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Karl Lagerfeld Series: The Extraordinary Story of the Designer Told by Disney

The designer Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel

The man behind the dark glasses and starched collar returns to the spotlight. Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic artistic director of Chanel, will be at the heart of a biographical series on Disney+. Titled Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, this six-episode miniseries delves into the fascinating and tumultuous life of this fashion genius.

An Extraordinary Journey

Karl Lagerfeld continues to dazzle us. Born in Hamburg in 1933, Karl Otto Lagerfeldt, his real name, is the son of a Swedish businessman and a Prussian mother. He grew up in a wealthy family, between the Bissenmoor estate, owned by his parents, and Hamburg. From a young age, he developed a passion for design and fashion. He mastered German, English, and French.

In the early 1950s, Karl and his mother left Germany and moved to Paris. He attended Lycée Montaigne and began his career as a fashion illustrator. In 1954, he won first prize tied with Yves Saint-Laurent in the International Wool Secretariat competition, organized by Woolmark. This victory marked the beginning of his meteoric career.

His talent did not go unnoticed, and he was quickly hired by Pierre Balmain. He worked as the couturier’s personal assistant from 1955 to 1962, before becoming the artistic director of couturier Jean Patou in 1959. He then joined the brand Chloé in 1963 and held his position until 1983, while also collaborating with the Italian house Fendi from 1965.

Karl Lagerfeld cultivated eccentricity even in old age
Karl Lagerfeld cultivated eccentricity even in old age

In 1983, the Chanel fashion house was languishing since the death of Coco Chanel and was on the verge of closing. Karl Lagerfeld decided to perpetuate the spirit of the designer by becoming the artistic director of the brand. Virginie Viard would later replace the couturier from his death in 2019 until June 2023.

He completely revolutionized the house and turned the models he hired into true stars, such as Inès de la Fressange or Vanessa Paradis. In 1984, Lagerfeld created his own fashion house. In 1991, Chloé called on him again to revive its declining brand.

The always elegant Inès de la Fressange and the prolific Vanessa Paradis have each, in their own way, left their mark on the house of Chanel during Karl Lagerfeld's era
The always elegant Inès de la Fressange and the prolific Vanessa Paradis have each, in their own way, left their mark on the house of Chanel during Karl Lagerfeld’s era

In 2004, H&M asked the couturier to collaborate with the brand to launch an accessible collection. The success was resounding: the clothes sold out in just a few minutes.

Karl continued to innovate, whether by acting in “The Valet” by Francis Veber in 2006, lending his voice to the villain in Totally Spies, or creating K by Karl in 2007, a more accessible line for men and women.

In 2008, he collaborated with Coty to launch a perfume line. He also appeared in a road safety advertisement, encouraging the use of reflective vests.

In 2010, he was made Commander of the Legion of Honor by Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2011, he designed the new jersey for the France football team. He also became the face of a Volkswagen advertisement.

At the same time, he took in the little cat of Baptiste Giabiconi, Choupette, who became a true source of inspiration for the couturier. Choupette also became the face of several brands like Opel or Shu Uemura and even has a Twitter account followed by thousands of fans.

Passionate about photography, Karl opened the Lagerfeld Gallery in 1998, where he published numerous photography books. In 2016, he exhibited his work at the Pinacothèque de Paris and was also frequently photographed in advertising campaigns for Chanel.

Polyglot, Karl Lagerfeld read a lot
Polyglot, Karl Lagerfeld read a lot

The Dark Sides of Karl Lagerfeld

However, Karl Lagerfeld’s career was not without controversies. He was known for his frank and often provocative statements. He made comments deemed insensitive, particularly about the weight of models and sociopolitical issues. He was criticized several times for his remarks about plus-size women, stating that “no one wants to see plus-size women on the runways.”

His use of fur in his creations drew criticism from animal rights activists. Karl Lagerfeld often downplayed ethical concerns about fur, claiming that hunting animals for fur is an ancient tradition to be perpetuated.

Behind his perpetual tinted glasses, the rather shy designer liked to embellish his past
Behind his perpetual tinted glasses, the rather shy designer liked to embellish his past

He was also accused several times of plagiarism. Some designers claimed that his creations for Chanel and Fendi bore too close a resemblance to the works of other designers. Additionally, Karl had a reputation for being a difficult and demanding man to work with. Several people, models, or close associates who worked with him described a stressful work environment and often ruthless behavior on his part.

Karl Lagerfeld significantly contributed to the fashion industry. But he was criticized for not promoting diversity enough. His shows and advertisements were often criticized for their lack of representation of models of different ethnicities or body types.

The journalist from Le Monde, Raphaëlle Bacqué, wrote a book about Karl Lagerfeld that attempts to unravel the mystery of the man with the fan
The journalist from Le Monde, Raphaëlle Bacqué, wrote a book about Karl Lagerfeld that attempts to unravel the mystery of the man with the fan

The Series Becoming Karl Lagerfeld

Directed by Isaure Pisani-Ferry and Jennifer Have, Becoming Karl Lagerfeld promises to reveal the many facets of the designer. Daniel Brühl portrays Karl Lagerfeld, while Alex Lutz plays Pierre Bergé. The series is set from 1972, a pivotal period when Lagerfeld aspired to surpass Yves Saint-Laurent as the most influential couturier in the world.

The series was filmed in France, Monaco, and Italy. It explores little-known aspects of Lagerfeld’s life. For example, did you know that Lagerfeld was a big fan of pop culture? He had a vast collection of vinyl records and loved listening to rock music from the 70s and 80s.

A Promising Cast

Alongside Daniel Brühl, the cast includes Théodore Pellerin as Jacques de Bascher, Arnaud Valois as Yves Saint-Laurent, and Jeanne Damas as Paloma Picasso. This talented cast promises to bring to life the complex and iconic characters in Lagerfeld’s story. Notably, Agnès Jaoui will portray Gaby Aghion, the founder of Chloé who discovered Karl, and Belgian singer Claire Laffut will play Loulou de la Falaise, muse of Saint Laurent and friend of Karl.

The German actor Daniel Brühl, who speaks French perfectly, lent his features to Lagerfeld alongside his colleague Théodore Pellerin, who brings the dandy Jacques de Bascher back to life
The German actor Daniel Brühl, who speaks French perfectly, lent his features to Lagerfeld alongside his colleague Théodore Pellerin, who brings the dandy Jacques de Bascher back to life

Juicy Anecdotes

Karl Lagerfeld was a multifaceted character, and some anecdotes reveal the man behind the designer. For example, did you know he had a special relationship with his cat Choupette? Choupette, entrusted to him by Baptiste Giabiconi, became a true icon, with her own advertising contracts and personal fortune. Karl treated her like a queen, and she even traveled by private jet.

Another interesting fact is his passion for books. Karl had an immense personal library with over 300,000 books. He often said that if he hadn’t been a couturier, he would have liked to be a bookseller.

A great book collector, Karl Lagerfeld had an immense library
A great book collector, Karl Lagerfeld had an immense library

A Trailer That Makes You Want More

The trailer for Becoming Karl Lagerfeld begins with a slap and the phrase “No one wants me to succeed,” immediately setting a dramatic tone. Accompanied by the song Heart of Glass by Blondie, it gives a glimpse of Karl’s tumultuous relationships and grand ambitions. The scenes then unfold, showing the difficult relationships with Jacques de Bascher, the rivalry with Yves Saint-Laurent, and the ambition to become the most adored couturier in the world.

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld – Official Trailer (VF) | Disney+

After a world premiere of the first two episodes at the Canneseries festival on April 7, the six episodes of the series will be available on Disney+ on June 7, 2024.

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld offers a fascinating dive into the world of one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover the life behind the persona. Explore the creative genius who marked our era.

The poster for the series Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, whose first episode was available for free on YouTube before the release of the complete series
The poster for the series Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, whose first episode was available for free on YouTube before the release of the complete series