His Wildest Dreams

Karl Lagerfeld unleashes his first haute fourrure collection.


In his dizzying 50 years as Fendi’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld has done just about everything there is to be done with fur—and then some. His furmutations, if you will, have included Eskimo fur (1970), roof-tile fur (1978), ravioli fur (1982), wavy fur (1988), dreadlock fur (1993), polka-dot fur (2000), splatter-effect fur (2013), and 3-D fur (2013). But while each Fendi collection is a feat of technical brilliance in its own right, Lagerfeld had never officially designed an haute fourrure collection—until now. “There is no better place to show our incredible furs than during haute couture,” he said with virtuosic bravura of the Fendi presentation, which took place in Paris in July. “I am not talking about the price, but the style and the level.”

Clearly, the collection, which consists of 36 offerings in lynx, fox, mink, and, most sumptuous of all, sable, has been a long time coming. “When I met the five Fendi sisters in the 1960s,” Lagerfeld reminisced, “they were known in Rome for their expensive furs, which were very heavy and bourgeois, typical of those times. ‘Fendi’ and ‘fun’ have the same initial. That’s why I put the two letters together [for the logo] in less than five seconds: the double F, meaning Fun Furs.” It was a radical notion at the time to reinvent a rather staid status symbol—which Lagerfeld dryly remembered as “a present a wealthy woman received from her husband”—by injecting a sense of playfulness and provocation. Sure enough, “the bourgeois furs disappeared, and Fendi became a modern house that created a revolution in the way fur was seen, made, handled, and worn.”

Call his latest innovation moonlight fur. “For the first time, we used a special treatment that gives a silver metallic effect to the fur while still keeping it soft,” Lagerfeld said. “We also produced handmade embroideries in the haute couture ateliers in Paris, such as Maison Lemarié and Maison Hurel.” Naturellement.

Devotees of Lagerfeld’s other great platform, Chanel (where during Couture Week, his romance with silver also played out), are already familiar with the designer’s deep respect for the workrooms and their elite craftsmanship. “Patrimony and heritage must stay alive,” he insisted, referring to the petites mains of both France and Italy. “It is fascinating how Fendi’s artisans need to train for almost 10 years before starting to cut a garment. They create works of art.” But, like anniversaries, favorite pieces are a subject Lagerfeld declines to discuss. “I don’t have one,” he sniffed. “That’s in the next collection. The story continues, realized ­always with an eye on the future.

Photos: His Wildest Dreams

Karl Lagerfeld, in his Paris studio, with a model in an Haute Fourrure coat. Courtesy of Fendi

Models at the Paris show. Courtesy of Fendi

A Fendi artisan at work. Courtesy of Fendi

An Haute Fourrure cape in sable, mink, fox, and feathers with duchesse embroidery. Courtesy of Fendi