Karl Lagerfeld is perhaps the ultimate fashion designer. Prolific and driven by-change, he is certainly one of the industry's most successful 'mercenary' designers. Yet he is far from a behind-the-scenes figure. Lagerfeld's ever-present pony-tail, fan and sunglasses are iconic; his personal preference for bespoke white shirts by Hilditch & Key, Chrome Hearts jewellery and Dior Homme suits is well documented. In addition to his work for both Chanel and Fendi, since 1998 Lagerfeld has designed his own label Lagerfeld Gallery.
Born in Hamburg in 1938, Lagerfeld moved to Paris at the age of 14. At just 17 he landed his first job, at Pierre Balmain, moving to Jean Patou three years later. Despite this traditional start, Lagerfeld chose not to establish his own house but instead to pursue a career as a freelance designer.
From 1963-83 and 1992-97 Lagerfeld designed Chloe. In 1965 he also began to design for Fendi, a role that he retains to this day; in 1983 he was appointed artistic director of Chanel. 1984 saw the first incarnation of his own label, Karl Lagerfeld, which was later superseded by Lagerfeld Gallery, an art/retail venture. It is the latter that expresses the remarkable range of this genuine polymath. In addition to ready-to-wear collections, Lagerfeld Gallery is a platform for his myriad passions, including photography (he often shoots his own ad campaigns, along with editorial for numerous magazines), books (he has his own imprint, 7L, and a personal library of 230,000 volumes), perfume, art and magazines.
In December 2004 it was announced that Tommy Hilfiger had purchased Lagerfeld Gallery. This followed a phenomenally successful link-up with mass market retailer H&M in autumn 2004, when shoppers clamoured for a garment designed by an acknowledged maestro of fashion.