"Lagerfeld's overrated," screams the cover of the latest issue of Newsweek.
"Such a statement rings like heresy within a fashion universe where the highly acclaimed designer struts upon his lofty stage as the creative director of Chanel – but it's true."
The four-page feature supporting the claim is written by the fashion journalist, Robin Givhan. Its premise is that Lagerfeld – what with the Coca-Cola bottles, photography, and, most recently, a "Karl" collection, not to mention work at Fendi, Hogan, 7L (his publishing imprint) and so forth – has spread himself too thin.
Even Givhan herself qualifies that argument: "The pronouncement is not meant to imply that the German-born Lagerfeld isn't supremely talented and culturally influential. Through his work at Chanel, it's clear he is all of those things."
Given that next year marks Lagerfeld's 30th anniversary at the house and that it remains the single most successful fashion label, one could be forgiven for wondering: overrated how?
The writer argues that, other than for Chanel, Lagerfeld's work is at best unremarkable and at worst derivative and even at Chanel it is Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's own style that endures as opposed to his own. And here is the clincher: "no matter how much Lagerfeld has done to burnish Chanel, he needs Chanel more than it needs him."
It is all too easy to accuse the fashion industry of indiscriminate hyperbole. "Praise drips off him [Lagerfeld] in thick, opaque globs," Givhan writes, in grandiose style.
But the relationship between Chanel and Lagerfeld is unprecedented because it is a perfectly balanced one. The mega-budget shows, the creative control that extends beyond the clothes themselves to encompass everything from shooting the ad campaigns to hand-picking the tribe of bright young things which advises him and the fact that the designer is given free rein to follow his interests outside the company are all testimony to that fact.
Only one question remains: who do any detractors think might possibly succeed him?
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