Karl Lagerfeld has landed in London. Not the man, but the shop. The man is here too, in tandem with the shop opening, paper-white ponytail perfectly coiffed, collar starched high, that indelible, unchangeable image we all know so well, taking its bow after Lagerfeld’s catwalk shows at Fendi and Chanel.
Only this isn’t a Chanel boutique, nor a new Fendi outpost. It’s Lagerfeld’s own eponymous label, its first boutique in the UK and 19th in the world. When the doors were opened to the press, however, Karl Lagerfeld was nowhere to be seen at Karl Lagerfeld.
Actually, that’s inaccurate: he was everywhere. Not the man himself, but an array of products bearing his image, from £25 iPhone cases, through £129 tokidoki toy dolls, to Union Jack pillows and neon light installations sketching out his profile. It’s a cult of Karl.
That’s the point of the Karl Lagerfeld line: it may be a stone’s throw from the Chanel flagship on Bond Street, but it’s a million miles away in concept. Equidistant to Chanel is the enormous Regent Street H&M, where Lagerfeld launched the mass retailer’s first designer collaboration a decade ago.
Karl Lagerfeld – the label, and the designer – is all about satisfying the masses. That’s why it’s tapping into the instantly-recognisable visage of Karl. The geographic location of the store is also a sure-fire indicator – Regent Street isn’t about big spenders, it’s about big numbers: Regent Street is a destination for 70 million visitors a year. Hence Lagerfeld and its CEO Pier Paolo Righi are pitching the line as “accessible luxe,” right in line with other Regent Street-adjacent retailers, such as Longchamp and Michael Kors. The focus on accessible luxe has more than paid off for the latter, a company recently valued at a cool £11bn.
Prices at Lagerfeld stretch to about £1,000 for a leather jacket, but most hover – accessibly – at about a few hundred or even lower. A classic Chanel 2.55 – the chain-strapped quilted number introduced in 1955 and still a worldwide bestseller – will set you back in the region of £2,600. Lagerfeld’s own-label version, stamped with a K rather than double-C, retails for about £350.
There isn’t a catwalk show for these clothes. Honestly, they don’t need it. Constantly monochrome, constantly Karl, they don’t change much. This shop isn’t about fashion, really. This shop is about offering a bite-size piece of the Lagerfeld image – an iPhone cover, a book, a doll – to an ever celebrity-hungry public.