Karl Lagerfeld is a German fashion designer, artist, and photographer based in Paris. He is the head designer and creative director of the fashion house Chanel as well as the Italian house Fendi and his own label fashion house. Over the decades, he has collaborated on a variety of fashion and art-related projects. He is well recognized around the world for his trademark white hair, black glasses, and high starched collars.

Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg. He has claimed he was born in 1938 to Elisabeth (born Bahlman) and Otto Lagerfeldt. He is known to insist that no one knows his real birth date; interviewed on French television in February 2009, Lagerfeld said that he was “born neither in 1933 nor 1938.” In April 2013 he finally declared that he was born in 1935. A birth announcement was, however, published by his parents in 1933, and the baptismal register in Hamburg also lists him as born in 1933. His older sister, Martha Christiane (a.k.a. Christel), was born in 1931. Lagerfeld has an older half-sister, Thea, from his father’s first marriage. His original name was Lagerfeldt, but he later changed it to Lagerfeld as, in his words, “it sounds more commercial.”

Purportedly, Lagerfeld grew up as the son of a wealthy businessman from Sweden who was introducing powdered milk. His family was mainly shielded from the deprivations of World War II due to his father’s business interests in Germany through the firm Glücksklee-Milch GmbH. His mother is from Berlin; according to Alicia Drake, she was a lingerie saleswoman there when she met her husband and married him in 1930.

After attending a private school, Lagerfeld finished his secondary school at the Lycée Montaigne in Paris, where he majored in drawing and history.