Rather belatedly, I got around to watching Lagerfeld Confidential last weekend. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary released in 2007 about Karl Lagerfeld, directed by Rodolphe Marconi. Lagerfeld is head designer and creative director of Chanel as well as being head designer for Fendi, and helming his own fashion house. In addition to all of this Lagerfeld is a photographer and an artist and has collaborated extensively on costume designs for ballet and theatre productions.
The documentary is a look at Lagerfeld’s day to day life and is also interspersed with snatches of interviews on subjects ranging from Lagerfeld’s childhood and his relationship with his mother, to his sexuality and view on relationships.
I suppose I had always had an idea of Mr. Lagerfeld being extremely intimidating, humourless and austere and this may be in no small part to his appearance. Famously never photographed without his sunglasses, always in severely tailored black clothes, dripping in Chrome Hearts silver jewellery, Lagerfeld cuts an imposing figure. ( Truth be told, if there is any person whose style I admire most, it would probably be Monsieur Karl.)
However the man that emerges from the documentary is very different. He has a great sense of humour and irony, which can be seen when he is questioned, rather hesitantly, by the director of the documentary on his sexuality. He also has moments of vulnerability and softness; when he produces his security blanket for a trip on his private jet, I was completely disarmed by his reliance on an item from his childhood. When he enters a room, whether it’s backstage at a Chanel show or a photoshoot with a model, he is hands on and there is no diva attitude, instead he is polite and charming to his underlings.
The most striking thing about Lagerfeld as portrayed in the documentrary is how youthful he seems. He has boundless energy, reading, sketching and photographing daily. He speaks very quickly, communicating complex ideas with ease. He bends down to fix his boot with the grace of a man half his age. His abhorrence for nostalgia and for living in the past contributes greatly to his youthful demeanour. Karl was approximately 74 (there is confusion over his exact birth date) when the documentary was made and in no way is this apparent.
This is a fascinating look at a man whose influence is writ large over 20th century fashion and who still exerts a powerful hold in this century too.