Style Becoming Karl Lagerfeld: The Miniseries on the Kaiser of Fashion

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld: The Miniseries on the Kaiser of Fashion

La miniserie in sei puntate si concentra sulla vita del designer tedesco prima del successo planetario al timone di Chanel
Anna Frattini

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, the miniseries dedicated to the designer during his pre-Chanel era, was released less than a week ago, and we immediately rushed to watch it. After all, following the release of Cristóbal Balenciaga (which we greatly enjoyed), we couldn’t wait to relive the story of the Kaiser on Disney+. In just six episodes – definitely too few – the TV series manages to showcase an unimaginable number of legendary characters from the fashion scene (and beyond) in 1970s Paris. We see the eclectic Anna Piaggi, the fragile Yves Saint Laurent alongside Lagerfeld’s sworn enemy Pierre Bergé, and the charming (and unruly) Jacques de Bascher. Additionally, Andy Warhol, Marlene Dietrich, Paloma Picasso, and many others appear, either supporting or opposing the protagonist as he heads towards global success. The arrival of this miniseries on Disney+ coincides almost with the announcement of Virginie Viard’s departure from Chanel, the creative director who was once Lagerfeld’s right hand for many years. Becoming Karl Lagerfeld thus seems the perfect opportunity not only to decipher the mystery behind one of the most complex men in the fashion world but also to reflect on the challenges faced by the man who would change the trajectory of Chanel’s history, and – to be fair – on his time at Chloé.

Karl Lagerfeld’s Wardrobe in the Miniseries

At the beginning of the miniseries, Karl Lagerfeld is quite different from the Karl Lagerfeld of later years, the one with Choupette in his arms, white hair, and very dark sunglasses. We are in the early 1970s, specifically in 1972, and the Kaiser is thirty-eight years old but already wears the legendary “pirate” boots that he initially designed for Chloé and which, over time, would become a key element of the wardrobe he envisioned for Chanel. As mentioned in Alice Abbiadati‘s interview with Pascaline Chavanne on Vogue, the costume designer for the miniseries, the costume research was also guided by the encounter between the actor (Daniel Brühl) and the character, in the case of Karl. As Chavanne herself stated, almost nothing is known about the Kaiser’s style at the beginning of his career when he was described as a mercenary of prêt-à-porter. The adaptation of his wardrobe in the miniseries therefore remains one of the greatest challenges for the costume designer. In the same interview with Abbiadati, Chavanne emphasizes how important it was «to distance myeself» and create her own universe for the series.

Behind the Story of the Mercenary of Prêt-à-Porter

The miniseries, born from the adaptation of the bestseller Kaiser Karl (a title that was supposed to remain for the miniseries) written by Raphaëlle Bacqué, also tells of a Karl Lagerfeld dedicated to work, who, in his role as a mercenary of prêt-à-porter, is almost always alone in facing the challenges of a life destined to enter the history books of fashion. Solitude and abstention from all vices tell his story from a perspective that is certainly unexpected for those who do not know the German designer’s history deeply before his global success at the helm of Chanel. Previously, there was his creative direction at Chloé, his collaboration with Fendi – which lasted until the day of his death – and even earlier, the frustration due to the fierce competition with the unruly genius of Saint Laurent. The result is a biopic curated in every detail, perfect for fashion lovers – but especially for who wants to relive (or witness) the magic of the Seventies. Meanwhile, we dream of a second season of Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, perhaps with some scenes set in the Monaco apartment we talked about some time ago – completely furnished by Ettore Sottsass.

ph. courtesy Disney+

Written by Anna Frattini
Listen on