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death of the fashion personality karl lagerfeld

What’s happened to fashion’s personalities?

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death of the fashion personality karl lagerfeldAs the gavel came down in New York, and the memorial service ended in London, fashion said goodbye to two of its biggest and most recognisable personalities.

The Collection of André Leon Talley, one of Anna Wintour’s most trusted editors at American Vogue, featuring artworks by Warhol – Talley worked at his magazine, Interview – and ALT monogrammed luggage (lots of it) was sold by Christie’s in New York. Talley’s larger-than-life character and presence, not to mention his kaftans and fur, made him an instant fashion celebrity. On first name terms with the world, the collection smashed estimates, fetching nearly $1.4 Million.

In London, the grand dame of British fashion, Vivienne Westwood, was remembered at a memorial service at Southwark Cathedral. Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and many others, turned out to pay their respects to somebody whose image and anarchic actions were bigger than her brand.

These are just two of the many big personalities the fashion industry has lost recently and doesn’t seem to be replacing. On a domestic UK level, the industry just lost Hilary Alexander, a well known UK fashion editor famous for working at The Daily Telegraph who was recognised from catwalk to TV.

It could be a sign of our bland and boring times, but people just aren’t standing out?

There was time when you would recognise all of the front-row editors and designers just from a silhouette. People like Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace and Anna Wintour catwalked out of the fashion bubble and into popular culture. Imagine if they made another Zoolander today, who from the last ten years would be in it?

These people are questions in quizzes. These are people you’d dress up as for Halloween. Love them or loathe them, they were/are ridiculous. That’s why people remember them. 

People get away with a lot less today. Bad behaviour or diva-antics won’t be tolerated anymore and we’ve lost the personalities to go with it. Everything has become a single note. Today’s fashion editors are too busy juggling multiple publications to perfect their image or standout for either the right or wrong reasons. Even Condé Nast is leaving its historic Vogue House on London’s Hanover Square in 2024 while busily amalgamating many of its issues to run with fewer or less influential editors. Remember Carine Roitfeld or Franca Sozzani? 

Models are dropped after one season and designers either struggle to make it under their own name or are dismissed the minute sales start to slow at corporate-owned fashion houses.

The irony is that social media hasn’t made new fashion industry people anymore visible. Everybody has become so disposable they haven’t time to make themselves known. They’ve become as throwaway as fashion itself. It’s as though they have been crowded out by all the other noise and each other. 

One the ultimate fashion personalities, Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away in 2019, will be remembered with his own show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this summer when ‘Fashion Christmas’ arrives on the first Monday in May at the Met Gala. 

This is the ultimate accolade for one the fashion industry’s biggest personalities. From his black fan to his Georgian bun to Choupette, the most pampered cat in the world, it’s the ridiculousness that we all love and embrace. When this new show – A Line of Beauty – opens, the red carpet will be a tribute to this giant of a personality who became a caricature of himself. Larger than the brands he worked for – Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel – he lives on and will only get bigger through this.

While you wouldn’t necessarily wish to be around many of these fashion egos on a daily basis, it created a set of characters that transcended the industry and took fashion out into the wider world. It made ‘fashion’ bigger. An often lampooned collection of individuals who stood out from all the rest, the world is a poorer place without this pantheon of personalties.

Diet Coke, anybody?!