For as long as I have been learning about fashion, I have been fascinated by Karl Lagerfeld and his creative genius.
Two weeks ago I was on a ski trip when I received an early morning text message from my oldest friend, Sarah: Karl Lagerfeld has died. We were mutually stunned, along with the rest of the (like-minded) world. I of course did not know Lagerfeld, I only ever hoped to be able to one day meet him, somehow, some way. He was one of the few public figures who I have felt in this particular way about. How do you forge a connection with an artist who you never met, who you could only absorb through videos, articles, photographs and stores?
It goes something like this:
I have a connection to Chanel that began with my mother, who passed onto me her strict adherence to a Chanel skin care regimen (she has been relying on Chanel products for give or take 30 years). Her story goes that she and her best friend were at the Chanel counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in the eighties alongside a couple of elderly Manhattan women with beautiful skin. They told my mother and her friend, “You girls stick with Chanel.”
Fast forward a few decades, and I am about to go into my fourth year at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, trying to figure out what I am going to write my Modern History dissertation about. I couldn’t write it in conjunction with my Management degree, but I wanted the dissertation to involve both business and history. I think my father suggested Chanel.
I spent months immersing myself in the history of Coco Chanel. She is a figure who had enormous impact on not only fashion, but on women’s history. It was not quite the story my British history lecturers were used to hearing (British education is a far cry from American education – a theme I learned continually and was grateful for), but I stuck with it.
While researching in the Fall of 2015, I made a trip to London to visit the Mademoiselle Privé exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery, a ‘journey through the origins of Chanel’s creations capturing the charismatic personality and irreverent spirit of Mademoiselle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld’. It was beautiful, I absorbed it like a sponge in a pail.
I will remember many things about Karl Lagerfeld, the man I never knew but somehow feel. I feel his effect on me and I feel his effect on society. One thing, I believe, is for sure – Lagerfeld loved people and he loved women and through his designs, one could see and feel this love.
After a Spring 2019 RTW runway on a Grand Palais beach in the center of Paris, Lagerfeld dreamt up a Fall 2019 runway on an alpine slope. He brought us two of the best, most well-known and encompassing tropes on earth as his latest, greatest and last.
In my corner in New York, a million miles away from ever knowing Karl, I bid him adieu and thank him for his inspiration that will live on.
Images by Vogue Runway