Baroque and Bildung in the Creative Practice and Personal Style of Karl Lagerfeld: Towards a Biographical Reinstatement of the Individual Designer

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German-born, Paris-based Karl Lagerfeld was one of fashion's most remarkable figures. Lagerfeld's great versatility provides us with a unique opportunity, within fashion studies, for inter-disciplinary researches. For the elucidation of essential qualities of Lagerfeld's individual creative practice and personal style, we consider the value of a biographical approach and "intellectual" and "existential" varieties of biography. We then analyze Lagerfeld's predilection for the eighteenth century, as manifested in his statements, material surroundings, fashion design, photography, and personal style, for evidence of what had primarily influenced him, intellectually, conceptually, and esthetically. Particularly pertinent are the dual strands of Lagerfeld's mind-set, which we have termed "Baroque" and "Bildung". Thus, we look into the significance for Lagerfeld of Baroque allegory and folds, and Rococo Zweiseitigkeit (two-sidedness); and of Bildung self-formation with the acquisition of new cultural knowledge as a wellspring of Lagerfeld's fashion historicism and future-orientedness. Where it concerns Lagerfeld's historicism, we note some correlations between "Baroque" and "Bildung". We conclude that an intellectual/existential interplay of his "Baroque" and "Bildung" strands had translated into an esthetic holism marked by allegorization and historicism on the part of Lagerfeld.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFashion Theory
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)633-661
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Karl Lagerfeld 1933-2019, Baroque, Rococo, Bildung, Biography, Allegory, Historicism, Fashion historicism, Fashion and Art, Emblematics, Cultural history, Fashion design, Fashion theory, Fashion history, Biographical methods, 18th century, Theories of Bildung, Bildungsroman, Historicism, historicity, philosophy of history, The Fold, Adolph von Menzel, Baroque art and fashion, Rococo art, interior design and fashion, Biography and fashion designers, Goût Rothschild, Post-modernism, Fashion culture, Fashion photography

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