Published on February 22, 2019Updated on June 19, 2023
An exceptional fashion designer. An outstanding photographer. A fashion icon. Karl Lagerfeld was all of the above, and much more. The couturier has just left us, leaving behind his unmistakable signature permanently written on clothes, on pictures, and everywhere across Monaco.
From Dior to Chanel
It all started on the day when, as a very young man, Karl Lagerfeld watched a Christian Dior show and decided to dedicate his life to fashion. His first designs were drawn on a simple notebook. When he came to Paris in 1952, his dream seemed to be just one sketch away. From a mere fashion illustrator, he became an assistant to Pierre Balmain, and stayed on the job for seven years. Seven years of learning, discoveries, and accomplishments, which led him to become an independent designer creating collections in France, Japan, Italy and Germany in the early 60s. The brand Chloé jealously retained him for two decades, until Chanel, then on the brink of bankruptcy, set its sights on his talent. He became the last-hope man for the legacy couture house. As the figurehead of a sinking ship, he imposed Inès de la Fressange, who quickly turned into a media darling. The newfangled creative director reveled in his success, in his characteristic low-key manner. His iconic black-and-white style saved the day, and Chanel sailed on, with Vanessa Paradis as one of its flag-bearer. Lagerfeld could go back to developing his art along with his fashion. For the couturier was also an artist.
A media-friendly artist
Image is key. The man was an icon in himself. His skinny figure, perpetually clad in tight-fitting black suits and strict white shirts, his trademark sunglasses, his white hair tied into a cathodic ponytail, his adamant and sometimes sharp words, his manicured German accent, made him a character in his own right. A character designed to protect the sensitive being that lived inside, the man who drew, illustrated and, above all, took pictures. Architecture, bodies and luxury were his favourite subjects. He agreed to do cameos in various feature films, just for the fun of being there, for Andy Warhol, Francis Veber and Julie Delpy. He inspired writers who turned him into a sudden presence, a secondary role, from The Devil Wears Prada to The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq. He designed stage costumes and music videos for stars such as Madonna, Mylène Farmer and Kylie Minogue. He fashioned the jersey of the French football team and gave a new look to the Diet Coca-Cola bottle. He turned into an essential feature of today’s pop culture, loved for is responsiveness, his creative genius, and his all-around talent which seemed to fit just about everywhere.
A love story with Monaco
Internationally recognized, laden with prizes and awards, Karl Lagerfeld longed for peace and tranquility, and it showed in the place he chose to call home. A true Monaco lover, he fell for the beauty of La Vigie, one of the most beautiful and prestigious villas on the Côte d’Azur, well-known for its unique architecture. The house served as his residence for over ten years, allowing him to offer perfect privacy to the illustrious friends he wished to entertain. H.R.H. the Princess of Hanover asked him in 2013 to stage and give elegance to the fabulous Rose Ball for the Société des Bains de Mer’s 150th birthday. His chosen theme, “Belle & Pop”, delighted each and every guest, to the point that Karl Lagerfeld was invited to collaborate on all subsequent editions. From Russian Constructivism and Art Déco to Cuban Fever and Viennese Romanticism, his imagination knew no limits. In 2018, he put New York under the spotlight at the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club. There will be a black veil hanging over this year’s edition. Black ; his favourite colour.