Let’s talk about personal style. I was on an airplane for 12 hours just last week, and as I loaded my carryon above my seat, I looked around and noticed all the different fashion worn on the plane. The very opposite hair colors, tattoos, jeans, flip-flops, boots, and handbags were so interesting. Then I thought about how concerned I can be when somebody shows disapproval of my outfit choice, hairstyle or color, or makeup.

A Movie on Lufthansa Flight “Coco Before Chanel”

My airline companions didn’t seem to care about my opinions at all. And why should they? It was obvious that the diverse cultural mix on my plane (Lufthansa) represented their home in some small way. If you think about it, that just about sums it up. Here, you and I may live in the same county, but we come from very different places emotionally, experientially, mentally, and ethnically. So it’s no surprise that a fashion or style that excites me might not “float your boat.”

Karl Lagerfeld, Paris Fashion Week, Chanel Runway

To further make my point, while on that long plane ride, I stumbled upon a documentary titled Karl Lagerfeld – An Intimate Portrait. I have always liked his design sense, but not all of it. Sometimes certain garments in his many fashion shows seemed quirky. Odd colors styled with unusual accessories were often adorning very waif models, over-teased hair, and emotionless faces. However . . . there were always a couple of pieces that I could see myself wearing. Inevitably those very pieces ended up in department stores. For the first time, after watching the documentary about Lagerfeld’s life, and how he came to be a revered fashion designer, I felt like I understood the man and the designer for the very first time.

Young Karl Lagerfeld (Right)

In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel, Fashion Designer

Coco Chanel, the Sailor Shirt

As a child, Karl Lagerfeld was very different from the other kids – he was a “Dandy.” His mother really understood his style and vocally supported him when he was challenged because of his personal choices. After trying out a few artistic pursuits, he finally settled on designing and photography; but music was his first attempt at creativity. When he was a child, Karl wore bow ties and knee-length trousers with suspenders and an overcoat.

Karl Lagerfeld as a Child – He had his own unique sense of “Dandy” style.

Karl deliberately expressed his individuality in a time when conformity was the only acceptable thing. Karl Lagerfeld grew up with privilege, therefore he was afforded the luxuries of unchallenged free expression. And he was lucky enough to have a mother who protected his right to be different. He was a huge fan of Paris because he was profoundly influenced by Parisian designer Coco Chanel; and he eventually moved to Paris to realize his potential, unfettered by his country (Hamburg, Germany), which was always too rigid for his tastes.  After watching the documentary, I had my “aha” moment. Fashion is a very personal experience.

Coco Chanel

Food for thought . . . 

  1. Why do you like a certain color?
  2. What prompted you to cut or style your hair that way?
  3. Why do some people dress conservatively and others bohemian?
  4. Why do you dye your hair or why  did you choose to go natural?
  5. Why do you shop at Nordstrom, Fred Segal, H&M, Macy’s, Neimann Marcus, or private boutiques?

All these questions reflect your very personal style. My friend and I shop often at a place called Americana in Glendale, CA. She loves the store Anthropologie. I’m not a huge fan of this store. The only time I ever bought anything from there was when they had a sale on Audrey Hepburn coffee table books. I inevitably ended up at Gilly Hicks (now closed) or Calvin Klein’s every single time.

Karl Lagerfeld Designs for Chloe

Remember, the next time you see somebody who has taste you don’t understand, ask yourself:

1. Where did he grow up?

2. What are her life experiences?

3. What is it about him that is causing him to make those fashion choices?”

Then ask yourself the same questions. You might be shocked at your answers. And just maybe you will understand the next person who shows a dislike for your personal style. Don’t be afraid to express yourself with your clothing, and don’t be afraid to let others do the same.

I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that.  It is like a mask.  And for me, the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.” – Karl Lagerfeld, Fashion Designer

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Agenda Bloggers: Written by Kaylene Peoples for “Fashion Talk”