The descriptions "a man of many hats" and "renaissance man" do not even marginally do justice to what Karl Lagerfeld has achieved, and is indeed still achieving at the age of "79". Lagerfeld has paved the way for countless designers and fashion creatives throughout the industry, particularly in terms of fully embracing being multi-talented (designer, photographer, film-maker, style icon, self-publicist, illustrator, artist...) and pioneering brand collaborations in a credible and creative manner. Those of you are familiar with some of my work, will be aware of the 2010 and 2011 partnerships between Diet Coke and The Kaiser; and this week saw the official unveiling of his collaboration du jour with cult Japanese make-up artist brand shu uemura.
In a similar vein to his work with Diet Coke (it is his official drink of choice and a key element of The Karl Lagerfeld Diet), the partnership with shu uemura is rooted in genuine and legitimate history. For the past twenty years, Lagerfeld has been using shu uemura eyeshadows for his (now world famous) fashion sketches - across Fendi, Chanel, KARL and so on. In his words, "no other company has such beautiful colors".
Lagerfeld met the late Mr. Shu Uemura in 2006 and "really liked his pioneer[ing] spirit and the sparkling energy in his eyes". He felt that Mr. Uemura created something that no one else could.
"I really like beautiful things. When I was young I didn't know anything about art and fashion, like the beautiful sketching paper, the variety of paint colors, and colorful crayons. But I was always sketching. When I first saw shu uemura's eyeshadows in a St. Germain beauty boutique, I was so excited to see the colors showcased in the atelier of an artist. Ever since I've been a big fan of both shu uemura and Mr. Shu Uemura."
In a marketing world where links between names and brands are progressively becoming more and more tenuous, it is rare to see such an authentic partnership that is deeply rooted in history come to life in such a beautiful and creative way.
The hero moment for the capsule collection, and indeed the icon that it is centred around is Lagerfeld's anime creation - 'mon shu girl' - an anime creation merging the worlds of shu uemura and Karl Lagerfeld (note the symbolic white shirt and black tie). Sketched by Karl Lagerfeld's own hand using shu uemura products, "mon shu uemura" means 'my darling shu uemura'. The character even has a preferred sushi, and personality traits and interests including watching cute boys, playing guitar, oh and in case you were wondering, her blood type is 'O'. This level of detail and the immensity of the collection itself is just a brief glimpse into the intricacies of Lagerfeld's creative mind.
He says, "In homage to the brand and inspired by Japanese culture and Tokyo's contemporary art scene, I created 'mon shu girl.' She incorporates my iconic fashion style, a white shirt and black tie, and a very oriental hair style and make-up.
"I wanted to invent my own personal vision of a Japanese manga character. It was not easy to make such limited choices considering all the things shu uemura has and does. It is all supposed to match the doll I designed for them as well as the mood, the spirit."
Spending the better part of two hours in his close proximity at the launch in Paris truly demonstrated his genuine interest and excitement for the project. Again, something rare in a world brimming with brand partnerships and collaborations based on little or no authenticity. Above and below you can see the original sketches of 'mon shu girl', straight from the mind of The Kaiser, along with the campaign images of Japanese supermodel Tao photographed by Lagerfeld at his studio in Paris.
The collection launches in exclusively at Selfridges from October 14. Full details of the capsule collection are available at su-kl.com
Follow Nik Thakkar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nikthakkar