Amanda Harlech About Karl Lagerfeld And His Fashion Method
He is an icon of the zeitgeist, an icon of the fashion world and an icon of creative genius: Karl Lagerfeld. Even though dozens of exhibitions have already been dedicated to the Hamburg genius, there has hardly been such an insight into his working methods as “Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion Method.” presents from March 28 to September 13 at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn. With more than 120 designs and accessories from his own fashion line as well as work for Chanel, Fendi and Chloé, visitors can look forward to an insight into his fashion cosmos that could not be more inspiring and impressive.
From the first sketches to the collections and the matching campaigns as well as graphic designs for the press or window displays, all the ideas surrounding Lagerfeld’s works come from his pen. We talked to the curator about Karl’s fashion method, the idea of the exhibition and her collaboration with Karl.
In conversation with Armanda Harlech
Who better to answer our questions about the exhibition “Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion Method.” better than Lagerfeld’s creative director and right-hand woman?
Amanda, how did the idea for the exhibition come about and what is the specific meaning of the subtitle “From Paper to Paper”?
The idea of the exhibition is reflected in our working title, “From Paper to Paper.” The point is: Karl has a vision, sketches his vision, the design comes to life through the clothes and finally his work ends in a photo, which in turn is also represented on paper. However, this exhibition is not meant to show how Karl designs his work. Instead, I have tried to show Karl’s creative spirit, which begins with a design on a white sheet of paper and ends in a dream.
You are also called the “outer pair of eyes” of Karl Lagerfeld. How may we interpret this designation?
Karl loves to see how others react to ideas. I think I’m very good at understanding his ideas. That, in turn, helps him see what hasn’t worked so far. But my job is much more to be in the background looking at collections, their direction and their focus; to talk about what that means would be presumptuous. But I understand very well what Karl wants to express. And every creative person needs this honest and comprehensible feedback on his work.
Karl Lagerfeld once said “I always have something to do. The more I do, the more ideas I have.” - how do you package this diversity and almost infinite creative power into an exhibition? How did you manage to determine a focus?
I didn’t want to portray Karl as a generalist, which he is; rather, I wanted to convey the idea of the tunes he plays with different orchestras, the depth of his thought processes, and the individual steps of fine tuning to be in tune with each fashion label. We know he’s done Hogan, Balmain, and H&M – those collaborations in particular stand out. But that would be another exhibition.
I rather wanted to convey an idea of the melodies he plays with different orchestras.
Walking through the exhibition, one is guided through different thematic areas, such as “Paper World” or “Studio 54”. What meaning and connections arise between these departments).
These are working titles for me. They each represent the historical and cultural background of the designs. Each section presents mannequins in different poses that reflect the spirit of the era represented. Karl’s drawings, in turn, run throughout the exhibition. First of all, the visitor sees Karl’s desk. In the truest sense of the word. We have borrowed the original for the duration of the exhibition, as well as his sketch pad, pencils, and wastebasket filled to the top with discarded sketches. The stacks and bags full of new books and magazines of his are also on display there.
The “Paper World” section shows the most extravagant haute couture dresses. This is the part of the exhibition that shows the 18th century. The 18th century is one of Karl’s favorite eras, which is reflected in his designs. These models can be seen at the beginning of “Paper World”. They resemble five Guards that protect this section of the exhibition. Probably a single example of Charles’s 18th century attractions would have sufficed. But the haute couture gowns are so charming that I didn’t want to present just one. They illustrate how Karl transposes the 18th century into a 21st century contemporary style.
Which area is your personal favorite place in the exhibition - and why?
I do not have a favorite. Everything together makes exactly the right sense.
You've known Karl Lagerfeld for many years now. What do you particularly appreciate about his personality and working with him? How can we imagine the collaboration if we got a glimpse behind the scenes?
The word that best describes him is joy. You can’t really talk about work, because it’s a pleasure to work alongside him. For him, work itself is the light. But by that I don’t mean that he’s in a privileged situation, because he works very hard.
He’s at the peak of his creative power and he’s getting stronger and stronger. That’s how it is with artists – the more they see and express, the better they get. Karl reminds me of an Olympic athlete. His curiosity knows no pause: he reads six books at a time – both new publications and old editions, such as Emily Dickinson. He devours culture in the most inspiring and creative way. Everything he takes in drives the next step to the creative process. It’s fascinating to see him jump on from a photo shoot to work on his next approach, which in turn could become the inspiration for a piece of furniture in a new home. Karl is simply one of a kind.
And where is Karl Lagerfeld currently working when his original desk, chair, pens and wastepaper basket are in the Bundeskunsthalle until the end of September? Isn't that his creative space, which he will miss during this time?
You’ll have to ask Karl.
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