Lagerfeld Confidential

Lagerfeld Confidential


Reviewed by: David Stanners

Few faces bear more recognition in the world of fashion than Karl Lagerfeld’s. Bearer of an iconic grey pony tail and shades, Chanel’s top boy appears every inch the fashion diva - but what really lies behind these tinted lenses?

Director Randolphe Marconi’s documentary Lagerfeld Confidential attempts to peel away a few of those mysterious layers, but if put in cosmetic surgery terms, probably only manages a light facial peel.

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There’s not much rhyme of reason to this at all. It starts off in a Parisian apartment (presumably Lagerfeld’s), as he prepares to make his way to a fashion show. Upon arrival, he flits and floats around nonchalantly kissing cheek upon cheek before making a few detailed plans for his shows. Naturally as chief designer, it’s his people on the ground whose patience and attention to painstaking detail make the shows work, something Lagerfeld is quick to point out in generous admiration. Surprisingly down to earth, Lagerfeld is extremely articulate, learned and grounded in reality, appearing to reflect one’s imagination of exactly how a fashion designer would be. That is, minus the tantrums and screaming matches generally made famous by apparently everyone who’s anyone in the fashion world. (Yes Naomi, especially you!)

Lagerfeld is surprisingly calm, nonchalant and in a strange way down to earth. Highly driven and focused on his work, he makes it clear that at the end of the day, it gets dark, and work is only work; part of his life, but not his life. A bundle of contradictions and idiosyncrasies, Lagerfeld refuses to be seen in public without his infamous sunglasses. This is very much part of the mysterious image, one which he appears reluctant to truly strip down. A master of costumes, perhaps his own mask is the most convincing of all, while his mastery of speaking a lot without really saying much seems his greatest art besides his couture collections.

He mentions the austerity of his mother when he was young growing up in Germany. Distant, and unaffectionate, he praises her for her strength and wit. Refusing to criticise her for unmaternal instincts, he praises her for her support, free will and the independent spirit she instilled in him. One can’t help but feel there may be an underlying resentment for a lack of affection, but if this does exist, then it’s again well hidden.

When pushed on his personal life and sexuality he is carefree and worldly in his response. Homosexuality is natural to him. His half-sister was a lesbian, and his parents (at least his mother) seemed to encourage independence and individuality, so it was never an issue. He won’t divulge personal relationships, although he stresses the importance of friendship, which he does not take lightly. He alludes to painful past relationships and unrequited love but goes no further.

A strong forward-thinking, pragmatic streak defines Lagerfeld in many ways, but he also acknowledges how lucky he has been in landing on his feet. Without a qualification, but with keen eye for photography and natural ability to design clothes, he joined Chanel in 1983 and transformed a ship which was “in rough shape” into a modern fashion emporium showcasing his acclaimed haute couture collections.

There’s really not a great deal to this documentary - it is flimsy in build. But then so is fashion, as Lagerfeld comments himself. Following him around from one regal mansion to the next, there are a few photo shoots of well-sculpted half-naked men, in arty poses, and far less of women, although Nicole Kidman features rather fleetingly in one of Lagerfeld’s photo shoots as one of the elite faces of the lucrative Chanel brand.

Lagerfeld is clearly happy to perpetuate his own enigmatic image by sharing only carefully selected information when the filmmaker presses him. He appears to revel in the juxtaposition of wordy aphorisms (no pun intended!), and while he is obviously a man of depth and intelligence, is quite happy floating from one apartment to the next in Paris, London or Manhattan, with home being defined as the place he’s at any one the day of the week and nothing more.

In the end, it would easy to say that what you see is what you get with Lagerfeld, but somehow I’m sure there are plenty hidden secrets tucked beneath the veneer of his Ray-Bans. Only the most dedicated followers of fashion would want to dig deeper though.

Limited appeal, and that’s definitely not confidential.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2008
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A peek behind the mysterious shades of Chanel’s iconic front man.
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Director: Randolphe Marconi

Starring: Karl Lagerfeld, Nicole Kidman

Year: 2007

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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