and Gaby Aghion will eventually quarrel in 1985 as Lagerfeld gets angry with Pierre Bergé and consequently with Yves Saint Laurent, the youth friend. A man has definitively removed them: Jacques de Bascher, dandy without work, idle, inveterate reveler, the only declared love of Karl Lagerfeld. An eighteen-year relationship lived without sex, because the German has always been interested in other spheres than the pleasures of the flesh. With Saint Laurent, on the other hand, Jacques de Bascher lived a carnal passion haloed by illicit substances. Together, they lost themselves in excesses, and places of debauchery, what Pierre Bergé did not forgive Lagerfeld's protege who, he knew everything but did not take offense at anything, keeping a position of voyeur assumed until in his old age.

"Looks like a hustler"

At the beginning of the 70's, Lagerfeld drags along with Andy Warhol, settled in Paris with his band to sell his portraits to the rich and famous of Europe. Warhol gives him a small role in his film Love where we can see greedily kiss the American Donna Jordan. It is his dark brown handsome, adept marcel. It evolves towards a more beach boy muscular. Indoor gymnastics and bodybuilding are not yet popular but it has already been a daily activity. In 2017, in Release, when he saw the images of him at the time, he launched: "Looks like a hustler. I was doing weight training before it was fashionable. I do not regret but today when I see that, I say "I do not know this guy". " In addition, he collects, a time the art nouveau, then more shimmering objects of the time XVIIIeand the houses too, which he likes to redecorate and then give up. He spends his money outrageously even though he leads a thousand collaborations. His fortune is growing. He repeated to himself: "Pay who has the money," of which act.

The turning point of his career is Chanel obviously. It is not so known, or only a small medium. In 1982, brothers Alain and Gérard Wertheimer propose him to take the lead of the label which they alone have owned since 1954 and engage him for three years. The house has lost its aura, is addressed only to middle-class people of another time. She is "Nerdy" dare the couturier. Karl Lagerfeld negotiates a gold contract (we speak of a million dollars a year initially) where he is granted a total freedom and nobody to dictate his conduct. The figure of Gabrielle Chanel, died in 1971, seems overwhelming but nothing scares Karl Lagerfeld. It makes the double-C stamp one of the finest commercial successes of the late twentiethe century. With Chanel, he celebrates fashion, organizes real shows in music (that "Coco" had a horror and who decided with the parades very ampoules seen until then). Lagerfeld reinterprets the camellias, the tweed, the tailor, the black dress, the mesh. A challenge, because unlike Yves Saint Laurent who has upset the codes and accompanied the changes of French society, he has not created iconic pieces, does not bequeath a before-after stylistic that we would quote intuitively. His talent is elsewhere. He rehabilitated, rejuvenated (sometimes to the limit of good taste), globalized, a naphthalinated house by dint of great marketing moves. He notably reinvented the status of model with Inès de la Fressange – a muse exclusive contract, which had never been seen until then – charged with symbolizing the Parisienne, the famous, that Coco Chanel had erected to the rank of myth. Inès de la Fressange and Karl Lagerfeld will be scrambling for a while before meeting again.

Generation selfie

During the 90s, with the passing of time and a bad culinary combo sausages – Coca-Cola, Karl Lagerfeld s'ankylose, up to weigh more than 100 kilos. The death of Jacques de Bascher in 1989 marked him deeply, he who seemed to get up from everything, always. Here he is, who wears his discomfort in his physiognomy. In the early 2000s, he embarks on a draconian regime, losing 42 pounds in thirteen months to be able to return, he says in the skimpy costumes of Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme.

This new transformation coincides with the era of excesses of which the fashion world gargles. From 2006, he invests the nave of the Grand Palais where he organizes ever more grandiose shows, season after season. Its re-enactments (the ice floe, a Space Shuttle launch, a Parisian brewery, a supermarket, the Gorges du Verdon or, the latest, a beach on the island of Sylt in Germany) would almost forget the silhouettes that parade. The house on Rue Cambon serves as a step towards starification. The more society builds individualism as the centerpiece of personal fulfillment, the more Karl Lagerfeld stands out. It stands out as the tutelary figure of this luxury industry that it will participate in building and will never cease to internationalize becoming one of the strong links of globalized capitalism. In 2004, H & M, giant of the fast fashion, seeks to launch collaborations with big names in fashion. The first will be Karl Lagerfeld. The low-cost collection created by the Kaiser for the Swedish firm cartonne. We are jostling in shops all over the world. Nothing will be like before for the German designer who mutates from then on in almost rock star. Despite his omnipresence in the media, Karl Lagerfeld has nonetheless remained a cleverly maintained mystery. He made his own figure a logotype, perfect for the selfie generation where everything has to be embodied in someone ready to turn into something. Lagerfeld has become a brand. He was luxury and all his excess, coupled with a certain idea of ​​anti-conformism. A man above ground, definitely.

Marie Ottavi



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