Karl Lagerfeld has built an empire of women. Arriving at the recent Chanel show , the almost all-female crowd got me thinking about how the man they called the Kaiser has captured the hearts of the fairer sex. Indeed, Lagerfeld and the Parisian fashion house have made a powerful union.
While Coco may have been the original, my first taste of Chanel was under Lagerfeld's recruit when Inès de la Fressange was the main girl. Somewhere in the mid 80s, the dark-haired beauty starred in a campaign that could be a best described as a twisted take on Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel. She held a cigarette, wore white gloves, and a boucle tweed jacket; was swathed in pearls and Chanel logo chains and two 'cameo' style broaches with a replica of her face and Largerfeld's. He wore his trademark glasses, and was some 40 kilograms heavier than he is now. De la Fressange was the embodiment of Chanel. She was French and it was a perfect pairing but after seven years, they went separate ways over her decision to pose as the bust of Marianne -- the symbol of France. Lagerfeld said he didn't want to dress a monument.
Instead he moved on to find another muse. Many, in fact, and rarely since has Lagerfeld not been in a deep infatuation. 'It' girls alone they are not; he is attracted to women of substance, status and very often, great beauty. Take for example, Lady Amanda Harlech, the British aristo with an elusive Chanel job description and a penchant for penning ghost stories. Or the ethereal and talented Irina Lazareanu, the unofficial drummer for Peter Doherty's Babyshambles who now records with Sean Lennon.
And then there's his posse, the mini-muses, such as potty-mouthed Brit Lily Allen, rock royalty Georgia May Jagger and actors Keira Knightley and Audrey Tautou. At last week's Paris/Byzance pre-fall 2011 collection in the famous 31 Rue Cambon house, his gang was lead by Vanessa Paradis, Clemence Poesy, Diane Kruger and Marianne Faithfull.
Recently, in a move that may see him forever as Homer, he was invited to lens the new year's iconic Pirelli Calendar where he adapted a theme of Greek mythology capturing actress Julianne Moore as Hera, Lara Stone as Aphrodite alongside his Danish favourite Freja Beha Erichsen. If anything, it's a perfect casting call for his next main squeeze.
One wonders what exactly makes the German designer who started his career as the assistant to Pierre Balmain at 17 so compelling to women? This, after all, is a man who proclaimed "no one likes to look at curvy women." This, coming from a man with a 18th century France hairdo and a penchant for a tight tailcoat. Who else could get away with this?
It seems no one can stay mad at Lagerfeld for long however. His chemistry with Fressange reignited this year when they put their differences behind them and shot Chanel's spring-summer advertising campaign in Saint Tropez (she is also due to appear in their campaign next year). The 53-year-old told WWD of the shoot on a rainy day: "Suddenly -- and this must be the power of Chanel -- the sun came out."
Lagerfeld, it seems, can bank on the fact that every woman wants to be a mademoiselle.
See Alexa Chung, Lou Doillon and Clémence Poesy front row at Chanel spring/summer 2011 here