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© Julia Hetta
Sketch of CHANEL coat, Fall-Winter 2014/15 Haute Couture; Courtesy Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris.
Runway image of CHANEL Coat, Fall-Winter 2014/15 Haute Couture. Photo: Dominique Charriau / WireImage/ Getty Images

Without exaggerating, Karl Lagerfeld (1933 to 2019) can be said to have created a unique oeuvre with his designs for such renowned brands as Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel and his own label. The Hamburg-born couturier, who was also a successful photographer and costume designer, has often visited the Costume Institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, not only on the occasion of the Chanel exhibition in 2005. Now the Costume Institute is examining the work of the world-famous fashion designer in its spring exhibition. It focuses on Lagerfeld’s stylistic vocabulary as expressed in the design themes that recur in his fashion from the 1950s to his latest collection in 2019. Lagerfeld’s individual way of working will also be illuminated. The exhibition entitled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” will bring together around 150 original looks from all the brands Lagerfeld worked for in the table gallery of the Met Fifth Avenue from 5 May to 16 July. To trace his complex creative process, they will be presented together with the respective original sketches. The exhibition architecture was designed by Tadao Ando.

Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Costume Institute, told Vogue: “Well, one thing was clear to me: we can’t do a traditional retrospective. For one thing, I think Karl would have hated that. Although he worked like a historian, he always looked to the future in his work – he hated looking back at the past. He had a very ambivalent relationship with that.” This is one of the reasons Bolton has focused on the creative journey from Lagerfeld’s two-dimensional drawings to three-dimensional garments. “I always thought,” says the curator, “that his drawings were very spontaneous and almost impressionistic. But in reality they were extremely precise, almost mathematical. We couldn’t see it because we’re not trained, but his seamstresses knew down to the millimetre what each line meant. It was almost like a secret code, a common language between him and these dressmakers that only they could fully decipher.”

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