The Dark Side Behind the Glamour of Karl Lagerfeld

He has been remembered as a fashion icon and artistic genius but over his career Lagerfeld made many damning comments which may taint his memory with controversy.

Photo Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Renowned for his work as a creative director and fashion designer, Lagerfeld’s recent passing has shocked the fashion world and House of Chanel, where he rose to fame.

Born in 1933, Germany to a milk-producing businessman and a lingerie saleswoman, it has become well-known that he routinely misrepresented his background. He often gave an incorrect birth year to appear younger and inaccurately claimed his father was Swedish and called his mother “Elisabeth of Germany”, though there is no evidence she was ever referred to in this way.

Early in his career, Lagerfeld changed his name from Lagerfeldt as he thought it sounded “more commercial”.

In the 1960s he began designing collections for luxury fashion brands such Chloe and Fendi where he became known for his innovative styles. In the 80s he was well-established as a fashion icon and was became popular with the press who enjoyed writing about his vibrant and ever-changing social life.

FIB has compiled a list of the five most controversial moments that Lagerfeld was involved in throughout his career as an incredible designer.

1. Qu’ran Couture

Lagerfeld either misstepped clumsily or was downright culturally-insensitive when he used a verse from the Qu’ran during his Spring 1994 couture collection for Chanel. This decision sparked considerable anger from the Indonesian Muslim Scholars Council; they called for a boycott of Chanel and threatened to file formal protests with Lagerfeld’s native country. Lagerfeld apologised, explaining that he had taken the text from a book about the Taj Mahal and had believed the lines to be from a love poem.

2. The PETA Pie-ing

In a 2001 fashion premiere at the Lincoln Centre in New York City, Lagerfeld was the target of pie-ing by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). However, the tofu pies thrown by activists who disagreed with Lagerfeld’s use of leather and fur in his fashion shows accidentally hit Calvin Klein. Lagerfeld was targeted because he was known for defending the use of animal products in clothing stating, “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags is childish”. 

3. Celeb Bashing

Royal Wedding. Photo Credit: AOL

In 2012 Lagerfeld criticised Heidi Klum, saying that her body was not fit for the runway as she was too “heavy”. He was also called out for his negative comments on Pippa Middleton; he stated that Princess Kate was a “romantic beauty” but that Pippa “should only show her back”, insinuating he did not like the look of her face. For comments such as these, many had labeled Lagerfeld, unapologetically, as a misogynist.

4. Fat Shaming

Photo Credit: The Citizens of Fashion

Lagerfeld was known for his refusal to allow heavier-set women on the runway – a fact he had often been criticised for. Lagerfeld created an uproar in the UK in 2012 when he called Adele, “a little too fat”. He was also criticised for his remarks on a French television show in 2013, when he said that, “The hole in social security, it’s also [due to] all the diseases caught by people who are too fat”. He was sued by the French organisation Belle, Ronde, Sexy et je m’assume (Beautiful, Round, Sexy and Ok with it) for his remarks.

5. Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism

Photo Credit: Yahoo Lifestyle

Lagerfeld criticised Angela Merkel for allowing migrants to enter Germany, telling a French television show in 2017, “One cannot — even if there are decades between them — kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place.” He also implied that accepting migrants would cause anti-Semitism through during his interviews.

The fashion industry is tough world to live in. Let us know what you thought in the comments.