Fashion Friday Column: Karl Lagerfeld

Fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld passed away Tuesday. 
Photo via Wikipedia

Fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld passed away Tuesday. Photo via Wikipedia

News broke Tuesday that Karl Lagerfeld, an iconic designer of the 20th and 21st centuries, died at the age of 85 in Paris. Lagerfeld was the director of Chanel and Fendi for more than 20 years. As a huge influence in the fashion industry, many of his supporters grieve this death and pay homage to his contributions to the fashion industry.

According to The New York Times, Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue, expressed her thoughts about Lagerfeld at the British Fashion Awards in 2015, “More than anyone I know, he represents the soul of fashion: restless, forward-looking and voraciously attentive to our changing culture.”

Over the last few days, those involved in the fashion industry have paid tribute to Lagerfeld and his contributions through social media posts. Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain, shared an Instagram post in honor of Lagerfeld captioned, “Such a privilege to be able to share few but very special moments with you. Thank you for your (advice) you will always be remembered.”

Among all of this post-death praise, Lagerfeld’s life was not without controversy.

An incident between popular singer Adele and Lagerfeld shapes the other side of this argument. Lagerfeld was quoted in saying that singer Adele was “too fat” to be dressed by him. Shock value aside, this comment is completely inappropriate for anyone to say, let alone an industry-leading designer. In the past, Lagerfeld has promoted a certain type of model by providing limited sizing for his brands as well as only using sample-sized models.

Has Lagerfeld been placing the industry and the models who represent the average-sized woman at a disservice for all these years? In Lagerfeld’s absence, will a new normal be established in the fashion industry? Some suggest that Lagerfeld’s death might be a step toward a release of fashion stereotypes and industry barriers.

Lagerfeld is not the only designer who is guilty of pushing a singular, arguably unachievable image of women in fashion, but as an influence he certainly played a role. It will be fascinating to see who will succeed Lagerfeld’s legacy, but it will be even more interesting to see how he or she redefines it and what he or she will transform it into.