In 1954, Lagerfeld’s revolutionary career in fashion starts, winning first prize in the coat category for the International Wool Association’ competition in Paris, aged 21. Henceforth, he went on to become an indispensable component of the design world and later set the standard for luxury interior design.
Image source: Lagerfeld during Chanel press preview, New York, 2005
Following his inspired entry into the fashion industry, no time was wasted and he quickly secures the role as Art Director of Jean Patou in Paris, 1957. Lagerfeld spends the 60’s collaborating with Fendi and Cholé- launching his own original scent for Chloé marked him as the first designer to launch a fragrance without having his own label. For many, this simply proved him to the creative pioneer he’s remembered as today.
Perhaps one of Lagerfeld’s most defining moments in his career, 1983- Karl joins Chanel. As Chief Artistic Director, Lagerfeld transformed the brand and created a lasting legacy at the French Fashion House. Credited by Bloomberg for growing Chanel into the $10 billion global fashion machine and responsible for creating the interlocking “CC” emblem which is now synonymous with Chanel.
Infusing fashion with architecture
Within his fashion labels, Lagerfeld was predominantly known for his elaborate sets, breathtaking runway shows that always combined fashion with art and architecture. This trio of disciplines combined together to create the multidisciplinary thread that can be seen woven through all of Lagerfeld’s work.
For Chanel’s spring 2016 collection, his runway places a minimalist wooden house in a Zen garden in Paris. Notions of both minimalism and Zen are truly influential in the design scene and worked fittingly for Largerfeld’s understatedly elaborate show.
Further projects that essentially drew focus away from Karls fashion design was in 2012 when he teamed up with Zaha Hadid to create an underwater world, complete with mermaids, seashells and sea life for Chanel. He noted that “there’s nothing more modern than the oldest shapes of the history of the world- not humans, but of the sea”.
From Dresses to Upholstery
Style icon Lagerfeld had much to say about luxury interior design. In collaboration with Chanel and other influential brands, he joined forces with contractors and architects to create mesmerising and meaningful luxury projects. His love for style and design transpired through new expression and his interiors remain iconic.
In his younger years, Lagerfeld was recognised for his special talent to evoke the mood and glamour of past centuries. His passion for the feminine, alluring and disruptive mood of the 1920s is extended from his fashion design capabilities to his embedded love and appreciation for interior design.
Image source: Lagerfeld created a room inspired by early 20th-century French fashion and Art Nouveau.
Lagerfeld’s personal collection of furniture, paintings and objects of the Art Deco era were surrounded by white and cool walls in his Paris apartment. For Karl, the interior design elements of his surroundings were paramount to appreciating the intricate decorative objects within the space. Floors in this Paris apartment; black or dark brown: “They show off my Art Deco pieces like diamonds in a Cartier showcase”.
Speaking of his Parisian Art Deco apartment to Vogue, “it’s more an atmosphere than anything- it is a poesie, a dream”. Lagerfeld’s infatuation and love for this dream, style and era extended to favouring candlelight over electricity, dining with Meissen plates and cherishing the rug that had belonged to Louis XV for years.
Vogue Magazine had made special room in their editorial calendar for Karl over the years. Hundreds of Lagerfeld’s fashion designed have been published along with eight features on Lagerfeld’s luxurious homes. For Karl, living well was an art. An art that extended beyond spaces and objects to learning, manners, and encompassing the external environment.
Lagerfeld expressed to Vogue that “dresses are only interesting as part of everything else that’s going on”. For Karl, this was most true and fitting of the 18th century, “it was a most polite century, and so modern. It was perfect. The rooms were so flattering to live in”. Away from Paris, Lagerfeld’s Italian abode in Rome was characterised by the colour scheme that inspired Chanel’s statement look- black and white. It was filled with Wiener Werkstätte pieces.
Wiener Werkstätte was established in 1903 by a community of visual artists in Vienna, bringing together architects, artists and designers who worked on ceramics, fashion, furniture and graphics. Its influences have been seen in later styles like Art Deco- which in turn inspired Lagerfeld.
Karl made frequent references to the pleasantries of the past, yet also was keen to project into the future. His interior home style was never static and never lingered in a single period. “Anything dusty, dirty or musty- forget about it. I like my 19th century fresh”- he told Vogue in 1992. He insisted that his dream was to build and design a very modern house. This was achieved 16 years later with his ‘machine for living’ Paris apartment with twists and curves not unlike those of the quilted cross bags Lagerfeld introduced in the early 2000s.