I typically hate those standard obituaries on dailies and magazines that go something like this: “So and so was the inventor of this and that and is survived by his so and so relatives, spouses etc.” But you have to admit that when the great Karl Lagerfeld passed away, and his obituaries read that he was survived by his beloved cat Choupette, who also got the bulk of his inheritance, you had to give it to Lagerfeld. Once again, he made history. And created fashion headlines for years to come.
My own personal experience with Lagerfeld is a short anecdote from Pitti Uomo in Florence, in June of 2016. He was there to help inaugurate his photography exhibit in Palazzo Pitti titled “Visions of Fashion”. He flew in with his jet, was going to talk to the press, so we got all excited and waited on a muggy hot terrace with way too much Prosecco around us and, in the end, he signed the city registrar, met with the mayor and left by the side entrance.
He never talked to any of us.
But with my Swedish colleagues Philip Warkander and Christine Hedström, we started to feel claustrophobic in the crowd, had been consuming too much of the free-flowing Prosecco courtesy of the Pitti Immagine folks and darted down the stairs of the Palazzo, aided by my memory from the days when my dad used to work there as a painting conservator. As we dashed down, the old guard yelled at us “non si va giù di la, un’ si può!” (in perfect Florentine, which means “You can’t go down that way! It’s forbidden”) but lo and behold, we ended up on the ground floor. At the very entrance of the Boboli Gardens, alone, with just a limousine and a bunch of bodyguards that all clearly belonged to Mr. Lagerfeld. There we stood, quietly and hoping not to be noticed —not an easy task as I donned head to toe leopard print, a suit by my favorite Florentine brand Gerard — knowing we were somewhere we weren't supposed to be.
After a few minutes, Lagerfeld appeared, impeccable in his signature black suit, skinny tie, boots and silver half gloves. Trademark ponytail and dark glasses, he stopped at the top of the stairs and looked in our direction. Christine is a tall Swedish beauty about 6 feet tall dressed in head to toe black usually. Philip was wearing powder pink shorts and a printed t-shirt, I remember like it was yesterday and me, well you know what I was wearing.
Lagerfeld stood there, going through our outfits, staring us up and down while we made ourselves smaller and smaller and, we thought, unobtrusive. Just so we would not be chased away. Then he got into his black limo and left.
It was a day I now hold near and dear in my heart. The day we made Karl Lagerfeld look at us in a historic garden in Florence. And don’t think leopard print being so in right now is an accident. You know where that inspiration came from…
I’ll leave you with the video from the latest Chanel show, the last Monsieur Lagerfeld designed for the brand. A winter wonderland in the Swiss Alps, all within the Grand Palais in Paris. Adieu Karl Lagerfeld.