Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away at the age of 85 on Tuesday, recognized that fashion was a business for provocateurs. He wielded his tongue like a weapon, which caused jaws to drop and kept his name in the headlines throughout his decades in a world known for its short attention span. Infamous for his waspish wit that was just as likely to sting as to entertain, the world-famous designer was never afraid to court controversy in the same way he courted stylish shoppers.
During his reign as fashion’s quick-witted king, he garnered attention as often with his clothes as his words. Whether he was weighing in on weight or dismissing the Me Too movement, Lagerfeld had a savvy sense for just where to poke to exact the biggest reaction. Here are five of the “Kaiser’s” most controversial quotes.
“No one wants to see curvy women on the runway.”
Lagerfeld is famous for his disdain for those who didn’t fit into the fashion industry’s exacting size standards. He stuck his foot firmly in mouth by calling Adele “too fat” and claiming that only “fat women sitting in front of televisions with their pack of crisps” criticized slim models.
The designer was even sued in 2013 for his comments about women who are overweight, according to Business Insider. Ironically, at one point, Lagerfeld was arguably one of the largest designers in the fashion industry. The Fendi designer gained weight after losing his partner to complications related to AIDS, but he eventually dropped 92 pounds so that he could fit into Hedi Slimane suits.
It’s worth noting that Lagerfeld didn’t seem to believe what he said. One of his muses, Beth Ditto, was proudly plus-sized. He also shot plus-sized burlesque star Miss Dirty Martini for V Magazine in the storied House of Chanel. His eponymous label even launched a plus-sized collection in 2018.
“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
Lagerfeld cultivated an image of a modern dandy for himself, complete with snowy white hair clubbed back in a leather wrap in a sort of imitation of an aristocratic powdered wig. Never one to look like a slouch, he expected the same from the public. When it came to making money, he wasn’t so particular. Lagerfeld designed a range of sweatpants for Fendi, Chanel, and his own line.
“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.”
Lagerfeld sparked controversy in 2018 when he dismissed the Me Too movement even as women were speaking out about their own experiences with sexual assault in the workplace. He said that he didn’t want to be left alone with “toxic” male models because they might accuse him of abuse.
— Martín Bianchi Tasso (@martinbianchi) February 19, 2019
“The worst is ugly short men. Women can be short, but for men it is impossible. It is something that they will not forgive in life – they are mean and they want to kill you.”
In 2003, the Chanel designer revealed that he has a serious aversion to short men, believing that the psychological damage of being below the average height turns them mean.
“She was pretty and she was sweet, but she was stupid.”
The German-born designer dressed Princess Diana, but that doesn’t mean he had warm feelings for her – or any of the royal family for that matter. He once said that he preferred only to see Pippa Middleton from the “back.” He is a fan of the queen, however, who he has called “flawless.”