Shirty tribute to fashion icon Lagerfeld

Kate Finnigan



dmg media (UK)


Paradise Now William Middleton Ebury Press £25 ★★★★★ Does the late Karl Lagerfeld need to be defended? The multi-millionaire, superstar Chanel designer, who bestrode the late 20th and early 21st Centuries in his skinny trousers, ponytail and black sunglasses and died, at 85, in 2019, said what he liked and got what he wanted. But William Middleton seems to think he’s been hard done by. There’s a shirtiness to the tone of this book that has nothing to do with the German designer’s signature high-collared garments. Middleton’s insistence that the deliverer of sharp-tongued, often misogynistic bon mots was actually rather nice to people – even some nonfamous people! – grates early on and gets more annoying with each chapter. That aside, the fashion journalist friend of Lagerfeld’s has done a mighty amount of research, providing much that is entertaining and fascinating about one of our era’s most idiosyncratic characters, from the early years with his monstrous mother, through the hedonistic whirl of Paris in the 1960s and 1970s, when he was designing for Chloé and Fendi and living like a prince. It was when Lagerfeld got his hands on Chanel in 1983 that his vision of fashion as a new superpower, and he as its president, came into force. He foresaw the cultural direction of the next millennium and rode it like a rocket becoming, in his 70s, as globally famous as the biggest rock star. There is pathos, too, in this portrait of a fiercely intelligent aesthete who decided young to hide his heart up in the attic, who lost socialite Jacques de Bascher, the love of his life, twice – first to Yves Saint Laurent and then to AIDS – and after that could only truly demonstrate his affection to a cat. All that would be enough; no need to fawn. But it seems, even in death, Monsieur Lagerfeld’s ego must be attended to.