An icon, creative genius, and an inspiration for many—Karl Lagerfeld may have departed but his legacy will forever remain.
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Regarded as the king of fashion, Karl Lagerfeld has always had the talent to breathe new life into flailing brands. So even if time has the power to force any brand to change (pushing some brands to flunk), especially today when there is an intensified pressure to the global fashion market, his visions have always prevailed.
But his journey towards leaving a legacy that shaped the global luxury fashion wouldn’t become possible without him taking a leap of faith. Only at the young age of 14 years old, Karl Lagerfeld moved to Paris and studied drawing and history.
When he took the chance and submitted a drawing of a coat to the International Wool Secretariat, that signaled the start of his legacy. Among 200 participants, Karl won and was given the spot to work alongside Pierre Balmain.
So as he eventually honed his craft, he continued working for several labels—from Jean Patou, Chloé, Tiziani, to Fendi. But only when the day came for him to join la Maison de Chanel, that pushed him to the front of the fashion industry.
The Impossible Feat
Chanel was initially known for its classic tweed suits and little black dresses. These were considered revolutionary after the Second World War because of Coco Chanel’s progressive ideas towards the liberation of the female body. However, as time progressed her aesthetic was seen by the public as old fashioned. So when Karl entered Chanel he was tasked to do an impossible feat—reinvent a decaying brand.
“When I took over Chanel in ’82, everybody said to me, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s dead.’ But when I start a line, everything is completely new,” Karl unapologetically said in the Netflix documentary 7 Days Out. Taking yet another risk that may either make or break his career as a creative, he still made every effort to make the impossible possible.
Keeping Coco Chanel’s design ethos intact, he reinvented the classic tweed, created Chanel’s first-ever miniskirts, and prompted the trend of two-toned shoes and quilted bags. But he did not stop there.
He continued to defy the limits as he transformed high fashion from an ordinary interest for style savants into blockbuster entertainment for mostly everyone. From installing icebergs, rocketships, to airport lounges in his runway shows, the German-born designer became known for a grandiose mise en scène at the Grand Palais.
Filling The Void
After several decades dominating two of the fashion world’s luxury brands, Karl may have left a void to be filled in Chanel and Fendi. Since he has already led the two labels at their peak, the successors are now tasked to keep up with his ability to be one step ahead of other brands.
Chanel’s Chief Executive Alain Wertheimer shared that “thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the house of Chanel’s success throughout the world.”
The French Maison announced that his successor will be Virginie Viard. But while she may be relatively unknown in the industry, she has actually been the right-hand woman of Karl for more than 30 years.
This only shows that the Wertheimer family who controls Chanel opted to preserve the authentic design philosophy of the brand. According to the storied French house’s statement, the selection will ensure that “the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld” may live on. As for Fendi, they have yet to address the decision of who can fill the position.
But all things considered, what matters, in the end, is how these brands can consistently create an impeccable collection showcasing the brand’s true heritage. Echoing the words of the enigmatic Lagerfeld, “I don’t believe in lifetime achievement. For me, it is all about the next collection.”