Mahmood Hossain reflects on the genius
I was a bit indifferent to the passing of the fashion icon, Karl Otto Lagerfeld, at the age of 85. The truth is, it wasn’t too much of a bother, knowing what kind of human being Lagerfeld was. To the general public, via the media, Lagerfeld was a genius of a designer. He was the face of Chanel, Fendi, his namesake label and many others. What the public may not have been aware of was his most controversial statements over the past decades.
Separating the Art from the Artist
There is no better way to shine a light on this German creative director than the Twitter conversation between actress Jameela Jamil and model Cara Delevingne; the latter has been quite close to the designer. After his passing, Jameela put on blast what most decided not to discuss, while Cara came to the designer’s defense. The two had a very open and mature conversation on celebrating the life of a very ignorant human being.
He has been, throughout his career, accused of being ‘fatphobic’, Islamophobic, opposing the #MeToo movement and also for being racist. He called Grammy Award-winning singer Adele, “a little too fat.” Not to mention that supermodel Heidi Klum was, “simply too heavy and has too big a bust.” Basically, any female that wore anything bigger than a UK size 6, he rendered insignificantly.
Let’s not forget back in 2010, when he dressed up Claudia Schiffer in blackface and created for her an Asian appearance in the same editorial shoot. The man was highly insensitive to different cultures and races all over the world. This is pretty much consistent with the most recent controversy with Dolce & Gabbana. In reality, it’s alarming how many European based designers are either oblivious or ignorant to the culture they are trying to represent.
The good with the bad
Even though Lagerfeld later apologized for his argument favoring the use of animal fur, as Chanel became the first luxury fashion house to stop using exotic animal skins, there are way too many negative memories to consider him the saint that he is being painted as. However, people will continue to argue over his genius and public-life behavior. Although possibly unpopular opinion, Lagerfeld was the best of the best when he first took over Chanel, yet he had become quite overrated in the latter years of his career. The controversy in tow didn’t help his cause either.
But with his signature dark sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and long white hair, Lagerfeld propelled the Parisian label to sales of $10 billion in 2017, after his 30 years at Chanel. The facts are unavoidable and his contribution to fashion is undeniable. Some of his collections, including his personal style, are iconic.
Into the future
While Lagerfeld’s legacy may be tarnished by his behavior and actions, his past influence in fashion cannot be replaced nor forgotten. Looking forward, the attention is now directed to the new director of Chanel, Virginie Viard. To most, this will be a refreshing change, as a woman since Coco herself, will now be in charge of one of the most prestigious labels in the world. She has been a successful collaborator of Lagerfeld’s for over 30 years so it was only natural to choose her out of the shortlist to pioneering a possibly new look for Chanel. From being Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman to being the woman, here’s to a less controversial tenure at the helm of Chanel.