The Met Gala, also known as The First Monday in May, is one of the biggest fashion nights of the year in support of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This year’s Costume Institute exhibition, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” is an homage to the life and work of the German-born icon who designed for fashion houses such as Balmain, Patou, Fendi, Chloe, Chanel, and even his namesake brand. His longest-standing stint was with Chanel, which he helmed from 1983 until he died in 2019.
Over the years, Lagerfeld had many muses. Before we start, I want to make clear the role of a muse for a fashion designer. The term can mean many things but by definition, it is someone who inspires and is close with a designer. It’s a special relationship and unique to each individual. Here were a few of his favorite.
1. André Leon Talley
While some may say that André Leon Talley was more of a companion than a muse, he still fits the bill. According to his memoir, “The Chiffon Trenches,” the two met by chance in 1975 in N.Y. and struck up a friendship that lasted for decades until they fell out. Lagerfeld, like many, was impressed by Talley’s knowledge of fashion history and would often make him custom Chanel couture pieces, a few of which were auctioned off in “The Collection of André Leon Talley” estate sale.
2. Kimora Lee Simmons
Before marrying Russell Simmons and launching her clothing line Baby Phat, Kimora Lee Simmons was an up-and-coming model. She made history when she signed an exclusive contract with Chanel at age 13 and is still the youngest Chanel Haute Couture bride of all time (It’s a tradition for the closing look in a couture collection to be a wedding gown).
3. Pharrell Williams
Chanel and Pharrell need no introduction. The nickname “Chanel Pharrell,” coined by Lagerfeld, was the culmination of years of friendship between the fashion house and the famous entertainer. Pharrell was the first man to be featured in a Chanel campaign twice and even walked the runway. The Chanel Pharrell Collection in 2019 was the first-ever unisex collection from the brand and the last sanctioned by Lagerfeld before he passed.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a designer who wouldn’t count Rihanna as a muse, but her relationship with Lagerfeld was different. She attended many of his shows in Paris and was often seen remixing his runway looks in her typical fashion. When he passed away, Ri took to Instagram and posted photos calling him the “Godfather.”
K-pop musician and PEACEMINUSONE designer G-Dragon regularly attended Chanel shows and was designated brand ambassador in 2017 followed by an ad campaign. Since then, he has continuously worn the brand in unique ways and has done multiple editorials in Chanel.
6. Willow Smith
Lagerfeld was very diverse in his taste and selection of house muses, so it was no surprise when he announced Willow Smith, the daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, as an ambassador in 2016. She went on to star in an eyewear campaign for the brand and had this to say about him after he passed: “Karl Lagerfeld was a visionary and deeply passionate artist. I continue to be inspired by his memory. I’m honored and immensely grateful that I got to spend precious moments with him creating beautiful art.”
7. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj has long expressed her love for all things Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld. In July 2018, she was photographed by him in his Parisian apartment for an Elle magazine cover story, a feat reserved for a chosen few. The next year she followed up with her “Fendi Prints On” collaboration with Fendi, a 127-piece collection ranging from ready-to-wear and accessories.
Stay tuned for all the tribute looks from the 2023 Met Gala honoring the life and work of Karl Lagerfeld.
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