Karl Lagerfeld’s Problematic History Cannot Be Ignored


The Met Gala’s tribute to Karl Lagerfeld normalizes his homophobic, sexist and fatphobic views. Photo: Adam Pretty via Getty Images.

The 2023 Met Gala was held in honor of Karl Lagerfeld, arguably one of the most successful designers in the world of fashion. The carpet saw many creative tributes to the designer, but the deeply controversial history surrounding Lagerfeld has led to discussion on whether he deserved this honor.

Lagerfeld held the highest-ranking position at Chanel for three and a half decades, designing one of their most noteworthy couture collections and establishing their ready-to-wear line credited with 34.9% of the brand’s value. In 1984, he founded his own brand titled “the Karl Lagerfeld brand” while working with companies Chloé, Fendi, Balmain and Patou. Many attribute the evolution of the fashion industry to Lagerfeld’s work, but his artistry does not compensate for his many problematic beliefs.

Lagerfeld’s most notable controversy surrounds his appalling comments toward female models. In 2018, he told Numéro Magazine, “If you don’t want your pants pulled down, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent.” Considering a large percentage of the Met Gala’s attendees are models, and Lagerfeld has worked with hundreds of women during his shows, the fact that these disturbing opinions have been disregarded by the public is unacceptable.

This misogyny expressed by Lagerfeld was additionally manifested in his history of discriminating against plus-sized women, as he expressed his disdain of women larger than a size zero or two on multiple occasions. In 2009, he told Focus Magazine that “no one wants to see curvy women” in the fashion industry.

In addition to blatantly insulting plus-sized women, Lagerfeld’s disregard for influential societal movements is a common theme seen in many of his interviews. He has expressed adamant hatred of the #MeToo movement and dislike for the LGBTQ community numerous times, saying that same-sex couples caring for a child was “difficult to imagine,” and that he was “less keen” on same-sex couples adopting.

In addition to these outdated views, Lagerfeld has openly shown his aversion toward immigrants and has repeatedly expressed his classist views to the public. Although Lagerfeld claimed that “everything [he said] is a joke,” his problematic statements still have negative impacts on those he targeted, and the Gala’s planners failed to take into account these many problematic statements when honoring him as the theme of the 2023 Met Gala.

Although Lagerfeld’s accomplishments should be celebrated, it is imperative that we recognize the misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic stances he took throughout his life. The pattern of prominent figures passing away and their hateful views being forgotten is a cycle that needs to be broken, and in order for change to be made in the inherently misogynistic world of fashion, Lagerfeld’s views cannot be normalized.