Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Germany, 1938) for Chanel (French, founded 1913). Boots, fall/winter 1993–94. White quilted nylon, black rubber with white inset lettering, black vinyl, black braided nylon and gilt chain ties, and black synthetic faux fur trim. Purchase, The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation Inc. Gift, 2007 (2007.17a, b).
By the 1980s, a decade after the death of its eponymous founder, the House of Chanel was seen to epitomize classic French taste. As an Establishment brand, it was a respected, but somewhat senescent, institution. All that changed with the appointment of Karl Lagerfeld as its creative director in 1984. Lagerfeld’s fabled sense of the moment and rich cultural knowledge quickly animated the house. His understanding of Chanel’s aesthetic vocabulary clearly did not preclude his iconoclastic interpretation. The ultimate post-modernist, Lagerfeld exaggerated the small details and nuances of the Chanel style with a boldly hyperbolized, contemporary exuberance. If anything, Lagerfeld has always been faithful to the irreverent attitude of the prewar Chanel, a savvy outsider who flaunted convention and turned taste on its head, rather than the pronouncements of the grand dame she became in the last decades of her life. With these boots, Lagerfeld exploited many of the Chanelisms he has made more legible to millions: black and white, diamond quilting, the interlocking “C” logo, the contrasting cap toe, and gilt chains.