Olivia Palermo Creates Custom Design In Tribute To Karl Lagerfeld

"I wanted my version of Karl’s white button-down to reflect the power and grace of his persona."

Photo: Anthony Ghnassia/Getty Images.

It’s hard to believe it’s been seven months since Karl Lagerfeld passed away. And the fashion industry has all but moved on. Yet his legacy, which spans more than 50 years, still inspires the many Chanel collections now led by his longtime counterpart Virginie Viard. The latest tribute, curated by close friend and colleague Carine Roitfeld in conjunction with his namesake maison Karl Lagerfeld, called for a reversing of design roles: 7 shirts, replicated 77 times, sold for 777 euros.

Dubbed “A Tribute To Karl”, the exhibition also invited dozens of Lagerfeld’s friends — many industry figures and veterans, including Olivia Palermo — to put their personal design touches on Lagerfeld’s signature fashion item: the white shirt. “If you ask me what I’d like most to have invented in fashion, I’d say the white shirt,” Lagerfeld once said. “For me, the shirt is the basis of everything. Everything else comes after.” Throughout Paris Fashion Week, the customized shirts will be on display in Lagerfeld’s office as a tribute to the late icon by honoring his legacy and contributions to the fashion industry.

Additionally, all proceeds of the sale of the seven aforementioned shirts — designed by Cara Delevingne, Tommy Hilfiger, Sébastien Jondeau, Diane Kruger, Kate Moss, Takashi Murakami, and Carine Roitfeld — will be donated to the Sauver La Vie charity for medical research at the Paris Descartes University.

Olivia Palermo's creation for "A Tribute To Karl".
Photo: Courtesy of Karl Lagerfeld.

“I was immensely proud to have the opportunity to interpret a piece of clothing so iconic of Karl’s own signature style and have the proceeds of which go to a charity near to his heart,” Olivia said. “To be involved in the project alongside so many other creative forces who played an impactful role in Karl’s life just further solidified the honor to be asked to participate. I wanted my version of Karl’s white button-down to reflect the power and grace of his persona.”

Last night, in Paris, the recreations of Lagerfeld’s ubiquitous shirt debuted to much fanfare. Below, we caught up with Palermo on her version of the white shirt on everything from what inspired her use of black lace, what techniques were required to pull off the intricate details, and her thoughts on Karl's greatest contribution to fashion.

How would you describe the artistic concept of your shirt? Did you have any specific inspirations?
"The artistic concept of the shirt was to keep the general impact of a simple, crisp white button-down that is the epitome of Karl’s iconic look — but to build off of that by incorporating my own eclectic, but tailored and polished personal style. There is something sexy and androgynous about a white button-down. I was inspired to create a look that played off the idea of a men’s black-tie tuxedo shirt. We accomplished this by creating embellishment and depth through the layering of different laces in a thoughtful but somewhat asymmetrical approach.

"Of course, I wanted to add some femininity to the shirt so we opened it up to be exquisitely fitted and finished off the high slits on both sides. Lastly, we added beautiful jewels and vintage buttons for a very couture, almost vintage feel. Despite all the embellishment, I wanted to keep the color palette black and white, on theme with and as a tribute to Karl’s signature style."

What techniques or materials were required to realize the design?
"We cut motifs from three different types of laces – a Chantilly, a corded, and an embellished lace – and appliquéd them in layers so that they created a dégradé effect (heavy at the shoulder to light at the hem). Corded military epaulettes were placed at the shoulders, and floral crystal stones were scattered throughout in mixed metal casings.

"Seeing how personal the project is to Karl’s legacy, I added my own personal touch through the use of vintage buttons from Tender Buttons in New York where I used to shop with my mother and grandmother as a child. Towards the bottom left hem are buttons that spell out 'KL x OP' as a sort of artist’s signature."

In your opinion, what is Karl’s greatest legacy?
"To me, Karl’s greatest legacy was his unapologetic approach to fashion – giving the world a glimpse of how he saw the world and what he found to be beautiful about it through his designs, ornate show settings, photography, or any medium he experimented with."

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