Becoming Karl Lagerfeld – Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Mercenary of Pret-a-Porter

Paris, 1972. “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld” begins by following Jacques de Bascher, a Parisian socialite and openly gay man, as he navigates various nightclubs. There, he first sees Karl Lagerfeld, an anonymous freelance ready-to-wear designer working for around 20 brands, and becomes enamoured with him.

Meanwhile, Karl is a freelance designer for Chloé, aspiring to greater heights as he watches other designers build their own brands while he remains in the shadows. That night, Jacques encounters Karl again and inquiries about him, but Karl’s companion Antonio informs him that Karl is “not interested.”

When Jacques returns home, he writes a letter to Karl. Living with his mother, Karl receives the letter along with an invitation to Yves Saint Laurent’s show, interpreting the impersonal invite as a personal insult.

In one of his pitch meetings, Gaby Aghion, the founder of the French fashion house Chloé, plans to hire a younger and cheaper designer, fearing Karl might leave her. Jacques then arrives at a queer nightclub where he finds Karl waiting for him. Although Jacques’ attempts at seduction fail, as Karl says he came only out of curiosity, he nevertheless adds Jacques to his circle of muses.

The next day, Karl convinces Chloé to appoint him as the artistic director, arguing that changing designers could harm the brand. When asked what changed his mind, Karl replies, “I don’t want to continue watching others live the life I want.”

Karl then takes Jacques to his home to dress him for accompanying Karl to Saint Laurent’s show. Karl’s mother humorously comments in German about Jacques, “He’s a predator and you don’t have a whip.”

At the show, Karl introduces Jacques to Anne-Marie Munoz, Saint Laurent’s right hand. He mentions that Laurent, Munoz, and he started together as old friends. They also meet Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s secretary, who dislikes Karl, with Karl admitting that he’s the reason behind Bergé and Saint Laurent’s separation.

The show begins, and it’s evident how passionate and respectful Karl is towards Saint Laurent’s work. He conveys these feelings to Laurent after the show, and Laurent reciprocates with friendly sentiments. Karl introduces Jacques to Laurent before Laurent leaves for more attention.

After returning from the show, Karl gets to work. Two laborious months later, Karl is ready for his own show. During a mini-crisis of missing models, Jacques brings over his friends from the nightclub. Karl instructs Jacques to keep an eye on Francine Crescent, the “French fashion priestess” and editor-in-chief of French Vogue, to gauge the show’s success.

Karl’s unconventional fashion show begins with his clear instructions: “We’re not modelling for haute couture, hmm? I don’t want anyone standing up straight like they’ve swallowed a broom. It’s about being free. Modernity on the catwalk, understand? You’re allowed to have fun, okay? Do whatever you want. But if I see anyone doing their job properly, you will be fired.” The show is lively and successful, but Jacques loses track of Crescent at the afterparty. Nevertheless, he reassures Karl, “One day, you’ll be the greatest designer in the world.”

The Episode Review

“Becoming Karl Lagerfeld” begins with a bang, showcasing the stylish fashion landscape of the 1970s, lavish haute couture displays, and extravagant parties. This episode covers the period just after Lagerfeld started working as a freelance designer, charting his journey to becoming one of the most acclaimed designers of the 20th century.

The episode weaves in Lagerfeld’s iconic lines, such as, “Fashion has nothing to do with women. If it had, there wouldn’t be so many gays in the business.” This blending of real quotes with the dramatized narrative adds depth to the show, striving to present Lagerfeld as authentically as a biographical drama can. As Jacques comments, the show captures the making of one of the greatest designers in the world.


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