CELEBRATING KARL LAGERFELD: AS BOTH ILLUSTRATOR & DESIGNER
Karl Lagerfeld Sketches His Life video (Video Link: You Tube)
In honor of the upcoming MET exhibit entitled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” we would like to celebrate Lagerfeld’s work as an accomplished fashion illustrator, as well as a prolific fashion designer. It is a common myth that all fashion designers are able to conceptualize their fashion designs via fashion illustration. The truth is that very few designers know how to ‘illustrate‘. It is much more common for designers to execute a quick fashion ‘sketch‘ to get their design idea across.
Another misconception is that all fashion illustrators can ‘design’. Well, just because one can illustrate fashion doesn’t mean that they can also design fashion. In fact, it is quite rare when a fashion designer can do both. As many of our subscribers know, there are other skills including draping, pattern making and sewing that should be honed to become a successful designer.
Therefore, in lieu of the upcoming MET show, this week’s blog post will highlight Lagerfeld’s work as both a designer and illustrator. And, since we just celebrated World Creativity Day on April 20th, we will also be highlighting other famous designers/illustrators whose illustrations are fast becoming collector’s items, that are either sold at auction houses or on their websites for thousands of dollars.
KARL LAGERFELD: THE ILLUSTRATOR
The upcoming Lagerfeld MET exhibit, which runs from May 5 to July 16, is expected to draw fashion enthusiasts and industry insiders from around the world eager to experience the life and work of one of fashion’s most influential designers. It will feature Lagerfeld’s most iconic designs, including his re-imagined Chanel jackets, Fendi fur pieces and his signature accessories. The exhibit will also include a variety of personal items belonging to Lagerfeld, such as his sketchbooks, personal correspondence and photographs. This is definitely a designers’s dream show come true!
Karl Lagerfeld and his treasured cat Choupette in Paris 2018. (Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue)
Throughout his career, Lagerfeld created a wealth of fashion illustrations that captured the essence of his designs and his unique creative vision. His illustrations were often used to promote his collections and even today, they continue to inspire and captivate fashion enthusiasts.
In Lagerfeld’s early illustration work, you can see that he had a much tighter hand as shown in the images below that he did for the House of Tiziani before he joined Chanel in 1983. His illustrations were characterized by their bold, graphic style and attention to detail. Over time however, Lagerfeld’s hand became looser and less rigid and therefore was able to capture the movement and flow of fabrics, often highly stylized, with exaggerated proportions and abstracted shapes. Despite their abstract nature, Lagerfeld’s illustrations always conveyed a sense of elegance and sophistication.
Whether Lagerfeld was illustrating a Chanel jacket or a Fendi gown, he always managed to convey the unique character and style of each piece. Used as promotional materials, Lagerfeld’s illustrations helped build anticipation and excitement for each of his upcoming shows.
Lagerfeld’s work was also a reflection of his larger creative vision. He was known for his love of art, literature and culture, and his illustrations often incorporated elements from these fields. For example, he frequently incorporated references to classical art, such as Greek statues, Renaissance paintings or iconic monuments such as the Statue of Liberty. These references added an extra layer of depth and meaning to his work and helped to establish Lagerfeld as a true visionary in the fashion industry.
The work of some fashion designers and fashion illustrators are now highly collectable and are sold on websites like 1stDibs.com, iCanvas.com and Artsy.net or in auction houses around the world.
Includes a Certificate of Authenticity – sold for US$6,950 (Photo Credit: artsy.net)
In addition to illustrating his collections, Lagerfeld also created a number of illustrations for other purposes, such as books, magazines and even a calendar, showcasing his diverse talents and his ability to adapt his style to different contexts. Lagerfeld’s illustrations were always imbued with his signature style and creativity, making them instantly recognizable as his own.
A Chanel illustration for Lady Gaga created by Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit: Facebook.com)
KARL LAGERFELD: THE DESIGNER
The MET’s Lagerfeld exhibit will consist of approximately 150 designs and according to the MET, it will “explore the artistic methodology and stylistic vocabulary of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs through recurring themes across more than 65 years, from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019”. The Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala) will take place on Monday, May 1, 2023.
In addition to showcasing Lagerfeld’s designs, the exhibit will explore the designer’s life and legacy. Lagerfeld was known for his larger-than-life personality, his love of art and literature, and his tireless work ethic. The exhibit will delve into Lagerfeld’s background, including his early life in Germany and his rise to fame in the fashion industry. Visitors will gain insight into Lagerfeld’s creative process, his inspirations, and his collaborations with other artists and designers.
One of the most exciting aspects of the exhibit is the opportunity to see Lagerfeld’s designs up close and personal. Visitors will be able to study the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into creating each piece. From the impeccable tailoring of his jackets to the intricate embroidery on his gowns, Lagerfeld’s designs are a testament to his skill as a designer. Here’s a sample of what will be featured in the exhibition:
A Fendi coat from the fall 2000 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta for the MET)
The exhibit will also feature interactive elements, including virtual reality experiences and interactive displays. Visitors will be able to explore Lagerfeld’s designs in a variety of ways, from 3D projections to virtual runway shows. The exhibit will provide a truly immersive experience, giving visitors a chance to step into Lagerfeld’s world and see the fashion industry through his eyes.
KARL LAGERFELD’S INFLUENCE IS STILL FELT TODAY
Lagerfeld served as the creative director for Chanel for over three decades, before his passing on February 19, 2019.
Perhaps one of Lagerfeld’s greatest contributions to fashion was his ability to keep Chanel relevant. When he took over as creative director in 1983, the brand was struggling to remain fresh. However, Lagerfeld breathed new life into the heritage brand, infusing it with his own unique style and vision. He was unafraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas, while still remaining true to the brand’s classic aesthetic.
Lagerfeld’s re-invention of the Chanel jacket, which he introduced in the 1980s, was a modern update of the classic silhouette. The jacket became an instant classic and remains a staple of the Chanel collection, in various iterations, today. Although he is no longer with us, Lagerfeld’s influence on fashion will continue to be felt for years to come.
Some of Karl Lagerfeld’s best moments at Chanel. (Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar)
OTHER GREAT FASHION DESIGNERS/ILLUSTRATORS
Most designers working in the fashion industry today have little time to sit down and illustrate their ideas. Most execute quick, rough sketches that they hand off to their assistant or to their pattern maker. But there are fashion designers who prefer to illustrate their creations and who possess a special talent that enables them to better communicate their vision in a unique and creative way. Most designers will hire a professional fashion illustrator to showcase their work for press purposes, for example, the illustration below is by fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs. See the illustrator’s signature in small script along the vertical sash.
Other designers are more inclined to promote their work using their own unique style of illustration. Here a a few of the talented fashion designers who illustrate their own creations.
DIOR’S MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI
Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director for Dior, creates exquisite illustrations that are characterized by their romantic, ethereal quality. Her illustrations showcase the details and exquisite craftsmanship of her designs which adds an extra layer of depth and meaning to her work.
French fashion designer Christian Lacroix is also known for his illustration skills, which are characterized by their whimsical, and fantastical style. Lacroix’s illustrations often incorporate elements from art history, such as Rococo motifs and Baroque ornamentation. His illustrations showcase his unique creative vision and his ability to blend different styles and influences into his designs.
Alber Elbaz, the former creative director of Lanvin who sadly passed away on April 24, 2021, was known for his playful and cartoonish style. His illustrations often featured exaggerated proportions with bright, bold colors and were used to promote his collections. His illustrations were considered artwork in their own right.
Christian Siriano is a designer who has built a successful career by creating clothing that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. He is also an accomplished illustrator whose illustrations are playful, yet with a sense of drama and impact. Siriano is one of the designers who sells his limited-edition illustrations, ranging from $75-$1,200, on his website ChristianSiriano.com.
Jean-Paul Gaultier is a designer known for his daring, unconventional designs. He is also an accomplished illustrator. Gaultier’s illustrations often feature precise, graphic lines, like the one below that he did for Madonna’s MDNA 2012 tour.
Looking for more info on fashion illustration as collectable items, view our blog from March 14, 21, entitled Looking For a Hot Investment Tip? Try Collectioning Fashion Illustrations.
With the advent of computer-assisted design, fashion illustration has become a luxury for most fashion designers these days. However, at UoF we still promote hand drawn fashion through our Fashion Art discipline consisting of 27 Beginner, 39 Intermediate and 17 Advanced lessons. We teach how to draw, render and illustrate fashion design and accessories and so it’s no wonder that we are head-over-heels excited to see the Lagerfeld show at the MET. Viva La Fashion Illustration! Viva Lagerfeld!
SO TELL US, DO YOU KNOW OF OTHER FASHION DESIGNERS THAT CAN ILLUSTRATE?