Karl Lagerfeld: An Unpopular Opinion

Karl Lagerfeld by Teo Yu Siang

In-between posts of praise in awe of the magnificent legacy Karl Lagerfeld left behind were a few underrated and ignored posts of anger. Screenshots of a Facebook post by user ‘KP Sarah’, were spreading through Instagram, claiming that Lagerfeld legacy is actually that of “normalizing sexual harassment”, “calling some women like Adele fat”, even “publicly calling some women ugly” not to mention his “blatant islamophobia” along with “tokenism of W.O.C (women of color) and the appropriation of their culture” and the list goes on and on.

With a quick Google search, KP Sarah’s claims start making sense.

The comments that the late designer made regarding the Holocaust and Syrian Refugees, as seen in The Guardian:

“One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,”

“I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust’”  

Lagerfeld being “fed up” by the MeToo movement as seen in The Huffington Post:

“I read somewhere that now you must ask a model if she is comfortable with posing. It’s simply too much, from now on, as a designer, you can’t do anything.”

“It’s unbelievable. If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”

If you have read the above in disbelief, you are not alone. These comments were never ‘breaking news’ or widespread information, and never seriously harmed Lagerfeld’s reputation and stopped him from being who he was.

Politics: Personal vs. Private

Mainly, we tend to dismiss these “controversial” comments, since political views are private and separate (in this case) from the fashion world.

Political correctness is an expectation as to how we expect celebrities to act. Political views are becoming less and less associated with the realm of the personal, but are rather looked at as essential attributes which compose who that person is. Many would argue against this, and call for separation, but the question that would then arise is: to what extent is there a separation between politics and human decency? If these people’s political views are indecent, is it fine to turn a blind eye on them because they are ‘personal’? Should they not be held accountable for lacking humanity?

By advocating for this sharp separation; or that is any separation of the sort is similar to excusing the Nazi for their crimes, and claim that their motives were simply political rather than personal. With making claims to separate these two spheres, we are indirectly justifying inhumanity, be it on a smaller scale like Karl Lagerfeld’s hidden side or on a grand political scale such as the Third Reich.

The Art vs. The Artist

Even if politics are given the importance they should, many would argue that this still does not matter since the artist is independent from the art they produce.

When the artist is not who you expect them to be, it becomes pretty easy to separate the two. Lagerfeld was a genius in the fashion industry, a crucial element within that world; it would be very difficult to dismiss his great contributions due to the realities of his character. Yet, if he was a great person, there would be no hesitation to put him on a pedestal and I would even expect nationalist to provide him with all kinds of hyperbolic labels and shrines. What remains mind boggling, is that he was not the necessarily a decent human being, but the line between praising him as an artist and his artwork remain blurred.

In minority communities, the separation seems to be less as art is understood a tool of presence, a way that these minorities attempt to be seen by the world. The success of the artist no longer becomes a personal manner, but rather a step forwards for the community as a whole. The same concept is also applied vice-versa, if an artist from a minority was as “controversial” as Lagerfeld, it seems unrealistic to assume that this would not have had a much larger impact on their careers (and implicitly on the community as whole).

Is it easy to ignore Lagerfeld’s character because he is not just independent of his art, but of his privileged community. In the sense that, his controversies are not crucial to the development of where he comes from (on the contrary, his community is the one that is idealized as the moving target of development which the rest of the world are taught to catch up to). Are we just programmed to forgive the white man? Or even, believe he is not capable of being anything less than ideal, anything less than what we aspire to be.  

For more information about Lagerfeld’s Controversy







1 Comment

  • One could appreciate the art, but not admire the artist very much. However, I don’t think most people can do that. This kind of reminded me of Shakespeare; some people recognize/d him as a “ruthless businessman”. Still, most people solely recognize/d him as a “creative genius”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *