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Karl Lagerfeld's Cruelest And Most Controversial Moments

His accomplished career is only one side of a polarizing figure.

Karl Lagerfeld, who died on Tuesday at age 85, was a fashion icon and a talented designer. But his accomplished career is only one side of a complicated man.

There are lots of places where you can read about what Lagerfeld's influence on the fashion world, his celebrity admirers, and his endearing devotion to his cat, Choupette. But many people online are debating his legacy, and for good reason. Here are some of the reasons not everyone was a huge fan of the outspoken designer.

His Islamophobia

During an appearance on a French talk show in 2017, the German designer delivered a rather baffling rebuke of his native country's acceptance of refugees from Muslim-majority countries on the behalf of... Jewish people. Lagerfeld himself was not Jewish.

"You cannot kill millions of Jews and then take in millions of their worst enemies afterwards, even if there are decades [between the two events]," he said on the show "Salut les terriens." He then went on to add: "I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: 'The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust.'"

According to the British paper, The Times, the French channel that aired the show got several hundred complaints about Lagerfeld's comments.

It wasn't the first time the designer was accused of being insensitive to Muslims. In 1994, Chanel was forced to apologize when Lagerfeld designed several dresses emblazoned with verses from the Qur'an. The luxury label's exports were threatened after an Indonesian leader called the designs "an insult to our religion."

Karl Lagerfeld in 1999, before his dramatic weight loss.
Thierry Orban via Getty Images
Karl Lagerfeld in 1999, before his dramatic weight loss.

His relentless and often cruel fixation on criticizing women's bodies

Between 2000 and 2001 Lagerfeld lost nearly 100 pounds in order "to be a good clotheshorse," and put out a diet book. Some people speculate that a lifelong feeling of unease with his own body was what caused him to be so vicious about women he didn't think fit fashion's standards — particularly if he thought they weren't thin enough.

Here are just a few examples.

On Adele: "She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice."

On Heidi Klum: "Heidi Klum is no runway model. She is simply too heavy and has too big a bust. And she always grins so stupidly. That is not avant-garde — that is commercial!"

On Pippa Middleton: "Kate Middleton has a nice silhouette. I like that kind of woman, I like romantic beauties. On the other hand, her sister struggles. I don't like the sister's face. She should only show her back."

On Lana Del Rey: "Lana Del Rey is not bad at all. She looks very much like a modern-time singer. In her photos she is beautiful. Is she a construct with all her implants? She's not alone with implants."

On Coco Chanel: She was "never a feminist" because "was never ugly enough for that."

On people who criticize unhealthy beauty standards in the fashion industry: "These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly... no one wants to see round women."

Heidi Klum, who Karl Lagerfeld described as "too heavy" to be a model, at the 70th Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, 2018.
Dan MacMedan via Getty Images
Heidi Klum, who Karl Lagerfeld described as "too heavy" to be a model, at the 70th Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, 2018.

His equal-opportunity criticism of men's bodies

He said of Seal — who at the time was married to Heidi Klum — "I am no dermatologist but I wouldn't want his skin. Mine looks better than his. He is covered in craters."

He also criticized Andy Warhol: "I shouldn't say this, but physically he was quite repulsive."

The time he sent flowers to an accused rapist

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was director of the International Monetary Fund in 2011, when a hotel maid in New York accused him of rape. When he returned to Paris, Lagerfeld sent flowers to DSK and his wife. His defence of his friend was somewhat murky — he both suggested that women willingly have sex with him, and that it's hard to be a woman around DSK. Either way, Lagerfeld was on Strauss-Kahn's side.

He told that women "get horny from politics, from power. And he had unbelievable charms. He is really charming. He's fun, he's great. He's a sweet guy — as long as you're not a woman. That's the problem."

His defence of a stylist accused of sexual assault

When several models accused stylist Karl Templer of inappropriate touching and of pulling off their underwear without consent, Lagerfeld came to Templer's defence — not by denying that he did it, but instead by implying that he was justified in doing it.

"If you don't want your pants pulled about, don't become a model!" he said in an interview with the fashion magazine Numéro at the height of #MeToo. "Join a nunnery, there'll always be a place for you in the convent."

His use of blackface and yellowface

Of course Lagerfeld is hardly alone in this in the fashion world. But, yes, he had Claudia Schiffer appear "black" and "Asian" in a 2010 editorial shoot.

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