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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Three Labels, One Designer?

A look at Karl Lagerfeld through three pieces from the Goldstein’s collection.

When we talk about clothing designers, often what we are really talking about is brand.  Fashion insiders may gossip about who is in and who is out, but most people outside the industry rarely pay much attention to, what Harper’s Bazaar has called, the “never-ending game of designer musical chairs” (Fisher, 2016).  

Red Chanel coat from fall 1994 collection. Gift of Margot Siegel 2001.082.009 (left) Chloe Spring 1995 collection. Gift of Mary Wangsness 2009.041.008a-b (center), Pink Karl Lagerfeld suit. Gift of Ann Kemske c1990 2009.023.002a-b (right) 2. Chloe Spring 1995 collection. Gift of Mary Wangsne 

Some designers take up more metaphorical chairs than others.  Perhaps the best example of this is Karl Lagerfeld.  He’s been working for Fendi since 1965 and Chanel since 1983 (Picardi, 2016).  He started his own eponymous line while still working for both houses, was the creative director of Chloe from 1992-1997, and has designed costumes for both film and theater (Major, 2010).  In our collection at the Goldstein, we are lucky enough to have three pieces from the early 1990s that give us a sense of Lagerfeld’s work across brands.  

Chloe Spring 1995 collection. Gift of Mary Wangsness 2009.041.008a-b 

This sophisticated jacket and slip dress ensemble come from Lagerfeld’s Spring 1995 collection for Chloe.  The body conscious silhouette and feminine details are well representative of the rest of that collection. 

Chloe spring 2015 fashion show.  Our suit appears near the 5:48 mark 

Created one season earlier at Chanel, this oversized bright red coat is designed for a woman with a different lifestyle. 

Red Chanel coat from fall 1994 collection. Gift of Margot Siegel 2001.082.00

The fall 1995 Chanel fashion show is full of bright colors, baggy garments, and quirky accessories.  Our coat is worn over a black turtle neck with thigh high boots, a large red hat, and a yellow clutch purse.  

Chanel fall 1994 fashion show. Our red coat appears near the 1:30 mark 

These two aesthetics appear to come together in this c1990 pink silk Karl Lagerfeld Bergdorf Goodman suit. 

Pink Karl Lagerfeld suit. Gift of Ann Kemske c1990 2009.023.002a-b 

This suit combines the sophistication of the Chloe suit and the fun of the Chanel coat. However, it’s hard to know how involved Lagerfeld was with the design of this specific garment.  According to Patrick Mauriès, who wrote the introduction to the gorgeous visual retrospective Chanel Catwalk, Lagerfeld was largely a figurehead at his eponymous line in the 1990s (2016, p. 14).

While all three examples may not have been directly designed by Lagerfeld, they do serve to remind us of something important:  The brand name on the label doesn’t tell the whole story of how a garment was designed and made.

Fisher, L. A. (2016, August 2). Calvin Klein Confirms Raf Simons's Hire. Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved September 12, 2016, from
Major, J.S. (2010). Lagerfeld, Karl. In V. Steele (Ed.). The Berg Companion to Fashion. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 20 2016, from
Mauriès, P. (2016). Chanel Catwalk: The Complete Karl Lagerfeld Collections. London: Thames&Hudson.
Picardie, J. (2016, September 10). 'A client will buy 20 dresses in five minutes': Karl Lagerfeld on the rise of the new couture client. The Telegraph. Retrieved September 19, 2016, from

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