The Darker Side of Karl Lagerfeld

March 13, 2019

Pippa Middleton has an ugly face. No one wants to look at curvy women. Adele is fat. Some ugly people have good personalities. Most rape accusations are fabricated.

 

Michelle Obama has a terrible haircut. These are all things that the late Karl Lagerfeld said during his reign as Master of the House of Chanel. The list goes on and on.

Lagerfeld created countless designs in keeping with Coco Chanel’s original vision. He mentored the likes of Cara Delevingne. He was a marketing genius and a fashion icon, but he was also highly judgemental and offensive.

 

 

Photo: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash 

 

Actress Jameela Jamil of The Good Place was the first to speak ill of the dead. “He was a ruthless, fat-phobic misogynist. [He] shouldn’t be posted all over the internet as a saint-gone-too-soon,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

 

This sparked an intense Twitter battle with Cara Delevingne, one of his greatest muses. Delevingne’s greatest blunder was defending Lagerfeld’s narrow world view by using his age as an excuse. Lagerfeld was a smart, well-read man who kept up-to-date on various political issues. The age defense was weak at best.

 

Lagerfeld was also a rape apologist. He criticized the #MeToo movement because many survivors took so long to come forward. To him, this was evidence that their stories were fabricated. When a stylist was accused of groping models backstage at a fashion show, Lagerfeld blamed the models for putting themselves in that situation. “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model!” he said in an interview. “Join a nunnery. There’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”

 

Lagerfeld never apologized for offending others, except once to singer Adele, whom he allegedly called fat. He assured her that he admired her talent and had simply gotten her name confused with another singer’s. He actually meant to call Lana Del Rey fat, not her. It was a simple mix-up.

 

Lagerfeld’s fat phobia ran deep. Though they were always directed outward, his words likely came from a place of self-loathing. Lagerfeld was once overweight. To him, this was unacceptable. He began starving himself and subsisted only on a liquid diet. Following his massive weight loss the early 2000s, he wrote a book called the Karl Lagerfeld Diet, which recommended women adopt behaviors associated with eating disorders, such as chewing food and then spitting it out. He lost 92 pounds on this special diet, which was so harsh he referred to it as “a sort of punishment.” Inability to stick to such a diet was a sign of weakness, he said.

 

Lagerfeld was also terrified of aging. His iconic uniform - fingerless gloves, sunglasses and a shirt buttoned all the way to the top - were all ways to hide signs of aging. The gloves covered veiny hands, the sunglasses covered lines around the eyes, and the high-buttoned shirt covered a sagging neck. This look became emblematic, and most people today can recognize him simply by his silhouette.

 

No one is disputing the fact that he revived the House of Chanel, or that he was a talented designer. He was business-savvy and whip-smart. He knew exactly how to sell a product and was involved in the creation process from start to finish. He designed and created the clothes, hand picked the models to wear them and did all the campaign photography.

 

The fact that he was controversial does not negate the good things he did, nor do his creations negate the fact that he perpetuated body-shaming or blamed survivors for their own sexual assaults.

 

Mary Buschmann majored in Government and Classical History at Hamilton College in upstate New York. She has been involved various news and creative writing publications in both high school and college. She particularly enjoys writing human interest pieces. Mary is an aspiring author working on her first novel, The Swan.

 

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