Prove your humanity

Lagerfeld’s death on February 19 has since become one of the most talked-about topics on China’s Sina Weibo platform, raking in more than 330 million hits. One topic, “What’s your Chanel count?” (你有过几件查柰儿 in Chinese) calls for users to post pictures of their Chanel products to memorialize King Karl. The man who walked The Wall.

Vogue China's Angelica Cheung. Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld and Alber Elbaz, a delicious chinese lunch! #ilustration

Vogue China’s Angelica Cheung. Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld and Alber Elbaz do lunch. Illustration: Online.

Lagerfeld’s connection with China runs deeper than many may think. The ever-trendy bond included more than a love for the name Karl or a 10k RMB bag. It was about the mutual respect between one fashionable visionary and the people and cultures of a nation.

Cultural appropriation, we usually refrain from using this often dramatized expression, rampant when it concerns China, Lagerfeld in a number of his 21st Century collections only ever visually spoke about the idea of China, not the reality. He acknowledged both the spirit and inspiration, but there was no literal correlation. Lagerfeld loved Asia. And it worshipped him right back. With attitude. 

“I think the Asian world is better than the old European world now. Asia is much more about the future, unlike Europeans, especially the French.” Quote, King Karl.

When Lagerfeld Landed In China

Lagerfeld’s love affair with the Middle Kingdom isn’t one to remember, but one to relish. The designer in 2007 devised a Fendi show in Beijing set against the backdrop of the Great Wall, with 88 models stepping out onto “the world’s longest catwalk” at sunset. Iconic, is the word.

At the time, Lagerfeld spoke of the awe inspired in him by the ingenuity of ancient peoples and how for fashion to truly connect with the masses, it needs to “reflect and speak to history”.

When 2010 came along, he moved the entire Chanel fashion show production to Shanghai to put on a show stopping spectacle  inspired by the Chinese traditions that Coco Chanel herself had loved to the heights of her atelier’s ceilings during her lifetime. For those who didn’t know,  Chanel loved coromandel screens. Coromandel lacquer is a type of Chinese lacquerware which became popular in 17th and 18th century France and other European countries for decorative purposes. Now you know.

Lagerfeld went on to design a hotel in Macau in 2014. The rise of The Karl Lagerfeld Hotel (owned by SJM Holding, LTD, a Macau casino company) signaled the artistic mogul’s entry into the nation’s hospitality business. The designer’s namesake fashion label, Karl Lagerfeld, in August 2017 was acquired by Fujian-based menswear company Septwolves.

Septwolves now owns the distribution rights to Karl Lagerfeld’s brand in the Greater China region. This could very well become an iconic goldmine within the next few months.

Karl. Image via Hotel Arctic

Fame, Fashion And Condolences

Chinese celebrities have taken to social media platform Sina Weibo to express their sadness of Lagerfeld’s death.

Actress Zhou Xun has been the face of Chanel China since 2007, and enjoyed a friendly working relationship with Lagerfeld over the past decade. She described it as follows:

It was my privilege to work with Mr Lagerfeld for more than a decade, and I admired his professionalism and dedication. Life is limited, but beauty is eternal. May you rest in peace.

Chinese supermodel Liu Wen (刘雯) also offered her condolences on Sina Weibo, writing:

I still remember the excitement of wearing his clothes for the first time in 2008. Karl Lagerfeld was just like a meteor, which has left us a wonderful era! Everyone will grow old, but fashion never will.

Liu’s post has become one of the trending topics, Jing Daily later reported, attracting over 76 million views and close to 10,000 comments (see image below).

Nevertheless, the vast majority of Chinese Chanel consumers and Lagerfeld aficionados, who have limited access to and knowledge of the glamorous fashion world , chose to express their respects in a special and somewhat “controversial” way.

Image courtesy of Jing Daily, 2019. All rights reserved

” Late last night, a topic called “How many pieces of Chanel do you have?” started trending on China’s Sina Weibo social media platform

[caption no.6, not 5],” Jing Daily writes. Caption No.4 goes with model Liu Wen’s ode to Karl.

Counting Captions. And Chanel Ornaments

Soon after news of Lagerfeld’s death broke on February 19, Jing Daily reports, a topic called “How many pieces of Chanel do you have?” (你有过几件查柰儿 in Chinese) started trending on Sina Weibo (see image above). The host of this topic called for users to post Chanel products that they own or aspire to own as a way to memorialize him. As of this writing, the topic had attracted over 74 million views and 8,186 discussions. Two examples:

The topic has aroused enormous interest from netizens, with many of them posting pictures of their Chanel products from watches to handbags to cosmetics.

“Every elegant woman deserves a Chanel product, and I really like Chanel’s Gabrielle bag series. The bags are pretty subtle and functional aesthetically. Also the mixed metal hardware is very cool,” said Sina Weibo user Xiao Mililili.

“An eyeshadow palette, a bottle of perfume and a Leboy handbag, are all I have now. I don’t own many, but there are many that I wish I could have in the future. Chanel is a divine brand in my heart. I will work harder to make more money to buy its products.” Sina Weibo user “Ningxi” commented.

However, Jing Daily continues, not all Chinese people agree that showing off your Chanel handbags is the appropriate way to pay tribute to Lagerfeld. One user named “ajuer” wrote, “These people are so self-centered. R.I.P is all you need to say. No one cares about how many Chanel items you have.” Another user agreed, “These people just want to show off. I doubt how sad they are about Karl’s passing”.

Karl Lagerfeld. He loved, he lived, he dreamed. He talked the talk and walked the walk. The Wall, even. Amen.

Fendi in China. The Great Wall, 2007. As envisioned and executed by Karl Lagerfeld.

Fendi in China. The Great Wall, 2007. As envisioned and executed by Karl Lagerfeld.

“Fashion is a kind of show business too. You know, show videos play in boutiques around the world. If you just have a white wall with a girl walking out, nobody looks at it.” Lăo Fóyé















































Featured Image: Karl Lagerfeld
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Elsbeth van Paridon
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