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Fashion Critic Slams Karl Lagerfeld


Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robin Givhan takes on the myth of Karl Lagerfeld.

I love Robin Givhan, the hard-nosed writer (and only person to have won a Pulitzer for fashion criticism), who currently contributes her thoughts on fashion in all its iterations to The Daily Beast. I also love Karl Lagerfeld, the man behind Chanel, Fendi and a slew of other stylish side projects. But it seems that these two loves of mine may not see eye-to-eye. Or at very least, I can say with a degree of confidence that Givhan isn't the world's biggest fan of Lagerfeld's work. In a lengthy Op-Ed piece that questions the seeming omnipotence of him,she posits that Lagerfeld, while ubiquitous and lauded for his polymathic career, isn't so much a designer as a wizard of appropriation and curation. To be perfectly honest, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. Lagerfeld seems to be so finely attuned to what women want, and understands the industry in which he works with a canny prescience. Givhan, though, makes a strong case against his canon, citing that he merely re-interprets Coco Chanel's classic ideas, yet never really makes them his own. She also fears that his constant overexposure and focus on self-promotion as an iconic figure ultimately positions him as a pop culture personality, which overshadows the work. Givhan is no novice, and she has mulitple points and consults many sources in order to support this thesis. I'm conflicted now, because I love The Kaiser, and what he represents, but with zingers like: "What Lagerfeld did not do is add to the [Chanel] vocabulary itself. If a great designer is judged by a silhouette he has popularized, a sensibility he has nurtured, or an aesthetic that is unmistakably his own, then Lagerfeld has failed." and "The collection will look like Chanel with all the expected signposts. A riff is not a reinvention. A jazz musician may do his own improvisation on "Take the A Train," but it remains Billy Strayhorn's song," Givhan brings some potent ideas to light. Eek. What do you think? Is Lagerfeld a brilliant mind whose vision is often in harmony with the zeitgeist at large, or is he merely a collagist, piecing previous successes of others together and reaping the rewards? I'm still mulling it over, but there's no easy answer here, should you ask me. Read the full piece here, it's worth examining.

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