Karl Lagerfeld (born Karl Otto Lagerfeldt on September 10, 1933 in Hamburg) is a German fashion designer, artist and photographer based in Paris, France. He has collaborated on a variety of fashion and art related projects, most notably as head designer and creative director for the fashion house Chanel. Lagerfeld helms his own label fashion house, as well as the Italian house Fendi.
Karl Lagerfeld moved to Paris in 1953. Initially he worked as a draftsman for fashion houses. At the time, in fashion, drawings were preferred over photographs. Lagerfeld is able to recap any costume style in European history at the drop of a hat, e.g., explaining collar styles used in 1710 Germany, as he has demonstrated in a German television series in the 1980s.
In 1955, at the age of 22, Lagerfeld was awarded a position as an apprentice at Pierre Balmain, after winning second place, behind Yves Saint-Laurent who came first, in a competition for a coat sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. He told a reporter a few years later, “I won on coats, but actually I like designing coats least of all. What I really love are little black dresses.” Yves Saint Laurent also won the contest for a dress award. “Yves was working for Dior. Other young people I knew were working for Balenciaga (Spanish Basque fashion designer and the founder of the Balenciaga fashion house), whom they thought was God, but I wasn’t so impressed,” he recalled in 1976.
In the early 1990s, he caused US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour to walk out of his runway show when he employed strippers and adult film star Moana Pozzi to model his black-and-white collection for Fendi.
There was much controversy from Lagerfeld’s use of a verse from the Koran in his spring 1994 couture collection for Chanel, despite apologies from the designer and the fashion house. The controversy erupted after the 1994 couture show in Paris, when the Indonesian Muslim Scholars Council in Jakarta called for a boycott of Chanel and threatened to file formal protests with the government of Mr. Lagerfeld’s homeland, Germany. The designer apologized, explaining that he had taken the design from a book about the Taj Mahal, thinking the words came from a love poem.