Lagerfeld revives spirit of Seventies

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The Independent Online
KARL LAGERFELD, the German mercenary of the fashion world, has dominated the opening week of the ready-to-wear collections in Paris. It is a safe bet he will dominate next week too.

Never before has one designer shown three collections on the Paris catwalks in one season.

Mr Lagerfeld showed Chloe and his own Karl Lagerfeld line this week. Chanel follows on Monday.

Backstage before Chloe, he held court, watched by supermodels, design assistants, make-up artists, hair stylists, dressers, television camera operators and hangers-on.

Mr Lagerfeld, a self-confessed voyeur, missed nothing. 'I have spies everywhere. I want to know everything, see everything, read everything.'

He sleeps four hours a night, travels between chateaux around Europe, reads hundreds of books a year and takes all the photographs for his advertising campaigns. When he is not sketching, he keeps his hands busy by fluttering a black fan at great speed.

In Paris this week, the fan has been whirring as fast as a humming-bird's wings.

I asked him why he designs so many collections, and the answer was rattled back at top speed. 'You know, I am easily bored. And so I must work and work and work, and I work faster all the time.'

It is change, he says, that excites him. 'But change means that what we do today could be worthless tomorrow. We have to accept that because we are in fashion. There's nothing safe forever in fashion.'

Mr Lagerfeld's critics say he works too hard. Colin McDowell, the fashion historian, said: 'He's rather too fertile. He tosses out ideas but doesn't think them through.'

Mr McDowell criticised the designer's work for Chanel, which has recently included jackets in denim.

'He has rampaged in jackboots through the controlled, understated Chanel philosophy. It's like painting over the Sistine Chapel.' However, Mr Lagerfeld scoffs at such a suggestion. 'Fashion exists to be destroyed. If everybody did everything with respect, we would go nowhere.'

At Chloe, the designer revived the soft, floaty, layered looks that he championed in the Seventies. Mr Lagerfeld originally designed for Chloe until 1982, when he moved to Chanel.

This season, he explained, he was returning to his roots with a 'soft and reflective, but contemporary' collection.

Mr Lagerfeld's own company was acquired last June by Dunhill Holdings, the British luxury goods company that also owns Chloe.

The Karl Lagerfeld collection, shown yesterday in Paris, was not so soft in mood, but still drew inspiration from the Seventies. The highlights were black, tiered, transparent, muslin trouser- skirts, worn with long, flared and belted jackets.

It was, to use a word much favoured by the designer, 'modern' in every way. Backstage, Mr Lagerfeld was quickly away, the black fan whirring. He had other collections to design, other books to read.

(Photograph omitted)