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'I’m sure Karl would have loved Kenneth [Ize]’s work,’ reveals Carine Roitfeld, fashion editor and style advisor at Karl Lagerfeld. ‘He always wanted to be surprised and expected people to go beyond their own boundaries.’ The late Chanel creative director would have welcomed this surprise: the Karl Lagerfeld x Kenneth Ize capsule collection; a beautiful blend of Parisian style and West African craft that defies gender expectations with its wearable, versatile unisex pieces. Discover the history of the two brands then read our exclusive interview with Carine Roitfeld and Kenneth Ize, as they discuss the new capsule collection.
The history of Karl Lagerfeld
The eponymous line of the late, great Karl Lagerfeld was founded in 1984, a year after the creative director started heading design at French powerhouse Chanel. Now boasting Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger alumnus Hun Kim as its head of design, and legendary French fashion editor Carine Roitfeld as its style advisor, Karl Lagerfeld seeks to uphold its founder’s legacy in offering timeless, elegant pieces with a modern edge.
A house that celebrates Parisian style, each effortlessly stylish Karl Lagerfeld collection is punctuated with bold logos and metallic hardware to add a contemporary twist. Spanning women’s and men’s ready-to-wear as well as covetable accessories, the brand offers an invitation into the world of Karl Lagerfeld, with icons like the late designer’s Birman cat, Choupette, appearing in campaigns and collections.
Karl Lagerfeld himself had a wide circle of A-list fans and admirers, from the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna to Princess Caroline of Monaco. Endorsers of the brand include model sisters Cara and Poppy Delevingne, as well as fashion entrepreneur and style icon Olivia Palermo, who co-designed a capsule with the brand back in fall 2019.
The history of Kenneth Ize
Kenneth Ize was born in Lagos and moved to Austria at the age of four. After studying fashion at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts, he eventually decided to move back to Nigeria. There, he felt the need to reconnect with his roots, culture and community, so he learnt about traditional weaving techniques and overall West African artistry. He founded his namesake label in 2013, and was a finalist of the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2019.
Known for a fresh take on colors and prints, Ize quickly garnered important fans, including supermodels Imaan Hammam and Naomi Campbell who opened and closed his Paris Fashion Week debut in 2020, wearing the designer’s signature handwoven checks inspired by traditional Nigerian aso oke fabric. The international fashion scene praised him for his intricate tailoring — made unique thanks to little-known weaving techniques — and a vibrant, androgynous mood.
The Karl Lagerfeld x Kenneth Ize unisex collection
In a meeting of artistry and tradition, Karl Lagerfeld’s versatile forever pieces have been infused with rich colors and vibrant African prints, courtesy of Kenneth Ize. Including artisanal accessories, mix-and-match separates, plus skirts and dresses for both men and women, this unisex capsule is as refreshing as it is fun. Here, Carine Roitfeld and Ize discuss the inspirations behind the collection, their personal highlights, and what the late Karl Lagerfeld would have thought of the collaboration.
What inspired you to join forces for this capsule?
Carine Roitfeld: I’m sure Karl would have loved Kenneth’s work. Karl always gave such a powerful energy and great freedom; he always wanted to be surprised and expected people to go beyond their own boundaries.
Kenneth Ize: I was approached by Carine Roitfeld about collaborating with Karl Lagerfeld and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. It was such an honor; I began coming up with ideas that very same day.
What is it about creating a unisex, gender-neutral collection that you find exciting?
CR: When seeing Kenneth’s runway, it’s something that struck me. Everything feels interchangeable. I liked the idea of a shared wardrobe and we all thought it would make complete sense to build this capsule as a unisex collection.
KI: Gender is a construct and there really is no reason why more collections can’t encompass this all-inclusive approach. It doesn’t matter what gender you identify with — it’s how you express yourself that’s important, and I think this collection allows for endless possibilities in that respect.
Tell us more about the craft, process and provenance behind the fabrics featured in the collection.
KI: The overall color palette and range of prints for the ready-to-wear collection are all inspired by traditional aso oke cloth [handwoven by the Yoruba people of western Africa]. The fabrics used to create the phone bag and the accessories were all sourced from Nigeria and feature woven detailing.
Are there any special details we should look out for?
KI: The weaving and the leather detailing on the accessories are definitely stand-out points. The leather complies with strict environmental and sourcing standards set by the Leather Working Group, so they’re made using more sustainable and ethical practices in the tanning process.
CR: I think it’s about fabrics, the quality of craft, and the subtle mix of colors. Also, I loved the dynamism of the collection, especially with the use of black and white which can sometimes be quite strict, but blend very organically here.
Tell us about the artists and individuals who inspire your pieces.
KI: For this particular collection, I was fortunate enough to have access to the brand’s archive, so the inspiration for these pieces is a beautiful blend of my own, colorful approach to fashion — that’s very much a part of my Nigerian roots — and the style codes of Karl Lagerfeld.
What are your favorite pieces from the collection and why?
KI: I particularly like all of the incredible prints across the collection, including the black-and-white printed shirts and trousers, not to mention the knit sweaters, the blazer, and, of course, all of the accessories. The pieces have a strong use of color and chic, flowing silhouettes that stand out in a sophisticated way.
CR: I never wear prints and this collection made me want to wear them. My favorite piece is the striped jersey shirt — very 70s.
How do you envision the pieces being styled?
KI: Overall, the pieces are extremely versatile. I want people to identify and have fun with the collection so they can style the pieces the way they see fit. I would see someone who enjoys a bold use of color, sophisticated design, quality fabrics and is comfortable with their own sense of style. The attitude is cool, strong and confident.
CR: The more mix, the better. This wardrobe needs layering, mix-and-match to create unexpected combinations.
The world of Kenneth Ize: watch now as the designer reveals what it’s like to live and design in Lagos