KARL LAGERFELD Biography - Socialites, celebrities and People in the fashion industry


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Name:  Karl Lagerfeld                                                                   
Born: September 10, 1933 Hamburg, Germany                                               
Karl Lagerfeld (born Karl Otto Lagerfeldt on September 10, 1933) is widely             
recognized as one of the most influential fashion designers of the late 20th           
century. He has collaborated with a variety of different fashion labels, with           
Chloé, Fendi and Chanel the most notable. But with contracts with companies           
internationally, throughout his career, he has probably built the most                 
complicated resume of any designer. Furthermore, he has his own labels, which he       
launched in the early 1980s, including perfume and clothing. He has also played         
a role in equipping leading artists.                                                   
Karl-Otto Lagerfeld was born 10 September 1933 in Hamburg, although Lagerfeld           
has long asserted that he was born in 1938. The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag       
has quoted his former teacher and classmates as confirming the earlier date. His       
older sister, Martha Christiane (a.k.a. Christel), was born first in 1931.             
Lagerfeld also has an older half-sister, Thea, from his father's first marriage.       
His original name was Lagerfeldt (with the "t"), but later changed it to               
Lagerfeld as "it sounds more commercial."[1]                                           
Though Lagerfeld has stated that his father was Swedish, journalist Alicia Drake       
in "The Beautiful Fall" (Little, Brown, 2006) established that Karl's father,           
Otto Lagerfeld, who made his fortune introducing condensed milk to Germany, was         
indeed German. According to Drake, Lagerfeld's mother, the former Elisabeth             
Bahlmann, was a lingerie saleswoman in Berlin when she met her husband and             
married him in 1930.                                                                   
Karl Lagerfeld emigrated to Paris in 1953. In 1955, at the age of 22, Lagerfeld         
was awarded a position as an apprentice at Pierre Balmain, after winning a             
competition for a coat sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. He told         
a reporter a few years later, "I won on coats, but actually I like designing           
coats least of all. What I really love are little black dresses." Yves Saint           
Laurent also won the contest for a dress award. "Yves was working for Dior.             
Other young people I knew were working for Balenciaga, whom they thought was God,       
but I wasn't so impressed," he recalled in 1976.                                       
In 1958, after three years at Balmain, he moved to Jean Patou, where he designed       
two haute couture collections a year for five years. His first collection was           
shown in a two-hour presentation in July 1958, but he went by the name of Roland       
Karl, rather than Karl Lagerfeld (although in 1962, reporters began referring to       
him as Karl Lagerfelt, and Karl Logerfeld.) That first collection was poorly           
received. Carrie Donovan wrote that "the press booed the collection." The UPI           
noted: "The firm's brand new designer, 25-year old Roland Karl, showed a               
collection which stressed shape and had no trace of last year's sack." The             
reporter went on to say that "A couple of short black cocktail dresses were cut         
so wide open at the front that even some of the women reporters gasped. Other           
cocktail and evening dresses feature low, low-cut backs." Most interestingly,           
Karl said that his design silhouette for the season was called by the letter "K"       
(for Karl), which was translated into a straight line in front, curved in at the       
waist in the back, with a low fullness to the skirt.                                   
His next collection, for Spring 1959, was a vast improvement according to Carrie       
Donovan, who noted that the press "applauded widely and even shouted several           
bravos." She wrote that "His clothes... have a kind of understated chic,               
elegance, and just plain 'class' that has not been seen on this side of the             
Atlantic since Molyneux and Mainbocher closed up shop."                                 
His skirts for the Spring 1960 season were the shortest in Paris, and the               
collection was not well received. Carrie Donovan said it "looked like clever and       
immensely salable ready-to-wear, not couture." And in his Fall 1960 collection         
he designed special little hats, pancake shaped circles of satin, which hung on         
the cheek. He called them "slaps in the face." Karl's collection were said to be       
well received, but were not groundbreaking. "I became bored there, too, and I           
quit and tried to go back to school, but that didn't work, so I spent two years         
mostly on beaches – I guess I studied life."                                         
After leaving Patou in 1962, he immediately launched himself as a freelance             
designer, working with brands such as Mario Valentino, Repetto, and the                 
supermarket chain Monoprix.                                                             
With money from his wealthy family, he set up a small shop in Paris. At this           
time, he would often consult with Madame Zereakian, Christian Dior's Turkish           
fortune teller. Lagerfeld later said, "She told me I'd succeed in fashion and           
In 1963 he began designing for Tiziani, a Roman couture house founded that year         
by a man named Evan Richards (b. 1924) of Jacksboro, Texas. It began as couture         
and then branched out into ready-to-wear, bearing the label "Tiziani-Roma --           
Made in England." Lagerfeld and Richards sketched the first collection in 1963         
together. "When they wound up with 90 outfits, Tiziani threw caution and               
invitations to the winds, borrowed Catherine the Great's jewels from Harry             
Winston, and opened his salon with a three-night wingding," according to one           
report in 1969. Lagerfeld designed for the company until 1969. Elizabeth Taylor         
was a fan of the label (she referred to Evan as "Evan Tiziani") and began               
wearing it in August 1966. Gina Lollobrigida, Doris Duke and Principessa               
Borghese were also customers while Lagerfeld was designing the line. He was             
replaced in 1969 with Guy Douvier.                                                     
In 1964 he began freelancing for Chloe in Paris, which would become one of his         
most important positions. At first he designed just a few pieces a season, but         
he eventually began designing the whole collection.                                     
In 1970, while maintaining his position at Chloe, he began designing for the           
Roman Haute Couture house Curiel (the designer, a woman named Gigliola Curiel,         
died in November 1969.) It was a brief collaboration. His first collection was         
described as having a "drippy drapey elegance" designed for a "1930s cinema             
queen." The Curiel mannequins all wore identical, short-cropped blonde wigs. He         
also showed black velvet shorts, to be worn under a black velvet ankle-length           
His Chloe collection for Spring 1973 (shown in October 1972) garnered headlines         
for offering something both "high fashion and high camp." He showed loose               
Spencer jackets and printed silk shirt jackets. He designed something he called         
a "surprise" skirt, which was ankle-length, pleated silk, so loose that it hid         
the fact it was actually pants. "It seems that wearing these skirts is an               
extraordinary sensation," he told a report at the time. He also designed a look         
inspired by Carmen Miranda, which consisted of minibra dresses with very short         
skirts, and long dresses with bra tops and scarf shawls.                               
In 1972 he began his long collaboration with Fendi, designing furs, clothing and       
In the 1970s Lagerfeld also began working as a costume designer for theatrical         
productions. He collaborated with Italian director Luca Ronconi, and designed           
for theatres like La Scala in Milan (Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz, 1980), the         
Burgtheater in Vienna (Komödie der Verführung by Arthur Schnitzler 1980), and         
the Salzburg Festival (Der Schwierige by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, 1990).