In this post, we will share 11 shocking facts about Karl Lagerfeld.
This famous designer was born in Hamburg, Germany in September 1933. His mother’s name was Elisabeth, and his father was Otto Lagerfeld. His dad was in the business of producing and bringing in evaporated milk. His grandpa, Karl Bahlmann, was a politician in their hometown. When Karl Lagerfeld’s parents met each other, his mother was working as a lingerie salesperson. They tied the knot in 1930.
Karl lied about his age throughout his life, insisting at first that he was born in 1938 and then changing it to 1935. However, records show that he was born in 1933, despite what he chose to say throughout the years. But, he kept up with the falsehood as long as possible, saying that his seventieth birthday was in 2008, at which he was, in reality, turning seventy-five.
Karl Lagerfeld had an older sister named Martha Christiane and a half-sister named Thea. During his time in school, Karl was interested in the visual arts and would sketch consistently throughout his days in class. He even decided to learn how to speak French because he was primarily interested in French artists and wanted to move there one day. Karl completed his secondary education in drawing and history in Paris.
Lagerfeld was living in Paris for about two years in 1955 when he entered a competition for a coat design, which was hosted by the International Wool Secretariat. He came in the first place and met Yves Saint Laurent during the event. Afterward, he was hired by Pierre Balmain, a fashion designer. Karl worked for Balmain for three years as his assistant and apprentice.
He then became Jean Patou’s artistic director. He traveled to Rome in 1964 to work for Tiziano and study art history. However, he quickly became successful, designing things for various brands, including Charles Jourdan, Valentino, Krizia, and Chloe. A few years later, Lagerfeld was employed by Fendi to rejuvenate their line of fur clothing. This was when he began using squirrel, mole, and rabbit pelts for high fashion apparel, which proved an enormous success.
Something Karl Lagerfeld was known for was his unique and iconic personal style. There was nobody else in the world who dressed like Karl, and you could pick him out of any crowd. In fact, it was one of the designer’s missions to look as good as possible at all times. According to an article from BLOUIN ARTINFO, Lagerfeld said that he didn’t like fashion designers who didn’t dress accordingly.
He felt that people who sold high-end apparel should wear what they were selling. So, following his own beliefs, Karl always dressed to impress, and his style was never flawed. He always wore a high-collared white shirt, seldom changing things up with patterns and stripes. Lagerfeld also wore Dior tailored jackets, wide ties, fingerless gloves, and black Jeans. He added accessories like brooches and rings to jazz up his look as well. But, Lagerfeld’s style was more than just his clothes. He wore his hair in a ponytail, which he powdered white.
Chanel hired Karl Lagerfeld in the 1980s when the brand wasn’t doing well. Coco Chanel had passed away about ten years before, causing the company to decline. However, Lagerfeld brought it back against all odds. He revitalized Chanel’s ready-to-wear clothing and used the interlocking double ‘C’ logo as a pattern. After his immense success with Chanel, Karl decided to launch his own self-titled brand in 1984.
To be as successful as Karl Lagerfeld, one has to remain focused on a daily basis and keep a sound mind. So, it shouldn’t be overly surprising that he didn’t use substances, smoke cigarettes, or drink very much alcohol. Although many eccentric people are known to do these things, Lagerfeld was very straight-edge. When he went on his diet, which we’ll discuss more in detail, later on, he noted that following the strict regimen was easy for him.
He stated, “I think I adapted to the diet fairly easily because I have never smoked or taken [substances] and have never drunk much alcohol. In other words, you have to be a real bore like me for the diet to work.”
Karl Lagerfeld was a well-liked and unique person, but he did stir up controversy several times during his life. One of these instances was during the launch of his 1994 Chanel spring collection. Three of the dresses he created used passages from the Quran. One of the quotations was written across a model’s tight bustier in grey pearls.
However, Lagerfeld was unaware that the text was taken from the holy book and didn’t mean to offend Muslim people. He noted, “I was told it was a love poem in memory of a Maharani.” The speaker for Chanel expressed remorse as well, stating, “We would like to officially apologize to the Islamic community and to let it be made known that we have destroyed the dresses thus embroidered, as well as all the negatives of the photos taken of these dresses.”
Not much is known about Karl Lagerfeld’s romantic life outside of his relationship with Jacques de Bascher. However, the two men were apparently never physical with each other. Karl later stated, “I infinitely loved that boy but I had no physical contact with him.” A French journalist said, “Their relationship was on another level. It was based on an aesthetic, intellectual, ‘gossip style’ relation. Jacques had a lot of affairs with men, and he used to talk about this with Karl.”
But, this was enough for Lagerfeld because he wasn’t so interested in physical relationships as he was as mental and emotional bonds. He said, “Jacques de Bascher when he was young, was a devil with Garbo’s face… He didn’t dress like anyone; he was ahead of everyone. He made me laugh more than anyone. He was the opposite of me. He was also impossible and despicable. He was perfect.”
Although Karl Lagerfeld was always interested in fashion and proved to be one of the most successful designers in history, he originally wanted to pursue a different career. We previously mentioned that he went to school for drawing and history, and he used his artistic skills to his advantage. But, before he was drawing clothing designs, he was actually interested in becoming a cartoonist.
Throughout his life, Lagerfeld was known as quite the jokester. So, maybe his initial ambitions aren’t much of a surprise. A writer for The Cut once noted, “Every statement [Karl makes] is delivered with a knowing nod and a flap of his gloved hand, as if to say, ‘I’m only joking.’ It’s clear that his wit is not only a talent, but a coping mechanism: When he was young, his mother would slap him if he didn’t speak decisively and cleverly enough.” Despite the numerous controversies he faced throughout his life, Karl Lagerfeld always maintained his humor.
Karl Lagerfeld wasn’t one for the party lifestyle. However, he did have a small addiction of his own: Diet Coke. A 2012 Harper’s Bazaar article detailed the fashion icon’s daily routine from morning to night. While speaking about his mornings, Lagerfeld stated that he drank two protein shakes every morning with no added sugar, just steamed apples.
He said he didn’t like hot drinks either… something most of us probably can’t relate too, especially the coffee lovers out there. Karl noted, “I never drink anything hot; I don’t like hot drinks, very strange. I drink Diet Coke from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed. I can even drink it in the middle of the night, and I can sleep. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t drink tea, I drink nothing else.” During the twenty-four-hour period, Lagerfeld drank a total of ten cans of Diet Coke.
Another controversy Karl Lagerfeld faced had to do with the Me Too movement, on which he didn’t have a popular opinion. He talked about the campaign during an interview with Numero magazine in 2018. He said that he was “fed up” with it and noted, “What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken twenty years to remember what happened. Not to mention the fact there are no prosecution witnesses. That said, I cannot stand Mr. Weinstein.” Lagerfeld further stated, “I read somewhere that now you must ask a model if she is comfortable with posing. It’s simply too much, from now on, as a designer, you can’t do anything.”
Then, referring to Karl Templer’s misconduct case, Lagerfeld said, “I don’t believe a single word of it… A girl complained he tried to pull her pants down and he is instantly excommunicated from a profession that up until then had venerated him. It’s unbelievable. If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!” His remarks clearly weren’t taken very well. One response came from Rose McGowan, who posted on Instagram, “…Karl, I read your disgusting quote last night. It made me feel dirty. This morning I met Sister Irene, and she made me feel light. I’m sure Sister Irene will forgive you for being a dinosaur…but I think you’re a mean, small, black soul, and I don’t.”
One of the most notable things about Karl Lagerfeld’s personal life was his significant weight loss. He decided to go on a diet, which was later detailed in a book titled The Karl Lagerfeld Diet. Karl decided he didn’t like his physique anymore in November 2000. He noted that he’d gotten used to his excess weight and wasn’t experiencing health issues because of it. But, he stated, “…I suddenly wanted to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane… But these fashions, modeled by very slim boys, required me to lose at least six of my sixteen stone.” He weighed about two hundred twenty-four pounds and was looking to lose at least eighty-four.
Lagerfeld further noted, “I think that, for women as well as men, fashion is the healthiest motivation for losing weight. It is not a good idea to wait until you are ill or unhappy before going on a diet. I wasn’t really giving in to a narcissistic impulse either. It was time for a change, that was all.” So, he enlisted the help of Dr. Houdret to devise a diet plan that would work for him. He lost about ninety pounds in just thirteen months. In addition to his diet, Lagerfeld also did weight training for fifteen minutes three times every week.
He said, “I have a tendency to be muscular, so I don’t overdo it… I wonder if I really need to do sport because when I dance I feel as if I am made of rubber. You can pinch me anywhere but you won’t get hold of any flesh. But, I didn’t go on the diet so that people could grope me… I wanted to be a good clotheshorse.”