Starting Wednesday, the Karl collection, with an emphasis on more downtown styles — including denim decorated with a subtle image of Lagerfeld's likeness, jersey dresses, T-shirts, shoes and handbags all with a rock 'n' roll edge — will be offered exclusively for the first month on the Net-a-Porter website. After that, there'll also be a Lagerfeld-branded site.
Among the offerings are the gloves and collar neck pieces he is so famous for wearing himself, all rooted in black and white. What is different from his signature designs for Chanel and Fendi is price, with most pieces landing in the $100-$400 range.
Lagerfeld, in an email, said he was going the online route despite his reputation for embracing all things exclusive because "I am enough of a fashion opportunist that I like to do things that have not been done."
There are few designers with the name recognition and stature of Lagerfeld, and that is because he always is a step ahead in his styles, marketing and branding, said Pier Paolo Righi, president and CEO of Karl by Karl Lagerfeld. "It's his way to say, 'Be yourself, don't be shy about it, be intelligent and articulate.' The line uses a lot of iconic elements that relate to Karl himself and is equally ironic."
For all his success, though, Lagerfeld, has tried a signature label before, with mixed results. In 2006, there was a big, splashy show to generate excitement for the Karl line during New York Fashion Week, but the collection has been dormant for more than a year as the dust settled in some private-equity firm deals.
This time, the line targets the taste and wallet of the women who buy Chanel cosmetics just so they can be that much closer to Lagerfeld.
Those women live in every corner of the world, Righi said, so the Internet is the only way to reach them all. "I don't know what people think about him, I think, just from my own experience with him, regardless whether you meet a 45-year-old Parisian woman or a 14-year-old Argentinian or Chinese girl, they love him. He's culturally accepted all over the globe."
He added, "The customer is an ageless woman, but the feel of the line is young and modern. There's a rock element and a chic element at the same time," Righi said.
Holli Rogers, fashion director of Net-a-Porter, has very high hopes, noting the site did well with the old version of the brand. It's different from Fendi and Chanel with very clean lines and a more masculine approach, she said.
She envisions Karl pairing well with lines such as Alice & Olivia and Tibi. Lagerfeld, she imagined, would approve of the notion of mixing and matching.
Lagerfeld, who is German-born, confirmed it in his statement — with his swagger: "I like the idea to do the most expensive and the less expensive what has to be well designed and well done, too. And this is something that I think is a great challenge, and I am lucky that I can do it in great conditions."