The autumn/winter 2019 show season was marked by the death of Karl Lagerfeld, one of the industry’s foremost creatives and tastemakers who helped carved out the landscape of fashion during his six decades in the business. A new book penned by William Middleton – who met the late designer in 1995 and wrote many articles about him – will explore how the German couturier became a cultural icon and a household name.
“I don’t think the history of Karl is the most interesting part,” Middleton, who wrote the proposal for the “unconventional biography” shortly after the death of Lagerfeld on February 19 and signed a contract with HarperCollins on March 7, told WWD. “There are some elements of his past that are interesting. But it’s really what he turned himself into that’s so fascinating. I didn’t want to do a normal biography.
As opposed to previous literary works on Lagerfeld and Chanel, where he held the position of creative director for 34 years, Middleton’s 250-300 page book will take an episodic approach and focus on the “the most exciting moments of his life… the world around him and his fierce engagement with popular culture,” Middleton continued. “There was no one who was more connected to what was going on in art and film and architecture and design and so many elements of culture, and I think that really needs to be brought up.”
At the time of writing, Middleton had not reached out to Chanel for co-operation. The book is slated for release in 2021, whether or not he receives the company’s blessing, as Middleton feels buoyed up by his own relationship with the designer. “I said to him after spending some time together, it’s rare to see someone whose public image is so harsh, but in reality, is so much warmer,” the writer recalled. “He said, ‘Better that than the opposite, no?’”
When asked why Middleton’s proposal captured the attention of the publishing house, HarperCollins vice president and executive editor Sara Nelson acknowledged the fact that we can expect many more books paying homage to the designer in the future. “I just thought [Middleton’s proposal] would be an interesting take,” she said. “I’m sure there will be more than several books on Lagerfeld, but this one appealed to me.”