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Karl Lagerfeld – An Eventful Life

The German designer, photographer and costume designer was one of the most recognized and popular fashion designers in the world. He was a fashion icon. Especially through his clear creations he developed into the leading figure of the international fashion and designer scene.

Childhood & Youth


Karl Lagerfeld was born on September 10, 1938, as the son of a Hamburg merchant. Lagerfeld grew up as the son of the Hamburg canned milk manufacturer („Glücksklee-Milch-GmbH“) Otto Lagerfeld and his wife Elisabeth in affluent circumstances. He dropped out of school prematurely in 1953 to travel to Paris with his mother at the age of 14 and settle there. At first he attended a private school and the Lycee Montaigne.

The start of his career


He began his professional career in 1954 when he was awarded first prize at the International Wool Secretariat for a coat design. Lagerfeld’s designs were created in the studio of the French designer Pierre Balmain, where he received his first employment. Here he also completed an apprenticeship as a tailor from 1954 to 1957. In 1958 Lagerfeld left this employment to work as a freelance designer in the French capital.  At the same time he was artistic director of Jean Patou from 1958 to 1963.

Karl Lagerfeld then moved to Chloé as artistic director in 1963. He also designed numerous fur models for Fendi and created creations for the label Coco Chanel. Contracts for the renowned fashion house Chanel brought him his first international attention.  In the early 1970s, he met Jacques de Bascher in Paris, with whom he shared his life for the next 20 years.

Jacques de Bascher fell ill with AIDS in 1983. Karl Lagerfeld accompanied him for six years through the illness, to which he was beaten in 1989.  In 1974 the designer founded his first independent company in Germany under the name „Karl Lagerfeld Impression“. From 1978 to 1982 Lagerfeld worked as a freelance designer for various houses. From 1980 to 1984 he was a visiting professor of fashion at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, his successor being Jil Sander.

The rise


The first prêt-à-porter collections for Chanel followed in 1983, followed by the opening of Lagerfeld’s first fashion store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. In the same year, he also became chief designer of the traditional Chanel store. From 1987 Lagerfeld also worked for other textile manufacturers, with whom he produced collections under the label „KL“. He also designed costumes for films and operas and took his first photographs as a fashion and advertising photographer.

From 1990 onwards, Karl Lagerfeld supported the German model Claudia Schiffer, in whom he saw the second Brigitte Bardot, and from then on used her at Chanel internationally as a house model. Schiffer developed under the support of Karl Lagerfeld to the most expensive photo model of the world and represented a new generation of her profession, which combined the activity as a model with the international fame of a world star. From 1988 to 1996 she worked together with the fashion house „Steilmann“. From 1996, Lagerfeld’s collections for the German mail-order company „Quelle“ followed.

An eventful life
The German designer has been awarded numerous prizes, not only for his fashion creations but also for his photographic work. In 2000, his radical diet according to the specifications of the physician Jean-Claude Houdret, in which Lagerfeld lost more than 40 kilos of his body weight in a short time, attracted great media attention. Together with his doctor, he published the book „Karl Lagerfeld, Jean-Claude Houdret: Die 3D-Diät“ about the diet in 2002. In October 2003, Lagerfeld was awarded the „World Fashion Award“ by Mikhail Gorbachev at the World Awards. For the Swedish fashion house H&M, Lagerfeld created an exclusive and cost-effective fashion line for women and men for the autumn collection 2004.


The German designer has been awarded numerous prizes, not only for his fashion creations but also for his photographic work. In 2000, his radical diet according to the specifications of the physician Jean-Claude Houdret, in which Lagerfeld lost more than 40 kilos of his body weight in a short time, attracted great media attention. Together with his doctor, he published the book „Karl Lagerfeld, Jean-Claude Houdret: Die 3D-Diät“ about the diet in 2002. In October 2003, Lagerfeld was awarded the „World Fashion Award“ by Mikhail Gorbachev at the World Awards. For the Swedish fashion house H&M, Lagerfeld created an exclusive and cost-effective fashion line for women and men for the autumn collection 2004.

At the Prêt-à-Porter shows in Paris in October 2005, Lagerfeld presented three collections for the first time. Firstly for Chanel and Cloé and the first collection of the rejuvenated edition of its own line „Lagerfeld Gallery“.

On 1 December 2005, Lagerfeld was awarded the „Bambi“ in the „Creativity“ category. From 11 November 2006 to 18 February 2007, 350 photographs and multimedia installations by Lagerfeld were exhibited in the Berlin gallery C/O Berlin. Under the title „One Man Show“ they all showed the American model Brad Kroenig, who was discovered and sponsored by the designer. Little was known about Lagerfeld’s private life.  In 2010 he became commander of the French Legion of Honor and in 2017 he was honored with the Médaille Grand Vermeil of the city of Paris.

Karl Lagerfeld died on 19 February 2019 in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

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