The death of fashion and costume designer Karl Lagerfeld cast somewhat of a shadow over the usually jubilant Costume Designers Guild Awards — the only award show where clothes literally steal the spotlight away from actors — which was held at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night. Here it was obvious that Lagerfeld’s impact on Hollywood went far beyond an uncredited cameo in “Zoolander.”
Glenn Close, who was being honored with the spotlight award, recalled her one and only encounter with Lagerfeld. “I’m not deep into the world of fashion, but I did meet him personally on the set of ‘101 Dalmatians’ and we had this incredible photo shoot,” Close said. “He was wonderful — I got along really well with him. And the thing that I find so impressive is that he designed himself, you know? This person with the high collars and the dark glasses and the gloves. It’s like: Wow, that’s really cool.” Was his image perhaps Lagerfeld’s greatest creation of all? “Yes, I think it was,” she said with a smile.
The event’s host, Kate Walsh, shared her love of “Chanel’s red carpet moments — fashion used to be something so remote and separate from Hollywood before there became more of an integrated relationship with designers,” she said. “Karl was a creative genius who was an enigma, but also took so many risks and gave us such theatricality and drama.”
“I was reading some quotes of his today via Instagram and I was loving every single one,” said June Diane Raphael from “Grace & Frankie.” “My favorite thing that he ever said was: ‘I am down to earth. Just not this earth.’ I so appreciate someone who is like: ‘You know what? I’m not in touch. And I’m not going to apologize about that.’ I found so much of what he said to be hilarious and amazing and, honestly, inspirational.”
Even veteran actor Michael Chiklis (“I’ve been an actor since I was a child — I got my Equity card at 13 years old”), who is not exactly a fashionisto, could appreciate the legacy of Lagerfeld. “He’s an icon in the fashion world and in the film world. All you have to do is look at the trades today and see the outpouring of love,” he told Variety.
And the loss of Lagerfeld certainly wasn’t lost on the nominated costume designers in attendance, such as Beth Morgan from “GLOW,” who appreciates high fashion as well as sparkly spandex. “He would have brought a ton to the table as a costume designer,” she said. “He totally understood character — I mean, look, he himself became a character in a way. So he got how the right costume can become iconic and that the right piece of clothing with the right person in the right scene tells a story in such an epic way.”
Hala Bahmet, who works on “This Is Us,” was nearly at a loss for words. “I don’t know if anybody has really processed it yet; it’s such a shock. I felt like it was unexpected with the Oscars coming up — his work is usually such a big part of that,” she told Variety.
“The death of a visionary is always traumatic for everyone,” noted Tom Broecker of “Saturday Night Live,” who reflected on Lagerfeld’s influence on cinema. “In ‘Blue Jasmine,’ Cate Blanchett wore a lot of Chanel. It’s a specific kind of brand and it’s a status symbol — it means something to wear it — and that image also pervades Hollywood.” Added Judianna Makovsky, costume designer for “Avengers: Infinity War”: “We have all used him as inspiration and not only for the things he designed, but he basically rescued fashion — the craft houses — to keep them in business for couture. Absolutely he had an impact on Hollywood, but Hollywood also had an impact on him. It’s such a mutual thing; it’s hard to tell which is the chicken and the egg.”
But Janie Bryant, for one, who created all of the looks for “The Romanoffs” as well as, most notably, “Mad Men,” wasn’t remotely choked up. “When I read the news this morning, I was not sad,” she told Variety. “Karl Lagerfeld had an amazing life and it’s a life that we need to rejoice and celebrate and acknowledge what a gifted man he was — and a gift he was to us. He inspired me from the time I was very young until this day. It’s funny: He has a line of suitcases and I just bought them a few weeks ago. I was like: ‘I love you, Karl!’”
“I want to honor the brilliant Karl Lagerfeld who left us today,” said Walsh when she later emerged on stage dressed as Glinda the Good Witch from “The Wizard of Oz.” (She would go on to make more wacky costume changes than Cher in concert — including Close’s knife-wielding psycho character from “Fatal Attraction” and a leather-clad Donatella Versace — and the mood brightened with each one.) “I can’t act. I got nothing,” deadpanned the self-effacing star, referring to her reliance on wardrobe, and perhaps only at this award ceremony would one hear the host exclaim: “What the actual f—?”
The evening’s other honorees were Ryan Murphy, who was celebrated with the distinguished collaborator award (he elevated his longtime costume designer, Lou Eyrich, to the role of producer) and pioneer Ruth E. Carter, the first African-American costume designer to be nominated for an Oscar. Carter received the career achievement award and won another trophy for her most recent work in “Black Panther.” “Ruth taught me the importance of the costume and how it was the portal into bringing my character to life,” said Halle Berry. “Now in ‘Jungle Fever,’ I did play Viv the crack ho, and all I wore was a nasty-ass bra and a mini-skirt. But Ruth would argue: ‘That was a costume.’ It is true that nasty-ass bra and that tore-up mini-skirt was a fabulous costume because it helped me be the very best crack ho that I could be.”
Her sentiment was echoed by Close, who has certainly been knee-deep in the world of costumes, if not haute couture. In fact, for the past 35 years, she has saved almost 800 pieces from her various roles and recently donated the entire wardrobe collection to Indiana University. “It has been my great privilege and joy to have stood for hundreds of hours being draped, pinned, and trimmed by many of you in this room, as agonizing as some fittings could be,” Close said before accepting her award. “You make what I do possible. My collaboration with whoever designs my costumes is as important to me as my collaboration with a writer or director — sometimes even more so.”