Karl Lagerfeld: Looking back at his rise to fame and love of Arabian fashion

The designer died at the age of 85 on Tuesday. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019

Karl Lagerfeld: Looking back at his rise to fame and love of Arabian fashion

DUBAI: As tributes pour in from across the fashion world over the death of industry icon Karl Lagerfeld, we take a look at his storied rise to fame, as well as his controversial comments on Middle Eastern migrants and his love of fashion from the region.

The designer died at the age of 85 on Tuesday after he failed to make an appearance at the Chanel show at Paris Couture Week in January, prompting industry insiders to question the state of his health.

Reuters reported that Lagerfeld enjoyed the stature of a deity among mortals in the world of fashion, where he stayed on top for well over half of a century and up to his death, at an age almost nobody apart from himself knew with to-the-day precision.

The German designer was best known for his association with France’s Chanel, dating back to 1983. The brand, the legend now goes, risked becoming the preserve of monied grannies before he arrived, slashing hemlines and adding glitz to the prim tweed suits of what is now one of the world’s most valuable couture houses.

But Lagerfeld, who simultaneously churned out collections for LVMH’s Fendi and his eponymous label — an unheard of feat in fashion — was almost a brand in his own right.
Sporting dark suits, white, pony-tailed hair and tinted sunglasses in his later years that made him instantly recognizable, an irreverent wit was also part of a carefully crafted persona.

“I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” runs one legendary quote attributed to him, and often recycled to convey the person he liked to play. “It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”

Tributes pour in 

The world’s fashion elite took to social media to pay tribute to the hugely respected designer, with the likes of Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace and Lilly Allen leading the pack.

Versace shared a similar message.

Singer Allen took to social media with a touching message.

Meanwhile, Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad also paid tribute.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In great honor and admiration of the iconic fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld - Rest In Peace

A post shared by Zuhair Murad Official (@zuhairmuradofficial) on

Model Gigi Hadid shared a message on Instagram Stories.

Controversial comments

His artistic instincts, business acumen and commensurate ego combined to commercially triumphant effect in the rarefied world of high fashion, where he was revered and feared in similar proportions by competitors and top-models.

Lagerfeld was as harsh with his fashion models as he was searingly critical of anyone he considered "not trendy".

He fired his closest female friend, former Chanel model Ines de la Fressange, in 1999 after she agreed to pose as Marianne, France's national symbol, without asking him first.

Occasionally his sharp tongue has stirred controversies, though he also had a flair for a good soundbite.

In 2017, he sparked outrage by evoking the Holocaust in an attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her opening of Germany’s borders to migrants.

“One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,” the 80-year-old Chanel designer told a French TV show.

“I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust’,” he added.

Middle Eastern inspiration

Despite the abrasive comments, the designer went on to release an Egypt-inspired collection in December 2018 and sent models down the runway in a rich array of Ancient Egypt-themed outfits at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gold shimmered all over the runway, as models strolled past the floodlit temple in everything from gold thigh-high boots to gold brimmed hats to glistening dresses with golden feather adornments, to shoulder-length gold earrings.




Singer Pharrel walked the runway during Karl Lagerfeld's Egypt-inspired show in December. (AFP)

It isn’t the only time he has looked to the Middle East for inspiration, however.

The designer made a much-reported-on appearance in Dubai in 2014 when Chanel staged its Cruise collection show in the city.

That collection was inspired by an Orientalist vision of hazy Arabian nights and featured harem pants, ghutra-pattern-inspired coats and diaphanous jumpsuits, along with a heavy use of mosaic-style patterns.




Karl Lagerfeld photographed at ‘The Island’ in Dubai during the Chanel fashion show on May 13, 2014. (AFP)

In 2018, he worked with Lebanese architect Aline Asmar D’Amman on the renovation of Paris’s Hôtel de Crillon and, in a win for the Middle Eastern fashion scene, he photographed Bella Hadid for Vogue Arabia’s first September issue in 2017.

In rare moments when he was not working, Lagerfeld retired to one of his many homes in Paris, Germany, Italy or Monaco, all of them lavish carbon copies of 18th-century interiors.


REVIEW: US remake of ‘Utopia’ comes up short

The cast of 'Utopia' (Amazon)
Updated 22 October 2020

REVIEW: US remake of ‘Utopia’ comes up short

  • Lavish conspiracy drama misses the spark of the UK original

LONDON: Adapting a UK show for US (and, thanks to the reach of streaming platforms, international) audiences is a risky proposition. There have been far more misses than hits, with the British style of programming often proving difficult to recreate with anything other than the original cast, setting and tone.

It’s even more of a surprise that a US remake of “Utopia” was green-lit when you consider that the original 2013 UK run, though now regarded as something of a cult hit, was a divisive mix of graphic violence, head-spinning conspiratorial doublespeak and terrifyingly brilliant dystopian foreshadowing. Indeed, the original incarnation of the show was cancelled after just 12 episodes.

So how does the US version stack up? The premise is largely the same. A group of online friends, obsessed with the idea that a mysterious comic book has been predicting the world’s catastrophes, meet in real life when word leaks out of a newly discovered second volume. The misfits, each with their own distinctive foibles, find themselves on the run from a sinister organization that is hellbent on getting the book back. The only person they can turn to is the enigmatic Jessica Hyde, the ‘star’ of the comic book’s first volume.

In many ways, the US version simply transplants the action, characters and plot from the original, albeit it with the high-gloss buffing of modern TV production dollars. Sadly, in most cases, the 2020 version doesn’t fare well – Sasha Lane’s Jessica Hyde and Christopher Denham’s Arby, for example, lack the charisma of Fiona O’Shaughnessy or the horrifying blankness of Neil Maskell from the UK show.

Sasha Lane as Jessica Hyde in 'Utopia.' (Amazon)

There are some nice nods to the more modern setting – not to mention horribly unfortunate relevance, given the current global pandemic – and some big names making up the supporting cast (John Cusack and Rainn Wilson), but more often that not, the 2020 show lacks the claustrophobic menace that pervaded the UK original.

“Utopia” is still an enjoyably uncomfortable watch, and is (at times) still chillingly sinister. Those who missed the UK original might find something here, but those who caught the show first time round may feel a little underwhelmed.