Photo: Courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar.
For the 2023 Met Gala theme, this year’s main exhibit is an overview of Karl Lagerfeld’s work in the industry.
Born Karl Otto Lagerfeld in Hamburg, Germany, Lagerfeld is known as one of the most decorated designers. Throughout his career his most notable work is his time as the creative director of the French fashion house Chanel, but his work expands more than that. At the start of his career in 1955, he became the personal assistant to Pierre Balmain. After three years under his belt at Balmain, he moved onto working at Jean Patou. At Patou, he was involved in the creation of 10 haute couture collections. After working freelance for a few years, he found himself going from creating a few pieces to an entire collection for the brand Chloe.
Lagerfeld became the creative director of the French fashion house Chanel in 1983. By the time Lagerfeld joined Chanel, the brand had been dying down, the founder Coco Chanel had passed on and no one was able to bring the brand back to life until he arrived. Throughout his time with Chanel, Lagerfeld made cult classic items that featured the house’s notable tweed, pearls, dual-toned fur, and Chanel’s interlocking C’s. He took the parts that the brand is known for and modernized it. His work at Chanel made the brand a household name once again. During his time at Chanel, Lagerfeld also put time into creating his own collection, which he later sold to Tommy Hilfiger. Karl Lagerfeld went on to become the creative director of Chanel until his death in 2019 from cancer.
Although Karl Lagerfeld’s work will go on to be notorious in the fashion industry, his voice has always been quite problematic. When the decision to make Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy the theme this year, it was met with a little disdain from the fashion community. While the fashion community has been critiqued for the lack of inclusivity in terms of the weight and race, Lagerfeld in the past has shown his disdain towards women of larger weight sizes. For someone who himself has had his own weight struggles, he has critiqued other public figures and the body positivity movement. From calling famous singer Adele “too fat” and supermodel Heidi Klum “too heavy” to saying that “fashion is healthiest motivation to lose weight” and that anorexia was not dangerous. Lagerfeld’s comments don’t stop there, he has made remarks about the MeToo movement, racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic comments. Even though Lagerfeld has made quite offensive comments, he is still being celebrated in the fashion industry, especially with being honored as the theme for the Met Gala. This poses a question, why celebrate someone who although their work has stood out, has done damage with what he says. Some believe that the Met and Vogue Editor in chief could have chosen some who has just as much impact in fashion but not as quite controversial.
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