Karl Lagerfeld was a fashion icon and creative director known for his work with Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous label. His unique vision and innovative designs made him one of the most influential figures in the world of fashion. While you may be familiar with his most iconic creations, there are several lesser-known facts about this legendary designer. Let’s explore 10 things you might not have known about Karl Lagerfeld.

1. Early beginnings

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1933, Karl Lagerfeld was the son of a successful businessman and a lingerie saleswoman. He discovered his love for fashion at a young age, inspired by the elegance of the women he saw in the upscale neighborhood of his childhood. In 1954, at the age of 21, Lagerfeld moved to Paris to pursue his dreams, immersing himself in the city’s fashion scene and laying the groundwork for his illustrious career.

2. Balmain’s apprentice

One of the notable early experiences in Karl Lagerfeld’s career was his time as an apprentice at the fashion house of Balmain. Lagerfeld worked under the legendary French couturier Pierre Balmain in the 1950s, at a time when Balmain was at the height of his success.

During his time at Balmain, Lagerfeld learned about the techniques and craftsmanship of haute couture, and he also honed his skills as a designer. He worked on various aspects of the design process, including sketching, pattern-making, and sewing, and he quickly became known for his talent and creativity.

Lagerfeld’s time at Balmain helped to shape his approach to fashion, and he was deeply influenced by Balmain’s classic, elegant style. He later credited Balmain with teaching him the importance of precision and attention to detail in fashion design, and he remained a lifelong admirer of Balmain’s work.

3. Sketching skills

Karl Lagerfeld was not only a fashion designer but also an accomplished artist and illustrator, known for his exceptional sketching skills. He was known to sketch his ideas for fashion designs and collections, often filling sketchbooks with his ideas and inspirations.

Lagerfeld’s sketches were highly detailed and precise, and he used them to bring his visions to life. His sketches often featured intricate details, such as beading, embroidery, and lacework, and he used shading and texture to add depth and dimension to his designs.

In addition to using sketches to develop his fashion designs, Lagerfeld also created illustrations for various publications and projects. He created illustrations for books, magazines, and advertising campaigns, and his work was known for its distinct style and sophistication.

4. Multilingual abilities

Lagerfeld was fluent in four languages: German, English, French, and Italian. He used these language skills to work with international clients and develop strong relationships within the fashion industry. His multilingual abilities also allowed him to easily navigate the global fashion scene, giving him a unique perspective on trends and cultural influences that would inspire his work throughout his career.

5. Collection of books

Karl Lagerfeld was an avid collector of books and was known to have a vast collection of rare and valuable volumes. He was especially interested in books on art, photography, and fashion, and he reportedly owned over 300,000 books at the time of his death.

Lagerfeld’s collection of books was housed in various locations, including his personal library at his home in Paris and his offices at the fashion house of Chanel. He was known to have a particular interest in books on the subject of Coco Chanel, and he owned many rare and out-of-print volumes on the topic.

6. Photographer and director

In addition to his work as a fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld was also an accomplished photographer and director. He was known for his keen eye for beauty and his ability to capture striking images through his photography.

Lagerfeld began his photography career in the 1980s, and he quickly gained recognition for his work in the fashion industry. He worked for various publications, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Interview, and he photographed many of the world’s most famous models and celebrities.

Lagerfeld was also a prolific director, and he directed a number of films and videos throughout his career. He created short films for Chanel, Fendi, and his own eponymous label, and he also directed music videos for various artists, including Pharrell Williams and Vanessa Paradis.

Lagerfeld’s photography and films were characterized by his distinctive style, which was marked by a sense of glamour, sophistication, and elegance. He was known for his attention to detail and his ability to create visually stunning images that captured the essence of his subjects.

7. Choupette, his beloved cat

Choupette was Karl Lagerfeld’s beloved cat and constant companion for many years. Lagerfeld adopted Choupette in 2011 from a friend who could no longer care for her, and she quickly became a fixture in his life.

Choupette was known for her unique personality and her extravagant lifestyle. She had her own Instagram account, and she was often seen with Lagerfeld at fashion shows and events. She also reportedly had a team of caretakers who looked after her every need, including her own personal chef and a personal maid.

Lagerfeld was famously devoted to Choupette, and he once described her as his “little muse.” He often incorporated her into his work, featuring her in fashion shoots and even designing a collection of accessories inspired by her.

After Lagerfeld’s death in 2019, it was reported that Choupette was set to inherit a portion of his multi-million dollar fortune. While the exact details of Lagerfeld’s estate plan have not been made public, it is clear that Choupette held a special place in his heart and his life.

8. Diet Coke aficionado

Karl Lagerfeld was famously known for his love of Diet Coke, and he was often seen with a can of the soda in his hand. In fact, he was such a fan of Diet Coke that he collaborated with the brand on a limited-edition collection of aluminum bottles in 2011, which featured his own silhouette and signature.

Lagerfeld reportedly drank up to 10 cans of Diet Coke a day, and he often had cases of the soda stocked in his office and home. He once explained that he preferred Diet Coke over other soft drinks because it was “lighter” and didn’t contain sugar.

In addition to his collaboration with Diet Coke, Lagerfeld also incorporated the soda into some of his designs. For example, he created a Diet Coke-themed bottle opener for the brand, and he even designed a couture gown made entirely of Diet Coke cans for a charity auction.

9. Love for high collars

Lagerfeld believed that high collars added an element of elegance and sophistication to a design, and he often used them to create a sense of drama or grandeur. His high collars ranged from simple and understated to elaborate and ornate, and he used a variety of fabrics and materials to create different effects.

One of Lagerfeld’s most famous designs featuring a high collar was the wedding dress he created for Princess Caroline of Monaco in 1978. The dress featured a high collar made of antique lace, which added a regal and timeless quality to the design.

10. Philanthropy

One cause that Lagerfeld supported was animal welfare. He was a vocal supporter of animal rights and often spoke out against the use of fur in fashion. In 2018, he was awarded the PETA “Person of the Year” award for his work in promoting animal rights.

Lagerfeld also supported various cultural institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where he donated funds to support a new photography gallery. He also supported the Paris Opera, where he helped fund the restoration of the Grand Foyer and donated funds to support the opera’s costumes and sets.

In addition, Lagerfeld was involved in various charitable initiatives throughout his career. For example, in 2011, he designed a limited-edition teddy bear for the charity “Only Watch,” which raised funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He also created a collection of limited-edition candles to support the children’s charity La Chaine de l’Espoir.

Karl Lagerfeld was not only an extraordinary fashion designer but also a multifaceted individual with a wide range of interests and talents. His innovative designs, relentless creativity, and unique personality have left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. By exploring these lesser-known aspects of his life, we can better understand the man behind the legendary designs and gain a deeper appreciation for his contributions to the world of fashion.