Karl Lagerfeld is Paris' big idea man. While other designers sift trends and come up with modern, attractive ways to wear established clothing, Lagerfeld keeps busy inventing entirely new clothes that never occurred to anyone else. He's the rare designer who starts each season from scratch promising his customer that while nothing she already owns of his is likely to go out of date (since others are just starting to copy it), each season's collection is a composition of new ideas.
In the past he dreamed up unlined and shapeless clothing with layers acting as lining for each other or worn independently. The dress in two parts that ties on each side of the waist was his idea and so was a brand new construction concept of putting sleeves into a coat by attaching them to the collar rather than sewing them to the body of the coat.
The ideas flow nonstop in his current collection. And even when they are based on a romantic personality like the sister of Louis XIV, the grande mademoiselle who wore britches under her dresses, he does them in a modern way. Said Sara Middleman of Saks Fifth Avenue, "He has created some of the most beautiful dresses I have seen in my life. They are like christening dresses."
So what else is new at Lagerfeld."
A dress that can be worn upside down and right side up with the big collar that ties to let you wrap the floppy collar around the neck. Worn upside down the dress is strapless and the sleeves tie around the waist, ("the world is a little upside down at times so clothes can be too," he says).
Using a very old-fashioned silk formerly used for ties and men's bathrobes, he has made an unlined skirt of just one piece (no seams at all) that wraps around the waist and doesn't flare open. Hiked up on the body it becomes a strapless dress.
He's big on transparent clothes ( to wear only at home) and does them in tulle with appliqued bands of another layer of tulle that gives a more cloud-like cover than a see-through effect. For under them he has created what he calls a French body suit which is knee-length in silk or cotton knit.
His pants cut off above the ankle to show off his new shoes that are really not sliipers at all, but soles. You can wear these fabric sliipers (virtually the shape of peds) strapped onto flat shoes or cone-shaped cork heels, or, of course, wear them as slippers at home. It means you can have an endless variety of shoes just by having lots of different slippers (far cheaper than hafing different shoes) and slipping them into flats or heels.
A new place to wear a scarf is at the heel. To freshen up last year's shoes or add variety to new ones, Lagerfeld has tied a shaped cotton scarf at the heel, in prints or solids. A great way to use old cotton squares.
In his collection for Choloe, Lagerfeld shows his blouses and dresses often with broad shoulders and a fit close to the chest before flaring out, in contrast to his very full dresses which preceded this season's tent shapes.
And for his successor to the very successful Casanova styles of six months ago, now selling well in Washington and elsewhere in the original as well as cheaper copies, Lagerfeld has done the look of the grande made-moiselle, the sister of Louis XIV who led a small revolution, as Lagerfeld says, and he has borrowed her style of petticoat breeches for some of his evening clothes with pants worn under a skirt.
Over many of his clothes he has put unlined dusters (coats) meant to be protection to make the clothes last longer, but also to make the wearer more anonymous when wearing such luxury styles. Such dusters would hide elaborate jewelry, Lagerfeld explained.
Lagerfeld likes to see women mix styles as he mixed his own clothes. For example this week he was wearing his hair in a pigtail, a pink chiffon scarf at his neck, a corduroy jacket over a corduroy double-breasted vest over a starches cotton wing-collar shirt, and cotton poplin pnats.
"There is no such thing as making a mistake in what you wear today," says one of the most successful designers today. To make a mistake you need laws and today there are no laws.
"Besides," says Lagerfeld, "It is full to make a mistake. At least it shows you tried."
Lagerfeld pauses and then adds, "Fun and humor are the most important things in life. If you don't have fun and humor you don't have much."