Inside Karl

By Zonaira Chaudry

“When I took on Chanel, it was a sleeping beauty. Not even a beautiful one. She snored. So I was to revive a dead woman.”, Karl Lagerfeld said in 2007. Lagerfeld saved the House of Chanel by using his creative fervor. He rewrote the house codes and revamped the brand image apt for the changing times. With his creative approach, he was successful in steering this vintage brand into a modern era. He very much utilised the Logo as a piece of decoration one that is now seen as a symbol of utter luxury Icon as the brand itself. Find out more about behind the designer here in Inside karl.

Fashion displays the creative expression of the designer and is synonymous with changing art. The display of art has also seen transformations over time. Visual artworks are conventionally displayed in galleries and museums but there was a time when art was appreciated in ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ or ‘Wonder Rooms’ where small collections of artifacts were showcased for an audience.

Religious art was featured in cathedrals and other places of worship. In 1737, Salon Carré, a square hall was used to present a public exhibition of 450 paintings every two years.  The expositions were called Salons. When photography became an art form in the 1940s, it revolutionized how art was presented and perceived. Galleries have photographic exhibitions and photography books came into existence.    

To relive Lagerfeld’s historic fashion moments in Chanel, renowned photographer Robert Fairer presentsKarl Lagerfeld: Unseen”, a coffee table book featuring exclusive photographs of Lagerfeld’s fashion shows, backstage presence and the iconic creations which the fashion visionary modified for the House of Chanel during the 1990s and 2000s.

The book takes the reader on a visual journey exploring the magic happening behind the scenes and on the runways while documenting Lagerfeld’s devised trends from 1994 to 2007.

Lagerfeld paid respects to CoCo Chanel’s work in his own unique way by learning her rules and altering them his way. His creativity knew no bounds.

He was behind the design of the archetypal CC monograph which was originally designed by Chanel herself during the 1920s but this emblem became a style icon during Lagerfeld’s reign.  Among his other iconic conceptions were pearl jewellery, belts, and replacing dying pastels with vivid colors. The classic tweed jacket was also redesigned with a skinnier outline and various colorful textures for a chic younger audience.

By playing with the elements of Chanel, the designer showcased a modern age style immersed in the Chanel flair. He has stamped his lasting imprint on all Chanel signature items like the tweed suit, the little black dress and the perfume Chanel number 5.

Under his skillful direction, Chanel also became the master in creating haute couture. All these trends are brilliantly captured by Fairer who is now showing it to the world through his book.

The book is parted in sections with each chapter dedicated to a fashion show of a specific year.  It also includes tributes by Lagerfeld’s close friends and collaborators such as Sally Singer, Natasha A. Fraser and Elizabeth Von Thurn who talk about their fashion narratives woven by Lagerfeld’s memories.  

© Robert Fairer

Amanda Harlech, who Lagerfeld considered a muse is one of fashion industry’s leading style consultants also expressed her feelings in the book. Remembering Lagerfeld, she says that he simply “adored” the backstage and considered it more significant than the runway itself.

He cherished the moments when he saw his sketches take the form of live models. He would make minor adjustments to the ribbons or demand more pearls to adorn right till the end. A perfectionist in nature, Karl had an idea for his next fashion endeavor as soon as his current show took off.

Another ingenious revolution that Lagerfeld introduced to the runways was making spectacular theatrical displays of fashion. A memorable Chanel fashion event was the Grand Palais des Beaux-Arts in 2005 where the venue consisted of large installations of icebergs, space rockets, and waterfalls. Theatre was also made the backdrop of advertising during Lagerfeld’s time which showed off names like Nicole Kidman, Bella Hadid, and Brad Pitt to short fashion films by Baz Luhrmann.

His style philosophy saw fashion as a modern entity always willing to invent provocative styles without overlooking the past.

Natasha A Fraser was Lagerfeld’s former assistant and knew him for 30 years. She pens down an emotionally deep introduction at the beginning of the book and shares what it was like being in the “Court of the King of Fashion” and how Lagerfeld’s visionary mind transformed Chanel into a contemporary brand imbuing Parisian sophistication and breathing new life in a dying legacy. She also writes about how it felt like working as Lagerfeld’s assistant and mentions her first meeting with Lagerfeld at the Chanel studio. Her introduction in the book gives the reader a glimpse of Lagerfeld’s character not as a fashion designer but as a real human being. She views the pictures taken by Fairer as poignant reflections of Lagerfeld’s revolution of Chanel luxury.

Robert Fairer is a British photographer who worked for American Vogue for 10 years. From 1993 to 2011, he photographed world-famous supermodels and designers along with exclusively covering backstage fashion shows. His work has been published in The New York Times, i-D magazine, Harpers Bazaar and Visionaire. Karl Lagerfeld: Unseen is a part of his series of photography books published after Alexander McQueen Unseen, John Galliano Unseen and Marc Jacobs Unseen by Thames & Hudson, Yale University Press, Schirmer Mosel, and Abrams.

Lagerfeld introduced runways to new fashion ideals and aesthetics. He passionately brought back Chanel’s lost eminence. Karl Lagerfeld: Unseen is a collector’s book and a great addition to any Chanel lover’s library depicting Lagerfeld as a fashion-forward thinker who had a natural talent of making old look new and by upholding a dialogue between the Chanel philosophy and traits of pop culture.

If you enjoyed reading Inside Karl then why not read Italian Eating Here

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