It does sound slightly disrespectful calling this article a February ‘round-up’ when opening with the death of one of the world’s most talented fashion designers. To merely add him to a ‘round up’ article falls short of properly justifying why this icon will be so missed. Karl Lagerfeld, creative director at Chanel, Fendi and his own label, passed away at the age of 85 from pancreatic cancer on 19 February.
Recognised for his signature white hair, neat ponytail, black sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and high, starched detachable collars, German-born Lagerfeld was a great amongst the fashion glitterati. Having first worked with Pierre Balmain and Jean Patou, he joined Fendi in 1967 to modernise their fur line, and spent time at Chloe the following decade. However, he is best known for his craftsmanship at Chanel, which he joined in 1983. Here, he took the struggling design house, 12 years on from the death of Coco Chanel, turning it into the global brand we all know and love today.
That isn’t to say he was without his controversy. He sparked outrage in the 1990’s with his use of a verse from the Qur’an in his couture show, and for his avid use of fur. In more recent years, he has called international singer Adele ‘a little too fat’ and criticised Pippa Middleton, sister to the future Queen, for her looks. However, he had stated in 2007 that this controversial persona was always simply an act.
Whilst his controversial acts can’t be ignored, it would be wrong to say that these override his impact on fashion as we know it. We all view Chanel as a global superstar brand today, but without Lagerfeld we wouldn’t witness the amazing extravaganza each season, another of which will take place soon at Paris Fashion Week, overseen by his successor Virginie Viard. He learnt alongside the best, and ultimately became one of the greatest. Importantly, on his death there have been many individuals, editors, models, actresses and so on, who have praised him, not just for his work ethic (it doesn’t bare thinking about how many collections he had control of per season), but also for his humility and kindness!
From fashion extraordinaire to fashion icon, the world lost another high profile person this month – Lee Radziwill, sister of First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Although Jackie Kennedy is certainly the more well-known of the two and outwardly more successful, it’s often said that Radziwill was more beautiful with a natural style. Whilst Jackie had a stylist, Lee could pick out the most stylish outfits for herself. With fast fashion at a premium and celebrities who come and go, it’s seems that the style icons of the past won’t ever be replaced in the same way by anyone in the future.
Although it can be difficult to pinpoint who the modern style icons are, there will always be individuals that have a certain look and aura about them. Edie Campbell is a model who, on or off the catwalk, whether in a Chanel tweed jacket or Versace dress, looks resolutely like herself. As a model she is undeniably slender, so it must be viewed with disappointment that, after improvements in the fashion industry to bring more diversity to the shows, Campbell was told she was ‘too big’ to open a Milan Fashion Week show. Not ‘too big’ because of her status of as a famous model, ‘too big’ because she was considered too fat to model the designer’s clothing!
As the industry continues to battle with its need for more diversity, there are still plenty of stories that make us collectively put our heads in our hands. This month, Gucci and Katy Perry, in two unrelated incidents, were called-out for their inappropriate use of ‘black face’. Whilst it’s hopefully a genuine mistake, one look at the uncomfortable designs would tell you something wasn’t quite right.
But moving onto something much more pleasant, light hearted and fun, the opening of Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A in London on February 2nd. This exhibition spans across the whole history of the fashion house, exploring the enduring influence of Dior, and Dior’s love affair with Britain. It features classic ‘New Look’ designs, all focused on tiny waists and accentuated hips, dresses worn by royalty, and more modern touches from John Galliano’s period. If it wasn’t already, I’d have guessed that before long it would be sold out!
Christian Dior wasn’t able to create his fashion house until he was 41. At the opposite end of the scale, this month, Josh, 13, became one of the youngest people ever to show at London Fashion Week, and he says he has set his sight on becoming one of the top fashion designers of the 20th Century. Proving that at any age, success can be achievable.
There was plenty of success to be celebrated at this month’s Oscars, with our own Olivia Coleman winning Best Actress for The Favourite. Wearing a custom-made green Prada gown, her stylist, Mary Fellowes told the New York Times that Coleman, having stumbled into a Prada boutique in Paris on her hen do, had vowed to friends that: “One day, when I’ve finally made it, I’ll wear a Prada dress.” Funnily enough, according to numerous news outlets, green has been named as the unluckiest colour to wear at the Oscars. But this is clearly not the case when you’re as brilliant as Coleman.
Finally, as fashion news continues to be populated by articles about its sustainability and it becoming more ethical, it is refreshing to hear that Selfridges, have decided to ban the sale of exotic animal skins, from February 2020, choosing from then to sell only leather sourced from agricultural livestock. An enlightened step in the right direction as we move forward into springtime.
Imagery courtsesy of Vogue and The Guardian
About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.