Among the most influential of contemporary couturiers, Karl Lagerfeld is revered in fashion circles for his imagination, innovation, and relentless energy. Though he creates his own eponymous clothing lines, Lagerfeld is unique among major fashion designers for having cultivated an iconic reputation working at a variety of established labels. Moving from Chloé to Fendi to the legendary house of Chanel, he revitalized each in turn, becoming so famous in the process that three days after his 2004 collaboration with H&M went on sale at the 34th Street location, nothing remained but a few T-shirts decorated with a caricature of his face—size XXL only.
Lagerfeld Confidential opens with the designer en famille in his sumptuous Paris apartment, an elegant chaos of books, photographs, and supremely tasteful furniture bathed in the ineffably delicate glow cast by an impossibly chic set of Flavinesque light fixtures. Emerging in his trademark uniform—head-to-toe black, bulky sunglasses, bright white ponytail—Lagerfeld riffles through overflowing trays of chunky silver rings, places three or four on each finger, then scoops a generous handful into a silver travel purse. With a fresh Edwardian collar chosen from a well-stocked dresser drawer, the look is complete, and Lagerfeld sets off to board his private jet.
Filmmaker Rodolphe Marconi follows Lagerfeld as he crisscrosses the globe, touching down at various soirees, runways, hot spots, and fabulous rendezvous. Confidential never bothers to specify the where, when, and why of all this dizzy business, presenting the life of Lagerfeld as an impressionistic blur of jet-set scintillations alternating with quieter moments relaxing at home, sketching in his studio, and answering questions for the camera.
Marconi’s indifference to detail extends to any consideration of what, exactly, Lagerfeld does for a living, not to mention the history of his rise in the fashion world. We do, however, learn what he purchased on a visit to the Dior Homme boutique on 57th Street (a shiny gold jacket), the age at which he was first sexually active (13), and his views on prostitution (pro) and gay marriage (con: too bourgeois). Confidential may not be the place to learn of Lagerfeld’s contribution to the art of fashion, but there’s abundant evidence presented on his contribution to the art of the epigram: “Fashion is ephemeral, dangerous, and unfair.” “Success nullifies.” “People with turbulent lives who spend their time on the phone are sexual freelancers.”