BY: NENA IVON
KAISER KARL, The Life of Karl Lagerfeld, the first biography of the prolific and iconic influencer, was published in the United States on February 1st, the first anniversary of his death. Would I recommend you add it to your fashion book collection? Absolutely.
During his 85 years, Lagerfeld worked for many fashion houses, including Chanel for 36 years with a lifetime contract, Fendi for 54 years, also with a lifetime contract, Chloé for five years, and his namesake label for 35 years. The majority of the book takes place before his tenure at Chanel. The last quarter of the book is about his life at Chanel.
Lagerfeld started collecting books as a child and was an obsessive bibliophile. He also began drawing as a child and designed by sketching. An avid photographer, Lagerfeld photographed many of the Chanel ads and edited numerous magazine spreads through the years.
As the first biography of a major influencer from the past 50+ years, my first impression was I did not learn as much information that I did not already know. Some examples of this are the different stories of Lagerfeld's birth date (1933), his place of birth (Hamburg), or his heritage (German) for that matter. I found this to be very 'Chanel' who invented and reinvented so much of her early life. From early success to his death, Lagerfeld spent much of his life as an enigma!
What I did learn from this well-written tome...
Lagerfeld was generous towards his intimates, his staff, and his platonic affairs. He provided accommodations and money for his close circle in his home or homes of their own. Lagerfeld was also obsessed with constantly changing and refurnishing homes with only the best for both. He owned luxury cars, again changing them frequently.
Lagerfeld's involvement with Andy Warhol's Factory and as a 'movie star' was a very interesting read, even more so since he didn't drink nor do drugs as did most of the Warhol crowd. The friendship and break up with Yves Saint Laurent is well documented and are expanded upon in the book. I won't tell you about his life with the dandy, Jacques de Bascher, from 1971 to Jacques death in 1989, because I don't want to spoil this story for you. However, I think you might see Lagerfeld in a different light, I did!
The book discusses Lagerfeld as an athletic young man who loved to show off his body to an overweight (in his opinion) mid-life man who was very self-aware and determined to redefine his appearance. It then talks about Lagerfeld's dramatic weight loss (to wear Dior Homme suits and appear younger), why he wore mitts (to hide age spots), his sunglasses, and his signature powdered hairdo.
I loved the introductory paragraphs of each chapter. I would have liked a bit more insight into this solitary figure and many more photographs and KL illustrations. Perhaps the next monograph will give us more details about the unique creator who was Karl Lagerfeld!
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