April 18 auction unveils 125 of Karl Lagerfeld’s earliest original fashion sketches

1960s sketchbook/portfolio containing 22 hand-colored, hand-annotated original fashion drawings created by Karl Lagerfeld (German, 1933-2019) while engaged by House of Tiziani, Rome. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000. Image courtesy of Urban Culture Auctions/Palm Beach Modern Auctions, West Palm Beach, Fla.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – When Chanel’s iconic couturier and design mastermind Karl Lagerfeld passed away in February, he left behind a legacy that will forever be associated with luxury, glamour and some of Hollywood’s greatest stars. Prior to joining Chanel in 1983, Lagerfeld’s storied career included a series of design positions at other European houses favored by the rich and famous, among them Fendi, Chloe, Patou, and Balmain. But it was not until January 2014, when Palm Beach Modern Auctions hosted its high-profile “Lagerfeld + Liz” sale, that fashionistas learned of Lagerfeld’s early days with the House of Tiziani in Rome. That auction included a number of original Lagerfeld design sketches from the Tiziani archive. The selection was 100% sold.

Unique archive of original sketches and portfolios has been privately owned since the 1960s

On April 18, 2019, Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ new division, Urban Culture Auctions, will offer what is believed to be the last remaining sketches from the long-hidden archive. “The gentleman in Palm Beach who inherited the archive consigned most of its contents to us for the 2014 sale, but even we did not know that he had retained some favorite sketches for his own personal collection. Now he has decided to let a new generation become the caretakers for those irreplaceable artworks,” said Urban Culture Auctions co-owner Rico Baca.

1960s hand-colored, hand-annotated original fashion drawing created by Karl Lagerfeld (German, 1933-2019) while engaged by House of Tiziani, Rome. Fabric swatch attached. Estimate: $500-$1,500. Image courtesy of Urban Culture Auctions/Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Public demand has been the force behind the planned 125-lot auction of the Tiziani/Lagerfeld sketch collection’s core holdings. “There was so much publicity about our 2014 sale that, after Karl Lagerfeld’s passing, our phone started ringing off the hook with calls from collectors, museums and people in the fashion industry, asking if we had any more of his sketches available to purchase,” Baca said.

Many sketches are hand-annotated in pencil and have fabric swatches attached

Many of the oblong sketches are hand-colored and have penciled notes at the sides or bottom – a testament to Lagerfeld’s intensely personal design process. Additionally, many have original fabric swatches attached.

1960s hand-colored, hand-annotated original fashion drawing created by Karl Lagerfeld (German, 1933-2019) while engaged by House of Tiziani, Rome. Fabric swatch attached. Estimate: $500-$1,500. Image courtesy of Urban Culture Auctions/Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Of particular importance are the seven Lagerfeld portfolios, each containing between 22 and 44 original sketches. Each prized portfolio carries an auction estimate of $2,000-$4,000. Individual sketches are estimated at $1,000-$1,500, while two that were special designs for Elizabeth Taylor are expected to sell for up to $3,000 each.

Large 1960s hand-drawn, hand-annotated original fashion drawing created by Karl Lagerfeld (German, 1933-2019) for a dress he designed for ‘Elizabeth Taylor Burton’ while at the House of Tiziani, Rome. Estimate: $1,000-$3,000. Image courtesy of Urban Culture Auctions/Palm Beach Modern Auctions

The collection is special – beyond the obvious – for several reasons, Baca said. “Aside from the fact that these sketches are the work of one of the most brilliant couturiers of the last half century, they are also very rare and might not have survived had they remained in Lagerfeld’s possession.” In 2007 the designer told The New Yorker, “I throw everything away,” with a nod to a nearby wastebasket filled with discarded sketches.

Also, some would question describing Lagerfeld’s beautifully detailed concept images as mere “sketches.” Bill Hamilton, who designed for Carolina Herrera for 17 years and now maintains a private clientele, observed, “These are more like works of art. I don’t think [designers] put that much effort into the sketches of today.”

Two 1960s hand-colored original fashion drawings created by Karl Lagerfeld (German, 1933-2019) while engaged by House of Tiziani, Rome. Example at left is hand-annotated and has a fabric swatch attached. Individually estimated at $500-$1,500. Image courtesy of Urban Culture Auctions/Palm Beach Modern Auctions

The emergence of the Tiziani archive may well have amused – perhaps delighted – Lagerfeld. In 2014 when there was saturation media coverage of the previous Lagerfeld auction, his beloved cat Choupette posted a story about it on her blog. “We would have to assume that it was Mr. Lagerfeld, and not Choupette, who did the actual blog posting,” Baca said with a laugh, “but either way, it adds a nice bit of indirect authentication for the collection.”

1960s hand-colored, hand-annotated original fashion drawing created by Karl Lagerfeld (German, 1933-2019) while engaged by House of Tiziani, Rome. Estimate: $500-$1,500. Image courtesy of Urban Culture Auctions/Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Urban Culture Auctions’ Thursday, April 18, 2019 sale of Rare Karl Lagerfeld Fashion Drawings & Portfolios will begin at 12:00 noon US Eastern time, with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. For additional information about any artwork in the auction, call 561-586-5500 or email uca@modernauctions.com.