Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Karl Lagerfeld Principle

Karl Lagerfeld gets it. He knows a very important secret about fashion and how to keep an iconic brand fresh: there is very little difference between young and old. Imagine your favorites from a KL Chanel collection, now imagine them being worn by first, your grandmother and then a subversive teenager. They just work, for both women. This is the magic of Karl Lagerfeld. His act of genius is not creating a collection for two dissimilar women—I maintain that the two have much in common, as I'll explain below—but in understanding their similarities.

What does a "women of a certain age" have in common with disaffected youth? Too much. For starters, no one can tell either of them "no," really, either you wouldn't think to, or it wouldn't matter if you did. Second, these two phases of life are, I think, the two times in a woman's life when she can most easily let herself be free. Without the constraints of a "real" job—neither the Orange Julius nor Junior League count as "real" for my purposes—or family she is free to be, and dress for, herself. Don't like shocking pink, or her careless mix of Mum's good, and bright plastic jewelry? Tough. She's got headphones, or is a wee bit hard of hearing. Furthermore, you're out of her will.

Monsieur could never let Chanel stagnate, his looks are ever-fresh because he understands the fashion-forward qualities of frumpy. A Chanel box coat might be one of those classic pieces that "every woman should own", but it is also one that looks best on the very young or old. Purple high heels, an enormous hat or over-the-top broach all tend to look silly on middle-aged career women.

This is perhaps also true of the iconic fragrance Chanel No. 5, which is as challenging to wear as it is venerable. (Could there be anything worse then smelling like your sweetheart's favorite aunt?) The magic of age can make No. 5 your obvious potion of choice provided you, and your beau, are old or young enough for the fragrance to stand on its own merits.

I can think of no better poster girls for this concept than the Olsen twins. I was tempted to do a little bit of creative Photoshop work on these images to age the girls, but I don't think it's necessary. Do you agree?

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