1938–2019, German fashion designer, b. Hamburg as Karl Otto Lagerfeldt, immigrated with his family to Paris in 1952. He won a fashion award at 16, designed for couturiers Pierre Balmain (1954–58) and Jean Patou (1958–63), then freelanced for Fendi, Krizia, and Valentino and designed for Chloé (1959–78; 1992–97). In 1983 he became head designer at Chanel, where he revamped the classic Chanel suit into chic updated versions, using offbeat colors and such materials as denim and leather; reinvented the double C logo; accessorized with heaps of gold chain and pearls; and added such items as mini- and maxiskirts, hot pants, and lace-up biker boots to the house repertoire. Many say that his greatest skill was to take an established brand and add or revamp its established design details, often adding a soupçon of pop culture, making it relevant and contemporary again. Lagerfeld also had his own KL label (launched in 1984), with lines including neckties, shoes, perfumes, sunglasses, jewelry, and housewares. Combining high fashion and high camp, Lagerfeld drew customers from the worlds of entertainment, business, government, and high society, and worked prolifically into his eighties. He was a skilled photographer as well, with several published volumes.
See his Karl Lagerfeld's Sketchbook (1986) and The World According to Karl (2013); A. Piaggi, Karl Lagerfeld: A Fashion Journal (1986); A. Drake, The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris (2006); R. Marconi, dir, Lagerfeld Confidential (documentary, 2007).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Fashion: Biographies