‘Old Buddha’ of fashion

By Liu Zhongyin and Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/20 19:23:40

Chinese designers and fans mourn the passing of Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld poses for a picture in Shanghai on December 6, 2009. Photo: VCG

Members of the Chinese fashion world and fans are mourning the death of Karl Lagerfeld, the famous Chanel and Fendi designer who passed away on Tuesday. 

With his signature white ponytail and black suit and glasses, Lagerfeld presented a spirit of coolness and individuality that, according to interviews with former schoolmates, made him stand out since he was a child. 

In China, Lagerfeld is known by the nickname laofoye (Old Buddha), the very same nickname for the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Empress Dowager Cixi, the de facto ruler of China from 1861 to her death in 1908.  

Paying tribute 

The news of his death spread rapidly throughout China after it hit the internet. A number of Chinese celebrities such as supermodel Liu Wen and actress Zhou Xun, as well as many ordinary Chinese netizens paid their respects to the late designer in posts on social media.

In a post on Sina Weibo, Liu wrote, "I still remember the excitement of wearing his clothes for the first time in 2008. Karl Lagerfeld was just like a meteor. He left us a wonderful era! Everyone gets old, but fashion never gets old!"

"It was my privilege to work with Mr Lagerfeld for more than a decade, and I admired his professionalism and dedication," Zhou, who was chosen as a Chanel ambassador in 2011, wrote in a Sina Weibo post.

As a multitude of netizens paid tribute to Lagerfeld online, many netizens began commemorating the designer by posting photos of all the Chanel products they possess with the hashtag "How many Chanel items have you bought so far?"

"I was so sad after I learned he had passed. He was not only a designer but a pioneer who represented a fashion generation," posted XavierJiesijun, a well-known fashion blogger, on Sina Weibo. 

"I truly didn't expect him to pass away so suddenly. This great designer never stopped working until his death," another fashion blogger MissCharmingDaxiaojie, also a Chanel fan, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Gigi, a Chinese student pursuing her MA in Fashion Enterprise and Society in the UK, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Lagerfeld's work at Chanel and Fendi turned those brands into two of the most recognizable names in fashion. 

"Thanks to him, we all know 'Chanel Style,'" she said, noting that she believes designers who were influenced by Lagerfeld would go on to make more great works.

Chasing perfection 

Having signed lifelong time contracts with two high-end luxury brands Chanel and Fendi, Lagerfeld's connection with China grew ever tighter with each promotional activity he held in the country. 

In 2007, he held a Fendi fashion show atop the Great Wall of China, 11 years earlier than Pierre Cardin's Great Wall Show commemorating its 40th year in China. 

His Chanel fashion show in 2009 in Shanghai incorporated classic Chinese elements such as cheongsam dresses and silk into his designs. 

During his visits to China, some Chinese fashion industry professions had the opportunity to meet or work with him. In their minds, he was an energetic artist who always chased perfection.

"It was really touching to see him always in the pursuit of a higher artistic level and continuously releasing something new and inspiring," said renowned Chinese stylist/designer Christopher Bu.

Bu recalled working with Lagerfeld for a photo shoot for Elle China magazine in 2013. He noted that he felt extremely nervous when he realized that Lagerfeld was going to take photos of a model for whom he just did the hair and make-up. 

"Lagerfeld was so versatile and he had great aesthetic abilities because he had possessed many years of fashion experience," Bu told the Global Times.  

Bu added that the way Lagerfeld innovated on classical fashion is sure to have a continued impact on young designers.   

Xiao Xue, editor-in-chief of Elle China, also remembers that photo shoot. In a post on Sina Weibo, she noted that it was a memorable moment when Lagerfeld showed her the cover photo that he had taken just moments before. 

Lagerfeld's outlook on his career and life was also a source of inspiration to Chinese fashion professionals. 

In an interview with famous Chinese TV hostess Yang Lan in 2007, the hostess asked Lagerfeld about his concept of luxury. 

He answered: "Luxury is to be able to do what you want to do. More than possessions and things like that, real luxury, what very few people have is, a kind of freedom." 


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