Karl Lagerfeld’s: “A Line of Beauty” drawn between iconic designs and a history of bigotry

The late designer’s undeniable talent contributed to the fashion industry for decades but his legacy is shrouded in misogyny, homophobia, weight stigma, racism, and Islamophobia. As the fashion industry proclaims to be changing for the better, why are some people above accountability?

It’s a steady countdown to one of the most if not the most important fashion events of the year, the Costume Institute Benefit otherwise known as The Met Gala –- aka The First Monday in May. A charity event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City unveils a new fashion exhibition each year that has every fashion elite and celebrity bringing their most captivating interpretation of the theme and every fashion lover (and hater) watching religiously and rating the looks presented on the iconic stairs.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at the 2021 Met Gala

An event that is no stranger to controversy, this year was no different after the 2023 spring exhibition was unveiled as “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” Lagerfeld was a groundbreaking designer with a career spanning decades but is best known for his work as Chanel’s creative director from 1983 until his death in 2019. 

(Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
Black Lives Matter protesters are arrested outside The Met Gala on September 13, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Actress and outspoken activist Jameela Jamil stated, “This man… was indeed, supremely talented, but used his platform in such a distinctly hateful way, mostly towards women, so repeatedly and up until the last years of his life, showing no remorse, offering no atonement, no apology, no help to groups he attacked… there was no explanation for his cruel outbursts.” 

In 2013, while changing his initial thoughts on same-sex marriage, Lagerfeld said he was “less keen” on same-sex couples being allowed to adopt.

Lagerfeld was extremely open about his opinions on weight stigma throughout his career. When asked about the French healthcare system on Le Grand 8, a French television channel, he said that “the hole in social security, it’s also (due to) all the diseases caught by people who are too fat.”

As runways became slightly more body-inclusive Lagerfeld never changed his model casting to include models with larger sizes and stated that “no one wants to see curvy women on the runway.” He had made waves in the media after publicly commenting on many famous women’s appearances, such as Adele, Lana Del Rey, and Heidi Klum.

In 2017 on the French television show “Salut les Terriens,” Lagerfeld said that accepting so many refugees was a ‘huge error’ after former German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed Syrian refugees to enter the country in 2015.

“One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place.” Lagerfeld continued by saying, “I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust’.”

In a 2018 interview with Numéro Lagerfeld defended stylist Karl Templer, who had been accused by multiple models of sexual misconduct.

“I’m fed up with it…What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened,” he said when asked about the #METOO movement. “I read somewhere that now you must ask a model if she is comfortable with posing. It’s simply too much; from now on, as a designer, you can’t do anything.”

He went on to say, “It’s unbelievable. If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”

#METOO march Sep 27th 2018 via The Economist

Jamil added in an IG post, “Those groups were women who were sexually assaulted, the entire Me Too movement, gay couples who wanted to adopt, all fat people, specifically fat women, and some of his greatest harm was against Muslim refugees, and the disgusting way he spoke about people fleeing their homes for fear of their lives. Why is THIS who we celebrate when there are so many AMAZING designers out there who aren’t bigoted white men?”