I remember Karl Lagerfeld when he was middle-aged. In those days, the comfortable spread of his years was well managed beneath an exquisite bespoke suit, rather like a Swiss banker with an eccentric 18th-century hairdo. He would glide out at the end of the Chanel show, give a few senatorial nods and go backstage again.
Then he decided he wanted to wear a different style of clothes, went on a diet and the portly uncle metamorphosed into fashion’s Steven Tyler, all skinny hips and tight pants. But chic.
In thigh-hugging black jeans finished off by flattering chunky boots and narrow jackets – with rather bizarre fingerless leather mittens and chunky silver rings by the kilo – he has left mid-life behind. He is ageless. The last time I saw a Chanel show, he strutted out at the end, and walked the entire runway.
He is 73 (and Wikipedia has his age wrong, so don’t believe everything you read on there). But who’s counting? His brain is firmly in the now and we can all learn from his fashion transformation.
To help us do it, Karl – and it no longer feels right to call him ‘Kaiser Karl’, as we fashion writers used to, because that’s an old man’s title – has brought out a range of clothes not only in his name, but in his image.
It is a capsule collection, named Karl, of the urban chic basics that he wears – jeggings, skinny jeans, T-shirts, biker jackets, razor blazers – plus the slightly odd Eton collars and leather mittens. Some of it is a bit on the young side, but the overall feel is a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, a little bit sportif; spot on for the Bloomer.
It’s a joint venture with Net-a-Porter, the smartest online fashion retailer, which is also leading the game with the world’s best digital fashion magazine. It’s a perfect match for a man in love with the new.
In the site’s must-see video (see below), in which Karl interviews himself (hilariously), he says: “I never talk about the good old days. I’m not sure they were that good, just old. Everything I hadn’t known before interests me more than everything I had seen in my life.”
I really can’t think of a better philosophy for ageing by.
You could argue, of course, that for someone so refreshingly anti-nostalgic, the rock style at the basis of his look is nostalgic in itself. It has been pretty much the same since the mid-1960s. But really it has transcended trend. Musicians in their twenties today wear pretty much what Led Zeppelin wore. Not in tribute, but as a tribal signifier. It’s not a style so much as a state of mind.
Which is why I think the rocker spirit, combined with a perfectly cut jacket and either designer trainers or clumpy boots, plus shades, is the look that defines our generation – for men and women.
I like to think we’ll all be quaintly wearing it until the end; that it will become what old duffers wear, just as our grandparents wore tailoring and cardigans.
And who better to lead the way than Mr Karl?
All items from Net-a-Porter