German-born designer Karl Lagerfeld sparked outrage on Saturday after speaking to French TV show Salut les Terriens!, where he criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.
“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, adding, “I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ’The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.’”
After his comments, media regulators said that they had received hundreds of complaints regarding the Chanel creative director’s comments. His comments come in response to the 2015 migrant crisis that became a talking point for many European nations and played a major role in the Brexit vote. “Merkel had already millions and millions [of immigrants] who are well integrated and who work and all is well,” Lagerfeld commented. “She had no need to take another million to improve her image as the wicked stepmother after the Greek crisis.”
Maybe stick to tweed jackets, Uncle Karl.
Controversial opinions are more or less part of the Lagerfeld brand. He once called Adele “fat,” victim blamed Kim Kardashian West for having caused her own robbery and tried to call out Meryl Streep for passing on Chanel to wear another designer to the 2017 Oscars. (Nobody calls out Meryl and gets away with it, okay?)
But he’s hardly an anomaly when it comes to controversy-courting designers. Italian design duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of Dolce and Gabbana found themselves at the center of a storm of controversy in March 2015 after saying they oppose gay adoption and that “the only family is the traditional one,” in an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama.
The comments blew up on social media, garnering the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana and public denouncements from Madonna (who appeared in a Dolce and Gabbana campaign in 2010), Ricky Martin and Elton John.
Courtney Love even went so far to say that she’d “burn” all of her Dolce and Gabbana clothing.
Even after making wildly controversial comments, Dolce and Gabbana are still the design heads for their namesake brand, and seemingly one of the only fashion brands to boastfully dress first lady Melania Trump. Gabbana has proven he’s even willing to go to war with his own fans over the first lady. The brand even boldly sold a $245 T-shirt earlier this year mocking the very folks boycotting the brand for dressing the Trumps.
And then there’s designer John Galliano. In 2011, Galliano, at the time Dior’s creative director, was arrested in Paris after an anti-Semitic outburst where he said that he “loved Hitler” and that “people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed” to a group of Italian women seated nearby. After his arrest he was fired from Dior and was later found guilty for making anti-Semitic remarks and fined by the French government.
Now, even if Lagerfeld’s comments regarding Merkel aren’t as heinous and illegal as Galliano’s — a Paris court found Galliano’s comments to be “public insults” based on origin, religion, race or ethnicity — why should they be tolerated? Karl Lagerfeld remains the creative director for behemoth brands Chanel and Fendi, companies which bring in a combined $6 billion in revenue. Why should a brand making that much money have a man design for it that consistently makes such controversial and offensive remarks?
Although the fashion industry sets the trend of what we’ll all be wearing in six to eight months, they often fall behind on taking a stand on the issues that continue to plague the world. Especially in the current climate, where white nationalism and neo-Nazism are on the rise globally, it’s quite alarming that a global brand such as Chanel or Fendi would continue to let these comments slide unchecked.
We have seen how quickly brands can be affected by comments or actions in such a rapid fire manor that one cannot sit idly to the power of social media and the internet. In 2017 we have witnessed the fallout from Pepsi’s campaign featuring Kendall Jenner where she appears to solve all the worlds problems with a can of Pepsi. Not long after, social media united in outrage over the blatantly tone-deaf ad, and Pepsi and Jenner were compelled to apologize.
At the same time, it seems that fashion world has a very forgiving stance when it comes to talented designers.
Even after the fallout from Galliano’s arrest and termination from Dior, he designed a 2013 collection for Oscar de la Renta. In 2014, he took the helm at Maison Margiela where he designs to rave reviews season after season. After Dolce and Gabbana’s comments, the brand still shows seasonally in Milan to a packed house and a runway filled with Millennial icons that flood your Instagram timeline for a solid 24 hours. So, at the end of the day, does fashion really care about these issues or are we willing to forgive and forget all in the name of good fashion?
Why doesn’t fashion set the trend of saying enough is enough and finally stand up for what is right? After the slew of inappropriate and offensive comments from Lagerfeld, Chanel should take immediate action.
And, hey, Chanel and Fendi could use a fresh new design, right?