Karl Lagerfeld: the good, the bad, the controversial

Karl Lagerfeld was a titan of the fashion industry, known for his bold designs, sharp wit, and larger-than-life personality. Over the course of his long and storied career, he left an incredible mark on the world of fashion, inspiring countless designers and pushing the boundaries of what was possible.Lagerfeld was also known for his love of accessories, and his designs often featured bold statement pieces like oversized sunglasses, chunky necklaces, and dramatic headpieces. He was a master of reinvention, constantly pushing himself to create something new and against the grain,  paying homage to Gabrielle Chanel herself who did not want to conform to the period dress at the time.

However, Lagerfeld was also known for his controversial statements, which often stirred up outrage and backlash. He was unapologetically outspoken, and his comments on everything from politics to weight loss often landed him in hot water.

In 2005, Lagerfeld published a dieting book entitled The Karl Lagerfeld Diet, which detailed his experience of losing 92 pounds in just over a year.

“The thing at the moment is Adele. She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice.” But perhaps his most infamous comment came in 2018 when he referred to the *MeToo movement as “A bit too much”.

The comment sparked outrage, with many accusing Lagerfeld of being out of touch and insensitive to the experiences of women. Despite the controversies, Lagerfeld remained an influential figure in the fashion industry until his death in 2019. His legacy lives on in the countless designers he inspired and the collections he created. He was a prolific designer, creating collections for Chanel, Fendi, and his own eponymous label, among others. His designs were bold and avant-garde, featuring unexpected shapes, textures, and colours.

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As the industry continues to evolve and change, it’s important to remember both his contributions and his controversies to urge the fashion industry to take note, and make necessary change. Fashion has come a long way in recent years, with greater attention being paid to issues like diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability. However, there is still much work to be done, and it’s essential that we continue to push for change and progress.

Actor Jameela Jamil took to Instagram to give voice to the view that change was necessary: “Last night, Hollywood and fashion said the quiet part out loud when a lot of famous feminists chose to celebrate at the highest level, a man who was so publicly cruel to women, to fat people, to immigrants, and to sexual assault survivors. And all the women’s publications, and spectators online, chose to gleefully ignore it.”

In many ways, Lagerfeld’s career embodies the contradictions and complexities of the fashion industry as a whole. It’s an industry that is both creative and commercial, that celebrates individuality while also promoting conformity, and that has the power to inspire and uplift but also to cause harm and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

So while many stars came out in show-stopping outfits at the Met Gala dedicated to his legacy – from Lil Nas X covered head to toe in crystals and Doja Cat walking the runway in full prosthetic transforming her into the late designer’s beloved cat Choupette – commentators were quick point out the multi dimensional impact of Lagerfeld.

Raphlecia, HighFashionTwitter’s Met Gala co-ordinator, said:  “A lot of us are actually part of the communities that Karl Lagerfeld has targeted in his hateful speech […] And a lot of the people who participate in our event are part of those communities as well. It’s not that we’re not acknowledging his legacy and we’re not denying it either, but part of his legacy are the harmful things that he’s said and we don’t really want to partake in celebrating that.”

Lagerfeld’s legacy is a reminder that fashion is not just about clothes and accessories, but about the ideas and values that they represent. By engaging in thoughtful and nuanced conversations about these issues, we can continue to push the industry forward and create a more inclusive and sustainable future for all.



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