New biographies, a six-part series with Daniel Brühl and a biopic in which US actor Jared Leto takes on the role of the legendary fashion czar: Since Karl Lagerfeld's death more than four years ago, books and films about him have been piling up. They are retrospectives and insights into the life of one of the most media-effective but also most mysterious fashion designers.
Lagerfeld would have turned 90 this Sunday (September 10th).
White braid, sunglasses and starched collar: Lagerfeld had stylized himself into a fictional character and a myth. But who really was the real Lagerfeld? A question that many have been asking since his death on February 19, 2019.
White braid, sunglasses and starched collar
The Hamburg native had always tried to ward off books about his life. The first biography “Kaiser Karl” by Raphaëlle Bacqué was published in France only three and a half months after his death. Others followed, such as “Karl” by the French Marie Ottavi and “Karl Lagerfeld. A German in Paris” by the German journalist Alfons Kaiser. They revealed something surprising. Lagerfeld had lied about almost everything about his nationality.
When he arrived in Paris at the age of 19, he pretended to be Scandinavian. Germans were unwelcome in post-war France. His father, Otto Lagerfeld, was neither a Danish nor a Swedish baron, but an entrepreneur and founder of the Glücksklee milk brand, who did business with the Nazis, whose party his mother also joined. Lagerfeld also denied his birth year for a long time. He was not born in 1938, but in 1933, the year the Nazis came to power.
Friends and enemies tell
At the end of May, the British BBC broadcast the documentary "The Mysterious Mr. Lagerfeld" by Michael Waldman. The award-winning director brings their friends and enemies in front of the camera. The film also focuses on statements by Baptiste Giabiconi, model, musician and one-time muse of the designer. The 33-year-old Frenchman says, among other things, that he had made adoption plans with him, but they failed because of too much bureaucracy.
Giabiconi appeared in many of Lagerfeld's advertising campaigns and remained close to Lagerfeld in his later years. But they weren't intimate, as he told the filmmaker. Along with Lagerfeld's idol Choupette, Giabiconi is one of the potential heirs to the designer's vast fortune, whose will has still not been executed. Giabiconi gave the white Birman cat to the designer in 2011.
Extravagant private life
In "Paradise Now. The Extraordinary Life of Karl Lagerfeld", William Middleton sheds light on Lagerfeld's extravagant private life. The author worked as a journalist for several American fashion magazines in Paris, where he met the designer. Lagerfeld was therefore as lavish as his catwalks were spectacular. At a dinner buffet for 900 people in his Paris apartment, guests were said to have been served by 18th-century-style waiters - wearing white wigs, red trousers and buckled shoes.
Middleton goes into more detail about Lagerfeld's tumultuous relationship with Jacques de Bascher, the love of his life. The French dandy, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1989, cheated on Lagerfeld with his colleague and rival Yves Saint Laurent.
The long-standing relationship between Lagerfeld and de Bascher is said to have been purely platonic. In an interview with the American lifestyle magazine "Vice" Lagerfeld said about his relationships with men: "I don't like sleeping with people I really love. I don't want to sleep with them because sex can't last."
Mini-series in progress
The French mini-series “Kaiser Karl,” as he was called by admirers and critics, is expected to be released in 2024. It is inspired by the biography of the same name by the journalist Raphaëlle Bacqué. As streaming Disney announced, German actor Daniel Brühl (“Good Bye Lenin!”) will take on the role of the master.
The story begins in the summer of 1972 and traces Karl Lagerfeld's ambition to become the successor of Coco Chanel, who died the previous year and was the most successful French couturier at the time. During this time, Yves Saint Laurent was the biggest personality in the fashion industry.
According to Bacqué's biography, Lagerfeld is said to have eliminated everyone who stood in his way in his career. It remains to be seen what spotlight the series will cast on Lagerfeld. More than 2,200 extras and 3,000 costumes will be on display.
There is no release date yet for the Lagerfeld biopic with Jared Leto ("Requiem for a Dream", "House of Gucci"). The American actor first announced the film biography in the fashion magazine “Women's Wear Daily” (WWD) in autumn 2022. The film will explore key relationships in Karl Lagerfeld's life.