The Shady Truth About Karl Lagerfeld

The following article includes references to eating disorders, sexual misconduct allegations, and discriminatory statements.

Fashion mogul Karl Lagerfeld was best known for his role as Chanel's creative director. While the late icon also worked as creative director at both Chloé and Fendi, per Vogue, Lagerfeld reinvented one of the most legendary fashion houses in the world through his work at Chanel. He took pride in his eye-catching designs, despite the fact that founder Coco Chanel may not have been pleased with the changes he made. "The label has an image and it's up to me to update it," Lagerfeld once said (via BBC News). "I do what she never did. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be, could be, what it had been to something else."

The photographer's decades-long career came to an end in 2019 when he died around age 85. According to The New York Times, Lagerfeld's exact age was never confirmed. The fashion designer certainly left a legacy behind, but his morals were arguably questionable, as he was seemingly unafraid to share disturbing and discriminatory comments that often received criticism. This is perhaps why some fashion enthusiasts were disappointed to hear that the 2023 Met Gala would be centered around Lagerfeld and his designs.

So, what makes the late fashion industry icon so controversial? The shady truth about Karl Lagerfeld will answer all of your questions.

He wasn't a fan of body inclusivity in the fashion industry

Karl Lagerfeld was known to favor thin models on the runway and in fashion campaigns, so it is perhaps no surprise that he wasn't happy about Brigitte magazine's decision to include women of all sizes in its photoshoots. According to NPR, the German fashion magazine's "Ohne Models" — meaning, "Without Models" — initiative went into effect in 2010 with the goal of abandoning unrealistic beauty standards within the fashion industry. Instead of professional models, Brigitte wanted to feature everyday women who more accurately represented their audience.

Lagerfeld spoke out against this decision in an admittedly insensitive statement that once again proved he was not open to body inclusivity in the fashion industry. "No one wants to see curvy women," the fashion designer said of Brigitte's choice (via NPR). "You've got fat mothers with their bags of potato chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly." 

A few years later, Lagerfeld made similarly disturbing comments during an appearance on France's "Le Grand 8." "The hole in social security, it's also [due to] all the diseases caught by people who are too fat," the fashion mogul alleged (via Vogue). This statement led a French women's group to file a defamation claim against the designer.

Karl Lagerfeld's controversial comments on eating disorders

Concerns about eating disorders in the fashion industry are not new. Requirements regarding weight and body shape have historically put pressure on models to stay thin, so there has been a risk of disordered eating habits among them. In 2007, Medical News Today reported that a study by the Model Health Inquiry revealed up to 40% of the models surveyed were living with an eating disorder. However, Karl Lagerfeld didn't seem to be too concerned about eating disorders in the modeling industry, because he later told the U.K.'s Channel 4 News (via The Cut): "I'm sorry to say that it's a subject I consider ridiculous for several reasons; the story with the anorexic girls — nobody works with anorexic girls, that's nothing to do with fashion. People who have that [anorexia] have problems to do with family and things like that."

The late fashion designer went on to share that he was more worried about junk food consumption — yikes! "There are less than 1 per cent of anorexic girls, but there more than 30 per cent of girls in France — I don't know about England — that are much, much overweight," Lagerfeld continued. "And it is much more dangerous and very bad for the health. ... So I think today with the junk food in front of the TV it's something dangerous for the health of the girl."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

The designer criticized a number of female celebrities

Karl Lagerfeld shared an admittedly distasteful opinion once again during an interview for Metro World News, in which he attacked Adele's appearance. "She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice," Lagerfeld claimed of the "Someone Like You" singer in the since-deleted 2012 article (via The Guardian). The fashion designer was then asked how he felt about singer Lana Del Rey, and as you may have guessed at this point, his compliment to the musician was accompanied by an insult. Of the "Summertime Sadness" hitmaker, Lagerfeld noted, "She looks very much like a modern-time singe. In her photos she is beautiful. Is she a construct with all her implants?"

This was only one of many instances when the late creative director insulted women in Hollywood. When German designer Wolfgang Joop called model Heidi Klum "too heavy" in a 2009 interview with GQ Germany (via Gawker), Lagerfeld chimed in and added: "I don't know Heidi Klum. She was never known in France. Claudia Schiffer also doesn't know who she is." Lagerfeld also took a dig at Kate Middleton's sister, Pippa Middleton, during an interview with The Sun a few years later. "I like that kind of woman, I like romantic beauties," Lagerfeld first said of Duchess Kate. "On the other hand, her sister struggles," he alleged of Pippa. "I don't like the sister's face. She should only show her back." Wow.

Karl Lagerfeld took jabs at male celebrities too

It turns out that Karl Lagerfeld had a history of taking jabs at male celebrities, as well. By now, you may have concluded that the fashion designer wasn't a fan of Heidi Klum, so it's perhaps no surprise that he also insulted her ex-husband, Seal. "I am no dermatologist, but I wouldn't want his skin," Lagerfeld said of the "Crazy" singer back in 1999 (via Page Six). "Mine looks better than his. He is covered in craters."

Seal has since opened up to Yahoo! Life about the scars on his face, which were caused by discoid lupus, a form of lupus that causes skin lesions. Despite hurtful comments from people like Lagerfeld, the musician has tried to remain positive about his condition. "Something that had kind of been initially traumatizing turned out to be something that has made me instantly recognizable," he told Yahoo! Life in 2020.

However, Seal isn't the only famous man Lagerfeld attacked in the past. The late creative director also critiqued artist Andy Warhol's physical appearance. "I shouldn't say this, but physically he was quite repulsive," he said of Warhol during a 2010 interview for Vice. Interestingly, Lagerfeld actually worked for Warhol in the early days of his career and made an appearance in the artist's 1972 film, "L'Amour."

He said he was 'fed up' with the #MeToo movement

Karl Lagerfeld came under fire after his lengthy rant about the #MeToo movement during a 2018 interview with Numéro magazine. When asked about #MeToo, the fashion designer responded (via Glamour): "I'm fed up with it. ... What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened. Not to mention the fact there are no prosecution witnesses." Lagerfeld was then asked if the movement affected his work as a creative director. He responded with, "Absolutely not," and then went on to defend Karl Templer, who was creative director at Interview magazine. Templer was facing sexual misconduct allegations at the time.

One quote from the Lagerfeld interview was deemed so disturbing that it later made headlines. "If you don't want your pants pulled about, don't become a model!" the fashion expert said. "Join a nunnery, there'll always be a place for you in the convent. They're recruiting even!" This jarring statement garnered responses from a number of celebrities. Chrissy Teigen, for example, took to Twitter to question the designer's statement. Actor Rose McGowan also shared her response to Lagerfeld in a passionate Instagram post. "Karl, I read your disgusting quote last night," she wrote in part in the caption. "It made me feel dirty."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Karl Lagerfeld sent flowers to a friend facing sexual assault allegations

Former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, faced sexual assault allegations in 2011 after a housekeeper claimed she was attacked by him. This resulted in a sexual assault case that was eventually settled, but Karl Lagerfeld didn't hesitate to show his support for Strauss-Kahn even in the midst of the scandal.

During an interview with, Lagerfeld revealed he sent the French economist and his wife flowers. "I love DSK," he said of Strauss-Kahn (via HuffPost). "I love his wife. They are great people and when they came back to Paris I sent them flowers." Noting in arguably crude language that former President Bill Clinton made it through his own sex scandal, he added, "For people in politics, it's very embarrassing. On the left they had hoped he wouldn't come back, because I think other people want his job." The fashion designer even went on to praise his pal's personality. "[All politicians] get horny from politics, from power," he continued. "And he had unbelievable charms. He is really charming. He's fun, he's great. He's a sweet guy — as long as you're not a woman. That's the problem."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The late fashion mogul shot a racially insensitive editorial

Karl Lagerfeld's beliefs, which have often been called problematic, could be observed through his work. One example of the designer's questionable projects was a 2010 photoshoot involving supermodel Claudia Schiffer. In one photo, Schiffer seems to be styled to appear Black. She is wearing an afro-textured wig and makeup that is several shades darker than her natural skin tone. In another shot, it seems that Schiffer is styled to appear Asian. The photo features the model in a short black wig with bangs, cultural attire, and intense eyeliner that changes the shape of her eyes.

Following Lagerfeld's death, this problematic photoshoot resurfaced, and social media users weren't happy with the photographer's decision to have Schiffer pose as three different races. Writer Saeed Jones chimed in on Twitter, writing: "Shout out to Karl Lagerfeld putting Claudia Schiffer in blackface AND yellowface in 2010. Do continue with your memorial posts." Another user wrote in the writer's replies, "I thought the same thing. It's sad he passed but I thought he had some racist tendencies... ." 

Shevelle Rhule, who is a fashion editor at Black lifestyle magazine Pride, explained to the Daily Mail why this photoshoot was so harmful. "There are not enough women of color featured in mainstream magazines," she said. "This just suggests you can counteract the problem by using white models."

Karl Lagerfeld made Islamophobic statements

Over the years, Karl Lagerfeld came under fire for making various statements that were deemed Islamophobic. For example, the designer shared an offensive comment during a 2017 appearance on French talk show "Salut les terriens!" He made it clear that he did not support Muslim migrants entering Germany. "One cannot — even if there are decades between them — kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place," Lagerfeld said (via The Telegraph).

Lagerfeld's controversial actions were put on display once again when he designed Chanel dresses that featured verses from the Qur'an back in 1994. The designs caught the attention of the late Hasan Basri, who was the head of Indonesia's Ulema Council. According to the Independent, Basri said the dresses were "an insult to our religion." Lagerfeld's controversial designs led Chanel to issue an apology, with chief executive Claude Eliette saying, "I ask the rector and the theological commission of the mosque to present my deep apologies to all the Muslim community and I promise to remove from our models the calligraphies involved. The three dresses and the texts will be destroyed by incineration."