Karl Lagerfeld was born in 1938 in Hamburg, Germany of a Scandinavian dairy magnate and his
German wife. Lagerfeld said that when he was 12 years old, he spent 3 hours a day learning the French
language. In 1952, at the age of 14, he came to Paris in order to study, but he says that he spent most of
his time in the studios of the artists who thronged Paris in the 1950s and with such men as Jean Cocteau and
Jean-Paul Sartre. He says "In the beginning, I wanted to be an illustrator, a painter. I really did not know
what I could do. Fashion had always interested me even before I knew it was called fashion. I loved the
costumes of figures in paintings and around me." With a passion for drawing, Karl decided to study
the history of costume and clothing. He would amuse himself by re-interpreting styles of
many different periods in history.
In the year of 1954, Karl Lagerfeld came across some huge Parisian posters inviting artists to send
their sketches to the International Wool Secretariat, for a competition for artistic designs. He decided to send in
some sketches for coats, and 6 months later, he heard via telegram that he had won the coat category. Yves St.
Laurent won the dress category in the same competition of that year. Pierre Balmain was one of the judges, and he
immediately hired the talented young Karl Lagerfeld. He stayed there for 3 1/2 years. Karl still has kept many of
the friends he made at the House of Balmain, and a number of them still work with him today. In everyone's opinion,
Karl was extremely gifted and destined for a brilliant and very successful future.
Aged 20, Karl Lagerfeld then became Art Director at the famous house of Jean Patou - designing two haute couture
collections a year. In 1962, Karl Lagerfeld signed with the largest departmental store in Japan, ISETAN, to create
some fashion collections for men and also for women.
A year after that, Karl Lagerfeld left Jean Patou and began some free-lance designing in Italy and
France. He says "It worked very well, nobody had done it quite like that before, it was exciting and right for the
time, the mid-60s. Around that time, the idea of pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) was born. A sort of simplified high
fashion which anyone could do pretty well. Karl then offered his talents to several houses. His goal was to design
clothes for as many different kinds of women as were ever available.
Karl then joined the House of Chloe, and within a short while began to gain reputation within the house for
lightness and youthfulness. His ensembles designed at Chloe were all constructed out of several forms of
light weight, airy layers, including camisoles, shirt-jackets and sleeveless jackets, used in different ways.
Colours were ethereal as the thin silk itself and Lagerfeld experimented with many different forms of decoration -
painting silk in patterns and using inserts of lace. He tied silk blouses around the waist, wrapped scarves around
the hips, and made high collars in order to achieve a look which he called "Byronesque."
He continued designing these beautiful clothes for 14 years until the Fall/Winter 1997 collection, when he handed
over the house to Stella MacCartney, daughter of singer Paul McCartney who brought out her first collection for
Chloe, during the Summer of 1998.
In 1963, Karl Lagerfeld met the Fendi sisters. They asked him to take over the design of their collections and
gradually, they became his second family.
Karl Lagerfeld managed to expand the Fendi product line in order to include dresses, handbags, luggage, belts as
well as accessories. The Fendi sisters loved him and say "Karl designs our entire line. It is such a pleasure
to work with him because we have been together for years now, and we practically grew up together. We understand
him and can pass his ideas onwards to our customers. We have some well-known clients from all over the world, from
actresses to noblewomen. Catherine Deneuve is very faithful, Ira Furstenburg, Grace Jones, we really value these
women who love Fendi and wear it with such class."
In 1975, Karl started his Parfum which he called Lagerfeld, a company which produces and markets perfumes such as
Chloe, Lagerfeld for men and K.L. His memories of special scents from his childhood was the main source of
inspiration for this.
In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld was then given the artistic direction of the House of Chanel at a time when the name had
been largely forgotten, remembered only for it's perfumes. He is known to have brought new life back into the
Chanel's shops. The most experienced and talented hands in Paris tended to measure, cut, drap, sew and embroider
the most expensive clothes in the world. The meeting of 2 extraordinary talents, Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfield,
had from the very first collection, been a sensation. Lagerfeld kept to the overall classic lines of
Chanel further updated so that they could add a sparkle to the old house.
After working for Chanel for a year, Karl Lagerfeld started his own label, and from then on presented 2
collections a year as solely Karl Lagerfeld creations. This continued despite all of the other collections he
creates. In the late 1980s, he took up the design of porcelain for the West German pottery firm Hutchenrehter and
has also found time to continue in order to design for films and the theatre, as well as neckwear and eyewear for
all his contracts. In 1986, he launched an American Sportswear line, a semi-annual collection with an American
point of view.
In 1987, Karl Lagerfeld was awarded the Golden Thimble the Fashion Industry's highest honour, for the collection of
He also has a hobby of buying and renovating old and ancient houses. He is a specialist of the 18th century and
considered an expert by the most important antique dealers in the world. Although he is usually extremely busy, he
always takes the time to see the houses himself and give his opinion on antiques, or even buy another of his
He says "I like being a chameleon, being many persons at the same time. For me designing is
like breathing, I don't think about it. When I sit at a desk at Chanel, I am Chanel, when I go to Rome and
sit at Fendi, I am like Fendi." He says: "I start thinking about my new collection on the day I show the
earlier one. It is the new start that always turns me on."
Find fashion by Karl Lagerfeld @ the following eshops: