Kaiser Karl does…Macy’s?

Karl Lagerfeld: Creative genius. Keeper of the House of Chanel. Photographer extraordinaire. Man of many opinions. Macy’s newest collaborator?


A tale of two brands

Lagerfeld began his formal study of design in the 1950s and has worked for the likes of Pierre Balmain, Chloe and Fendi—to name a few. Perhaps most famously, he has been the driving creative force behind Chanel since 1983.

When I think Lagerfeld I think about a truly beautiful life. A life that is carefully curated and designed. It is about how to live, what to wear, what to do and how to be. The result is an ideal and standard that helps shape life—if you subscribe to that philosophy. That is what Lagerfeld’s designs, via Chanel, his art and, ultimately, his brand inspires in me—and many others.

Macy’s is a national retailer with 810 stores and fiscal sales of $25B in 2010. It opened in 1858 as a “fancy dry goods store” and grew under a mantra of “Be everywhere, do everything.”

When I think Macy’s, I think about the everyday and the everything—not a particularly inspiring point of view. Most certainly not one that is going to transform the way I think about my life.

The disconnect

So, here we are (well a few weeks out, but I needed some time to let this sink in). Lagerfeld meets Macy’s. And here I am, lover of most things Lagerfeld, not in an income bracket that would enable me to curate a life he would approve of, and über disappointed by the launch of this line.

But why? I mean, he has done this before with H&M and I didn’t feel this way at all. First and foremost, H&M has a point of view: “fashion and quality at the best price.” The people that go there care about fashion, care about quality and just happen to also be budget conscious. Quite the contrast from the “everything, everywhere” of Macy’s. Second, Lagerfeld threw a public temper tantrum when H&M produced his line for a full range of sizes. The line was meant for “slim, slender people.” I do not support that sentiment but whether you and I like it or not, that is Lagerfeld.

Flash-forward to the Macy’s collaboration. Full range of sizes and mums the word from Lagerfeld thus far on that topic. But, what does Kaiser Karl have to say about this collaboration? “It’s all about Macy’s. Their client, their attitude... their modern approach to what they do.”

Again, huh?

Their client/attitude/modern approach? Everyone, everywhere, ca-ching! Lest we forget, this is the same man who called Yves Saint Laurent provincial. Sorry Kaiser, but YSL has partnered with the likes of Net-a-Porter, retailer of cutting edge fashion, not Macy’s.

Perhaps the biggest offense of all—and really the crux of my grievance—is the fact that Lagerfeld says this is all about Macy’s.

Je ne comprends pas M.Lagerfeld! This is about you! You are the one who helps to shape ideals and standards, not Macy’s. Women who subscribe to your vision are not looking for a life designed by Macy’s, they are looking to design the type of life for themselves that only you could dream up.

The lesson

The success of this collaboration is yet to be seen. However this plays out, I think this duo fails to hit the mark. Lagerfeld missed the opportunity to explicitly make this about him and leverage Macy’s extensive reach to expose a whole new audience to the kind of designed life he inspires. Macy’s missed the opportunity to let its bold choice of collaborating with Lagerfeld make a statement for itself.

A lot more Lagerfeld and a lot less Impulse by Macy’s—now that just might have been a Lagerfeldista’s dream come true.

2 comment(s)

  1. David vs. Goliath – Kaiser could have prevailed. Perhaps he thinks we ‘the masses’ aren’t worth the effort.

  2. I definitely agree – Lagerfeld could have prevailed had both brands played this right!

    But, I don’t know that I can fully agree with your sentiment. To be fair, we definitely see Lagerfeld come through in some parts of the collection e.g., the color (or lack thereof) palette, the Poplin blouse. And, the fact of the matter is that Macy’s is a mass retailer. The collection needed to appeal to the masses design-wise while being viable from a production standpoint.

    In any case, I agree that there had to be a better way where Lagerfeld could have just done Lagerfeld- I think that would’ve been a win for both brands.

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