Karl Lagerfeld: Fashion icon's estate up for auction

1 May

The mere mention of Karl Lagerfeld often evokes a vision of the celebrated fashion designer sporting his signature white ponytail, wearing a fitted black suit with starched white high-collared shirt, dark glasses, and fingerless gloves.


Now, a selection of his clothes and accessories will make up the nearly 550 lots of the estate that will be auctioned off by Sotheby's in the German city of Cologne — in a series of online and live bids that will be made between April 29 and May 6, 2022. It marks the third and final series of auctions after the 2021 Monaco and Paris KARL auction series that together earned a staggering €18.2 million ($19.4 million) — four times the pre-auction estimates. It will also be Sotheby's first live auction at its newest German headquarters.

This time, the pre-auction estimate for the entire Cologne offering is around €700,000, with starting prices ranging from €10 to €80,000 for items as diverse as furnishings, Dior Homme suits, turn-of-the-century posters, iPods and even accessories belonging to the late designer's beloved Birman cat, Choupette. The items together tell "the story of the couturier, the collector, the decorator and the photographer," according to Sotheby's.   

A love for all things German

According to Sotheby's, the auction items come primarily from Lagerfeld's residence in Louveciennes, an 18th-century villa near Versailles that celebrated his German roots with advertisement posters and furniture from his homeland. Lagerfeld, who died aged 85 in 2019, had a penchant for early 20th-century German art, amassing a significant collection of German advertisement posters across 30 years.

One poster by Lucian Bernhard for a popular brand of German soap in the early 20th century features the image of a white cat — with an uncanny resemblance to Choupette — cleaning itself, cleverly alluding to the function of the advertised product. Another is a promotional poster by artist Fritz Rotstadt for the German expressionist film, "Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari" — one of Lagerfeld's all-time favorite films.

"I love the graphic side of 'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari'," he wrote in Vogue in 2016. "I'm an expert on German silent film." The collection also features several pieces of furniture, including a canary-yellow sideboard and an ornate green dressing table, by famed 1920s German architect and furniture designer, Bruno Paul. 

Lagerfeld's own sketches — whether within his inspiration books or while designing for three fashion houses namely Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous label — are also up for sale. Karl Lagerfeld's ponytail and sunglasses made up his signature look. A shirt with a high collar, coat and tie, leather gloves and up to 30 rings on his fingers were just as indispensable. His unmistakable silhouette adorns the logo of his eponymous fashion label.

Of music and cats

The collection also includes curiosities and Karl Lagerfeld's personal objects, such as gifts from his friends, memorabilia, home textiles and his famed iPod collection. A noted music fan, Lagerfeld once told The Observer magazine: "The iPod is genius. I have 300." He even reportedly employed an "iPod nanny" who curated his vast selection of iPods and ensured they were on-point with the latest music. A selection of his iPods — Nano and 7th generation — are expected to fetch between €3,000 and €6,000.

More of the collection on sale was of course inspired by Lagerfeld's cat Choupette, with whom he spent the last eight years of his life, including a letter from Brigitte Bardot to the feline and a cat wheel with pedestal. An avowed music fan, Lagerfeld once said he had 300 iPods. Some will go under the hammer in Cologne. "There is something unforgettable about her, the way she moves, the way she plays, she's an inspiration for elegance – for attitude," he once said of the Birman cat.

The long-time Chanel creative director inevitably had some personal fashion items that will now be sold off, including custom-made monogrammed loafers and the Dior Homme suit jackets. Accessories that were synonymous with Lagerfeld are also up for sale including fingerless gloves and dark glasses.

Prior to the auctions, a diverse array of objects and memorabilia were presented in travelling public exhibitions at Sotheby's galleries in Munich and Vienna, as well as at Palais Oppenheim in Cologne, giving collectors an insight into the 'Kaiser' of the catwalk's unique estate.

The online bidding of 250 lots will take place at Sothebys.com/KARL between 29 April and 6 May 2022, while on 4 and 5 May, 2022, Sotheby's will hold two live auctions of the remaining 300 lots at its German headquarters at the Palais Oppenheim in Cologne.


Author Brenda Haas

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