Having the luxury to have your work separated from your negative actions as an individual, is the one of the many, many, many definitions of “white male privilege”. And one of the prime examples of this statement being proven is the recent death of infamous fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.
On the 19th February 2019, in Neuilly-sur-Sine in the north of France, the fashion industry had just been hit by the life-altering, out of the blue and shocking meteor that came in the form of a death – the death of German fashion and art deity Karl Otto Lagerfeld. Social media across the globe went into a frenzy. With Twitter, Instagram and Facebook sputtering out posts with “#RIPKarl” and the phrases “OMG another legend gone!!! RIP” left, right and centre, it suddenly became abundantly clear that Karl Lagerfeld’s misogynistic, sexist and racist comments were not going to be discussed or addressed any time soon. And the fact he was both white and a male, worked nothing but in his favour.
As a society, we seem to choose who we separate in terms of the creator and what they’ve created. This “law” (if you can even use this term) does not apply to everyone as it should. Instead, it favours those who are male, and those who are white – and quite often, the two combined. If my words seem blunt, borderline angry and perhaps a little too “harsh”, let me gladly provide you with some quotes from the man himself on a variety of topics, courtesy of CCN.com:
“These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly” – Lagerfeld on preferring thin models for his shows, in a 2009 interview with Focus magazine.
“Kate Middleton has a nice silhouette and she is the right girl for that boy … On the other hand, her sister struggles…I don’t like the sister’s face. She should only show her back.”, Lagerfeld stated of Pippa Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister. He also told New York magazine that Princess Diana was “pretty and she was sweet, but she was stupid.”
Lest not forget his infamous views on #MeToo, a social media movement that began a few years ago in order to create a discussion around sexual assault and sexual abuse. It provided a safe space for victims to talk and share their experiences. However, Lagerfeld seemed confused when the movement started to ooze its way into the celebrity world. “”What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened,” he told Numero magazine in an interview in April 2018. “Not to mention the fact there are no prosecution witnesses.”
Lagerfeld also went on to not only insult the memories and experiences of these abuse survivors, but also to essentially state that sexual assault was a bit of a joke: “I read somewhere that now you must ask a model if she is comfortable with posing. It’s simply too much, from now on, as a designer, you can’t do anything,” he said .”If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”
And there’s piles upon piles more of disgusting and awful quotes from the mouth of the infamous man; a quick Google search will prove that correct. It’s important to look back and remember the deaths of other famous celebrities and what reactions and comments came from their passing. For example, the sad death of singer Amy Winehouse in 2011, when the 27-year-old was found dead in her home due to accidental alcohol poisoning. Her death brought up conversations about substance abuse (the singer was very open about her struggles) and treatment. However, the comments didn’t focus purely her talent and her sad drug problem but shifted to her love life and those who were involved in it.
Similar to that of Whitney Houston, where comments about her death mainly focused on the singer’s drug addiction and the deteriorating performances of her final shows. But comparing the deaths of Heath Ledger (whose drug problem was briefly brushed over) and Michael Jackson (whose strong rumours of paedophilia were barely mentioned and furthermore, investigated), it’s certainly clear that male celebrities seem to escape any form of criticism after their death, and ultimately, have the luxury of having their work separated from their wrongdoings. And it is just that – a luxury, because to call it a law would mean that it extends to everyone, which would be a flat out lie.
I just wonder what the world’s reaction would have been if Lagerfeld was a POC or a female – or both. Because I highly doubt that the death would have been met with such extreme praise and a strong and unarguable sense of admiration. Let me state that I am not questioning the talent of Mr Lagerfeld, but I am questioning society’s quick-to-ignore-any-issues-or-questionable-things-you’ve-done-if-you-fit-into-the-desired-boxes-of-image (in this case white) attitude. It’s time things changed, otherwise for years to come, creators and artists like Lagerfeld will constantly have the ability to say or do what they please, with the confidence that their work will never be critiqued or slated, regardless of whatever they do in their personal lives.
Photo: Official Leweb Photos