Met Gala 2023 live updates: Red Carpet fashion news and photos

Karl Lagerfeld, the German-born fashion designer who was the subject of this year’s Met Gala, loved wrangling in court, and his accomplishments on the runway were often outweighed by blunders and deafening remarks.

His missteps could be massive — literally. Think of the 28-foot “Iceberg” that towered majestically over his fall 2010 ready-to-wear show. The piece, sculpted from 240 tons of snow and ice said to be cut from a glacier in Sweden, was intended as a commentary on global warming. But the gesture missed the mark, as it took six days and a steady 25-degree temperature to ensure blocks of ice reached his runway intact—delivered, of course, via 15 trailers.

Also clearly engraved on the fashion-conscious was the Chanel Spring 2015 show in Paris, which was organized as a feminist protest. Set as a mass scene inside the Grand Palais, it featured Cara Delevingne raising a megaphone leading a phalanx of models cheering freedom, some waving signs that read “History Is Her Story” and “Ladies First.” This stratagem raised eyebrows, and it was denounced for belittling an urgent political movement.

Mr. Lagerfeld may have shrugged his shoulders. He once claimed: “Everything I say is a joke.”

But the joke seemed to be on the designer when, in 1994, he sent Claudia Schiffer down the runway in a Chanel dress embroidered with Islamic holy text, sparking an international controversy. Mr. Lagerfeld, who said at the time he had no idea what the script meant, issued a rare apology.

He had previously been inspired by hip-hop and rap, took bling to the runway, and adorned models at Chanel’s fall 1991 show in massive gold chains. Critics have claimed cultural appropriation (although that term has not yet become the buzzword it is today).

There was no apology after that. “The rappers speak the truth,” said Mr. Lagerfeld after the show. “This is what we need now.” A few years later, the designer, who appeared in a music video with Snoop Dogg, revisited rapping, and a Chanel show in spring 1994 was replete with chains and other ill-conceived references to gang affiliations.

Determined to ruffle feathers, in the early ’90s Mr. Lagerfeld cast Italian porn star Moana Pozzi at a Fendi show. At least one of his guests walked out in a huff, but the designer seemed unfazed. “I admire porn actors,” he told Vice in 2010, adding, “There would be more crimes without prostitutes and without porn movies.”

Other statements were equally provocative, delivered with a self-affirmation that bears no contradiction. Some of it was in keeping with Mr. Lagerfeld’s persona, which seemed a deliberate parody of the bossy fashion designer of the late 20th century. “I’m like a caricature of myself,” he said, “and I love that.” “It’s like a mask.”

Under this mask, there is sometimes real cruelty. His unfiltered remarks betrayed some of his most reactionary convictions. Known for his obesity phobia, he defended his use of size 0 models, claiming in 2009 that “nobody wants to see chubby women.”

On another occasion, he explained, “You have fat moms with their bags of chips sitting in front of the TV saying skinny models are ugly.” Obviously, he said, fashion was never meant for them.

Mr. Lagerfeld hasn’t been a fan of the #MeToo movement either, inquiring in a 2018 interview why some women take years to publicly share their stories of sexual assault. “I’m sick of it,” he told Numero magazine. “What shocks me most about all of this is the stars who took 20 years to remember what happened. Not to mention the lack of corroborating witnesses.”

Same-sex marriage was another target. “I am against it for a very simple reason,” he said in 2010. “In the 1960s, they all said we had the right to be different. Now, all of a sudden, they want a bourgeois life.”

Only a few venerable icons were spared from his contempt. In an interview with New York Magazine, he said of Diana, Princess of Wales, “She was beautiful and she was kind, but she was dumb.” Nor did he hold back Andy Warhol: “I don’t have to say this, but physically, it was disgusting.”

He admired Kate Middleton, but not her sister Pippa, saying that he did not like her face and that she “should only show her back”. As for Lana Del Rey’s “Is She Built With All Her Implants?”

Mr. Lagerfeld is often hard on himself.

He claimed that he had no vaunted ideals. “My only ambition is to wear size 28 jeans,” he said. He did not write memoirs: “I have nothing to say,” he stated emphatically. As he hinted, contentment often eluded him.

As he puts it, “I’m the kind of fiend who never orgasms.”

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