Happy Birthday Karl Lagerfeld! All Hail the Kaiser of ReInvention
10 September 2013

Happy Birthday Karl Lagerfeld! All Hail the Kaiser of ReInvention

Photo via: LDNFashion

September 10th is the extraordinary designer Karl Lagerfeld’s birthday. While his age may be in question (some say he’s turning 80, some say 78, some say 75), one thing that is not in doubt is his immense talent at consistently creating drool-worthy clothes for his own label, Fendi, and, of course, Chanel.

When Karl took on the role of creative director and lead designer at Chanel in 1983, the house was considered dead. While Coco Chanel had established herself as the premiere French couturier in the 1920’s, she shut the house down during WWII, and reopened in 1950. She remained at the helm from the 50’s until her death in 1971, during which time the house had languished and survived on the profits of its perfumes.

Karl took over the house and reinvented it to fit the modern woman, while still maintaining the style and tradition of Chanel. He has been able to reinvent the classic Chanel pieces every season in new and unique ways that make women all over the world lust after his designs.

Let’s take a look at how he’s re-envisioned some of the trademark Chanel pieces over the years.

 The Skirt Suit: One of Coco Chanel’s crowning glories, the Chanel suit consists of a cardigan-style jacket paired with a matching skirt, often in jersey wool or tweed. Karl has played with the proportions, colors, and detailing through the years and always seems to come up with something new.

Spring/Summer 2006
Fall/Winter 2006
Spring/Summer 2004
Spring/Summer 2009

The Spectator Pump: The shoe of choice for Coco Chanel was the spectator pump, which she created. The original was a cream-colored, kitten heeled pump with a black cap toe. Karl has since done the signature style in dozens of ways: thigh high patent leather boots, tweed flats, ruffled ankle boots, and even placing lights in the toes for his Chanel Couture Fall 2011 show.

Fall/Winter 2006
Fall/Winter 2011
Spring/Summer 2009

The Chanel Bag: The original Chanel handbag was released in February of 1955 and dubbed “The 2.55”. Coco created the bag with shoulder straps because she was tired of having to have one hand constantly holding her handbag, leaving her with only one available hand. The quilted bag, which featured adjustable chain straps, quickly became one of the most well-known bags in the world. Karl has since taken that bag and transformed it using different embellishments and fabrics as well as playing with its shape and size. He even produced a giant hula-hoop version (Fall/Winter 2013) and an “ankle bag”. A personal favorite of mine is the lucite version he made for Fall 2010 that was made to resemble ice cubes.

Ice Cube bag, Fall/Winter 2010
Lucky Charms, Spring/Summer 2007
Ankle bag, Spring/Summer 2008

 The Camellia: The camellia was the favorite flower of Mademoiselle Chanel ever since she read Alexandre Dumas’ “The Lady of the Camellias”. She first used a camellia to adorn one of her classic suits in 1933, and its likeness was frequently used in her designs after that. Since then Karl has taken the signature flower of Chanel and used it in almost every capacity possible: as a brooch, a hairpiece, an embellishment on shoes, and as the basis of a skirt out of sequined camellias for his Spring 2006 collection.

Spring/Summer 2006
Spring/Summer 2006

 The Little Black Dress: In 1926, Vogue published an illustration of Coco Chanel’s first little black dress and declared it a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. Since then Chanel has become synonymous with the little black dress. Karl has expanded far beyond the original drop waist, jersey design that gained Coco much press. He’s embellished it, played with the silhouette, done it in dozens of fabrics, and continued the Chanel legacy of being the go-to place for the perfect LBD.

Spring/Summer 2006


Spring/Summer 2007


Fall./Winter 2002

The Pearls: Coco Chanel is credited with popularizing the use of costume jewelry since she was both fond of designing it, and she was rarely seen without yards of faux pearls around her neck. Karl has incorporated pearls in almost every facet of a wardrobe possible: as belts, on hairclips, to embellish shoes, on buttons, and sewn onto dresses. It seems that Karl is never going to run out of ideas to keep the pearl a Chanel trademark for years to come.

Fall/Winter 2010


Fall/Winter 2006


Spring/Summer 2008

In honor of Karl’s birthday, why don’t you try out your own interpretation of the Chanel look? As he’s clearly shown you through the years, there are endless ways to interpret each trademark of the house. So, happy birthday Karl, and here’s hoping you’re around for many more years, to keep us on our toes and keep our wallets severely damaged!

Image via Harpers Bazaar

All images via StyleBistro unless otherwise stated

About the Author: Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and fashion blogger for Get Direct TV. He enjoys reading about fashion and art history in his free time, as well as keeping up to date on the latest trends and new in fashion and entertainment. He lives and works in Chicago where he can often be found longingly window shopping on Michigan Ave. and Oak St.