With his white powdered ponytail and starched collars, Karl Lagerfeld is having a global style moment — even three years after his death. From bespoke dinner jackets to sleek metal chairs, hundreds of the fashion designer’s personal possessions have caused an international buying frenzy during a series of three blockbuster Sotheby’s sales.
It all started in Paris and Monaco with fall 2021 online and in-person auctions smashing records. Final totals quadrupled early estimates, bringing in €18.2 million. Hailing from 60 countries, some 1,500 bidders got in on the action, with a third of them being new to Sotheby’s — proof that the Lagerfeld mystique still lingers.
The former Chanel creative director was known for his exacting eye, a talent that extended to his many homes. An obsessive collector, he created highly curated interiors throughout his lifetime. From art deco to French 18th century to the colorful Italian designs of the Memphis Group, Lagerfeld dove deeply into design periods then moved on.
But perhaps the place that best exemplified his penchant for modernity was his futuristic atelier on the Quai Voltaire in Paris. Lagerfeld filled the airy flat with a tsunami of books along with 21st century furniture made of metal, glass and concrete. Pieces by Marc Newson and Gino Sarfatti fetched prices well above their estimates, while a 2007 Soleil Noir mirror by Martin Szekely achieved a world record for the artist at €375,500.
Drawings by Lagerfeld himself attracted great interest. One of the most sought after was the portrait of his companion, Jacques de Bascher; Retour de la Vallée des émeraudes sold for €163,800 against an estimate of just €600. “Collectors from around the world eagerly pursued Karl Lagerfeld’s objects and drawings, cementing his status as a fashion icon,” explains Sotheby’s France Vice President Pierre Mothes. “The ‘kaiser’ would surely have been touched by this tremendous public success.”
Above all, Lagerfeld is remembered for his carefully crafted persona, complete with dark glasses and fingerless gloves. So it’s no surprise that his clothing and accessories attracted great attention. At the top of the list: a 2010 black embossed lambskin Chanel tote that the style icon carried daily, complete with his photo ID pass to the 2011 FIAC contemporary art show. In fierce global bidding, it sold for €94,500, a record for a Chanel bag. Additional pieces from Lagerfeld’s wardrobe sparked bidding wars, such as a 2008 black wool Dior jacket (€35,280) and a set of 10 pairs of his iconic fingerless gloves (€20,160).
The concluding auction held in March in Cologne, Germany, featured a selection of works and objects from Lagerfeld’s last residence in Louveciennes, just outside Paris. It focused on early 20th century German art with an assortment of significant advertising posters collected over the course of 30 years. And in a setting befitting this king of design, the objects were on view at the opulent Oppenheim Palace in Cologne, the new Sotheby’s German headquarters.