Text by Lucrezia Sgualdino

The personality and creativity of the genius that was Karl Lagerfeld takes shape in a retrospective dedicated to the relationship between the sketches of an entire life and his latest works, an investigation into the unique and personal working methodology that accompanied the designer throughout his career.

Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most interesting figures in fashion history, a unique and inquisitive gaze that employed his every strength in the development of fashion and culture. For himself and for others. His practice has always been recognized as rare and singular, and for this reason capable of being a point of reference and inspiration for entire generations of fashion and non-fashion enthusiasts. Lagerfeld’s visionary mind has always allowed his being a person and a man to observe the world and capture the essentiality of every aspect through passion and imagination. His drawings tell the story of the genius that has always been hidden behind Karl, sketches with strong evocative power, full of energy and transport. The sketch was the main mode of creative expression and communication, illustrating its meaning in relation to creative practice and the work of the designer.

The common thread of the exhibition is the very line of his stroke, the taut and composed one that represents the modern tendency of the artist and instead the disjointed and sinuous one that symbolizes the theoretical and idealistic training. The lines become allegories of different stylistic representations, composed of calm moments and explosions of vitality. The serpentine line indicates Lagerfeld’s romantic and decorative impulses, while the straight line indicates his modernist, classicist and minimalist tendencies. These two lines are further subdivided into nine ‘sub-lines’ that present the aesthetic and conceptual dualities highlighted in each design for Chanel, Chloé, Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld: feminine and masculine, romantic and military, rococo and classical, historical and futuristic, ornamental and structural, canonical and countercultural, artisanal and mechanical, floral and geometric, figurative and abstract. Acting as the glue between these contrasting dualities have always been figurative ‘explosions’: garments that represent moments of convergence, in which the competing aesthetics of these opposed dichotomies come together and reconcile in a well-defined image. 

Sketch of Dress, Karl Lagerfeld for House of CHANEL, spring/summer 1995 haute couture. Courtesy CHANEL.
Runway image of CHANEL coat, Fall-Winter 2017/18 Haute Couture.
Sketch of CHANEL coat, Fall-Winter 2017/18 Haute Couture. Courtesy Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris.
Stella Tennant. Runway image of FENDI dress, spring/summer 1997.
Sketch of FENDI dress, spring/summer 1997. Courtesy FENDI.
Runway image of ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld for KARL LAGERFELD, spring/summer 2009. Courtesy KARL LAGERFELD.

In each experience Lagerfeld managed to bring out his lighthearted approach to an ironic yet edgy spirit. An eccentric and prickly personality, he was not only one of the most influential creative directors in fashion history, but an artist who was able to demonstrate all his genius through fashion and photography. This year, the Met decided to open an exhibition dedicated to the designer’s stylistic language, bringing to light the complex creative methodology of his work with 150 dresses on display. The goal is to let visitors immerse themselves in the real imagination and true passions of Karl Lagerfeld by observing his evolution. An ingenious and unique creative flair that has always been able to create articulate three-dimensional garments from simple two-dimensional lines.



For further information

Sketch of Ensemble, House of CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld, spring/summer 2019. Courtesy CHANEL.
Solange Wilvert. Runway image of CHANEL wedding dress, Fall- Winter 2005/06 Haute Couture.
Sketch of CHANEL wedding dress, Fall-Winter 2005/06 Haute Couture. Courtesy Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris.
Runway image of “Aurélien” dress, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, spring/summer 1983.
Sketch of “Aurélien” dress, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, spring/summer 1983. Courtesy Chloé Archive.
Runway image of ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld for House of CHANEL, spring/summer 2019. Courtesy CHANEL.
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