33 things you never knew about karl lagerfeld

His influence on fashion is unparalleled, but how much do you really know about the late, great, legendary Kaiser?

by James Anderson
05 March 2019, 8:30am

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

He was, and arguably forever will be, a household name and an iconic fashion figurehead -- instantly recognisable for his dark glasses, grey ponytail and a fondness for wearing fingerless gloves -- Karl Lagerfeld designed countless clothes, bags, shoes and accessories during a six decade-spanning career.

With a relentless work ethic that saw him divide his talents and energy across Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous line, he put many a young designer to shame. Not forgetting his work as a photographer and illustrator, or the myriad of high-profile collaborations he initiated across the years, with all manner of brands, products and celebrities, including H&M, Adidas, Maison Michel, Pharrell Williams and Apple, to name just a few.

Having won the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards in 2015 (one of many such impressive industry awards), the ever-outspoken Karl showed no signs of slowing down as he advanced towards his 90s. Then, he was gone. As Chanel present the final Lagerfeld-designed collection today, here’s a fact-filled, quick-fire guide to one of fashion’s last true geniuses.


1. Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born in 1933… or was he? When the industry assumed he had turned 80 back in 2013, there was some confusion as to whether or not he had entered this world in 1933, 1935, or 1938. Let’s go with 1933. His dad was a rich German businessman and his mother was Swedish.

2. Karl Lagerfeld moved to Paris in his teens and during the early stages of his career worked for designers including Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou, Valentino, Charles Jourdan and Chloe. This was followed by his ongoing collaboration with Fendi, which began in the late 60s, and his helming of Chanel from 1983, as well as the launch of his eponymous line, in 1984, all of which he continued to simultaneously juggle.

3. Karl Lagerfeld was famed for his ponytail -- which has been his trademark hairdo since 1976, when he got fed up with his long curly locks flapping about all over this face and pulled the whole lot back into a pony forever more.

4. Karl Lagerfeld changed fashion history. “There are very few designers who have changed the course of fashion history,” Andrew Bolton, Head Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, noted earlier this month. “Coco Chanel was one of them, and Karl Lagerfeld was another. His great talent was his ability to identify, articulate and frequently anticipate changes in the zeitgeist. Effectively, he invented the language of late 20th- and early 21st-century fashion with his creative genius and quick-fire, epigrammatic wit.”

5. Karl Lagerfeld was super straight-edge, he didn’t like booze, as he said it instantly made him fall asleep, and he didn’t smoke, either, and never had.

6. Karl Lagerfeld was a bit of a hoarder. During a tour of his Paris home for a profile with the Observer Magazine in 2007, Canadian journalist John Colapint encountered around 200 pairs of fingerless gloves and, in six plastic bags at the foot of a chair, newspapers Karl had bought but hadn’t had time to read yet. “Normal people think I’m insane,” Karl noted.

7. Karl Lagerfeld proved his prowess as a photographer via a variety of high profile projects -- for example, he sometimes undertook editorial commissions for magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, as well as shooting advertising campaigns for his own line, plus Fendi and Chanel.

8. Karl Lagerfeld persuaded a load of famous folks -- including the models Linda Evangelista and Karen Elson, as well as the actor Rupert Everett -- to whip off their kit and pose for a set of nude sepia-tinted photographs, which he snapped for a special issue of Visionaire mag back in 1998.

9. Karl Lagerfeld also memorably pointed his lens at Mariah Carey, capturing the ultra-diva popstar for the cover of V mag back in 2005. She looks well-happy in the pic!

10. Karl Lagerfeld was the subject of a rather fab documentary film, imaginatively titled Lagerfeld Confidential, made by Vogue back in 2007.

11. Karl Lagerfeld provoked occasional outrage with his outspoken views. In Numero mag he dissed models coming out about harassment in the fashion biz: "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." Back in 2013, he asserted during an interview with Le Grand 8, that, "no one wants to see curvy women on the runway". And on the subject of men of his own age, he sniffed to New York magazine, "I get along with everyone except for men my age, who are bourgeois or retired or boring." Gulp!

12. Karl Lagerfeld created and launched a cuddly teddy bear lookalike of himself back in 2008, in collaboration with famed teddy-making company Steif. The Karl bears, available in a limited edition of 2,500, cost an eye-watering $1,500 each!

13. Karl Lagerfeld made it into the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, in which he is the host of the fictional radio station K109. He got about, didn't he?

14. Karl Lagerfeld was made into cutesy little felt finger puppets and mice, named Karl Lagerfelt and Karl Lagermouse, back in 2009, by a company called Tra Tutti. The mini Karls were so popular they swiftly sold out.

15. Karl Lagerfeld hooked up with the German luxury safe-making company Dottling back in 2010, to design and create the world’s most expensive personal safe. The results of this slightly bizarre collaboration cost a mere $339,000 each.

16. Karl Lagerfeld's decision in 1993 to hire some strippers and the Italian porn star Moana Pozzi (who died the following year) to model his collection for Fendi, at Milan Fashion Week, caused a lot of controversy at the time -- so much so, that Anna Wintour of US Vogue walked out of the show in disgust. Oops!

17. Karl Lagerfeld caused more uproar the following year, when a verse from the Qur’an appeared printed on a frock modelled by Claudia Schiffer in his 1994 Chanel couture collection. The house of Chanel massively apologised after it became apparent just how much offence this had caused.

18. Karl Lagerfeld got a tofu pie chucked at his face in 2001 by animal rights protesters from P.E.T.A, who shouted 'Fur pimp!' and 'Fur kills!' as the tofu-splattered superstar designer arrived at the annual American Fashion Awards event. Awks.

19. Karl Lagerfeld shed 40kg in weight back in 2001 because he was so determined to be able to fit into the super-skinny fit designs of Dior Homme, when Hedi Slimane -- one of Karl's fave designers -- was in charge there. The newly-svelte designer then launched The Karl Lagerfeld Diet book, which promptly became a bestseller!

20. Karl Lagerfeld's cat, Choupette, became a huge star on social media. Her hobbies include nibbling caviar, bathing and falling asleep on Karl's design sketches. Karl loved Choupette so much that he once said if was legally possible, he would marry the pampered puss!

21. Karl Lagerfeld was not a fan of social media, telling Elle, "Those social networks, there’s something sad about them. Is it because they don’t have enough knowledge about friends and people? I don’t understand it. It’s like a talkative mirror where people talk to themselves. And what I hate most in life is selfies."

22. Karl Lagerfeld was a multi-lingual kinda guy, fluent in German, Italian, French and English and is even the creator of his own special language (sort of) as he created 30 emojis, to coincide with a new fragrance launch a few years ago, so that the world can text in Karl-speak!

23. Karl Lagerfeld admitted he was a grumpy so-and-so in the mornings and gets even more grumpy if he reads loads of bad news in the newspapers.

24. Karl Lagerfeld avoided sugar-laden cereals and toast and jam for breakfast, instead swigging two milk-free protein shakes and a serving of boiled pears or apples, on the advice of his doctor.

25. Karl Lagerfeld loved to slip into clean, fresh sheets come night time. He had one of his maids change all his bed linen and towels every single day.

26. Karl Lagerfeld didn't skimp when it came to skin care. Some cheapo moisturiser from Superdrug wasn't for him, instead he favoured more swanky oils and creams from spendy brands such as La Prairie, Chanel, Sisley, Clinique or Creme de la Mer.

27. Karl Lagerfeld liked the smell of chocolate, but didn’t actually eat it... in fact, no chocolate passed his lips for the last 30 years of his life.

28. Karl Lagerfeld wasn't into hot drinks at all, so no tea or coffee for him. But he did glug loads of Diet Coke and Pepsi Max from morning until bedtime, with the occasional sip of water -- which he thought tasted a bit boring -- in between.

29. Karl Lagerfeld wasn't one of those people who claimed to be stressed, mainly as he didn’t believe in the concept of stress -- he thought it was just an "invention".

30. Karl Lagerfeld's all-time favourite shop for buying shirts was the Paris-based Hilditch & Key, at 252 Rue de Rivoli. He admitted he was a "shirt freak" and lost count of the number of shirts he's bought from there over the years. He even ordered specially made night shirts from them, to sleep in.

31. Karl Lagerfeld liked to luxuriate in a nice, deep bath each morning. His maids poured in one whole bottle full of posh Collosol Eau de Lait into the water each time Karl was about to bathe, and the smooth milky substance ensured Karl's skin always stayed in tip-top condition.

32. Karl Lagerfeld designed his first ever Fendi men’s look earlier this year. He might have been a member of the Fendi Family for 54 years, but he had stayed away from menswear until autumn/winter 19. As Silvia Venturini Fendi celebrated him as a style icon, he shared his first sketch.

33. Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, Virginie Viard, will take over at Chanel. The legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld will live on.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Karl Lagerfeld