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Karl Lagerfeld's Fashion Manifesto

Highlights from the designer's speech at Fashion Group International's Night of Stars.

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Karl Lagerfeld at the Night of Stars

Karl Lagerfeld at the Night of Stars.

Photo By Kristen Somody Whalen

The astute dissection of the fashion industry that Karl Lagerfeld delivered on Thursday in introducing Harold Koda at the Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars still has the industry buzzing. Here, excerpts from Professor Karl’s handwritten manifesto:

• “There is a strange and invisible borderline when fashion is not only fashion, but becomes the most evident and most easily visible expression of an area.”

• “Fashion as history is beyond fashion, and it is not only limited to clothes.”

• “It is difficult to imagine today that people who shaped the fashion of the first 50 years of the 20th century never had an exhibition in a great museum during their lifetime….Designers (called “couturieres”) were happy to dress people (mostly women of society). They designed with the icons of their times in mind — before that word was used as we use it today. They had muses then….For Chanel, it was simpler. She was only her own inspiration (what I admire).

• “The face of fashion is now in the hands of a small group of big companies and they often own several important and influential fashion brands. They also help to make it possible for museums to stage important shows.”

• “Fashion is today also about big shows like Hollywood productions. In the past, designers made fashion history by dressing people who had a real life in those clothes. We should learn a lot from that. Red carpet (another invention of our times) helps to distort fashion by giving it a fake and too glamorous face.”

• “The great designers of the past were certainly not humble people, but they worked in the days before media buzz. What helps most of us a lot in a way, promotion (and self-promotion), did not exist before. It’s also something that makes our approach to fashion different (too different?). But what will survive from all that?”

• “Fashion is about the harmony between utility and beauty. But the sense of beauty in fashion changes quickly — nearly as quickly as fashion itself. Some people tell us that utility is itself the essence of beauty. That may be OK for sportswear (such an important part of fashion today and not always the best). I think there has to be another dimension to it, and Harold is our visionaire in that area. You don’t design a dress only because it’s easy to wear. It should be — but that reason alone could make fashion a bore.

• “A new fashion can appear having the same origins in inspiration and admiration in the past of fashion. The danger is for us designers to be too exposed to the seduction of the past.”

• “It is difficult to work out your own vision of fashion without being haunted by the beauty of the work of the people before us — even if they were also not immune to all kind of influences and inspirations to achieve a strong vision and a unique style.”

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