Special – Karl Lagerfeld’s Salo(o)ns

It isn’t unusual for a fashion designer to sprinkle a bit of his fairy dust onto the humble products of car manufacturers. What is more unusual is for a fashion designer to create a bespoke car for himself. Which is exactly what Karl Lagerfeld did – twice. 

Space for the hand fan included, somewhere, Photo (c) e38.ru

Franco-German fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld, is about as illustrious and flamboyant a homo sapiens as can be. That he chose neither a Rolls-Royce, nor a Mercedes 600 covered in mother of pearl, nor a carriage made of solid ivory, but the moderately sporting, restrained shape of BMW’s second and third generations of Seven series saloons as his personal means of transportation can therefore be described as a decision that is as surprising and idiosyncratic as the man himself.

The first Lagerfeld Seven, based on BMW’s breakthrough E32 luxury saloon, was actually the first high-profile product produced by BMW Individual, the Munich company’s bespoke branch. It’s bi-coloured looks are, of course, up for debate and would certainly suit a modern Rolls-Royce Phantom in more casual a fashion than the more earth-bound BMW, but the inherent creativity is certainly worthy of, at the very least, some recognition.

Lagerfeld’s E32, exterior, Photo (c) tumblr.com
Lagerfeld’s E32 interior, Photo (c) pinterest.com

Lagerfeld’s second automotive effort is both at once more successful and less pleasing. Based on the stretched L7 variant of the E38-generation Seven, this limousine sports a slightly TVR-ish iridescent paint that is probably a marvel of craftsmanship, but looks just a bit tacky. The brown interior is actually a very pleasing colour that supports the chesterfield-like upholstery surprisingly well. Unfortunately, the E38’s technical interior design (actually its strong suit) occasionally jars with Lagerfeld’s ideas in a more obvious way than had been the case with the E32.

E38 Cockpit, Photo (c) 7-Forum
The Lagerfeld L7 in all its glory, Photo (c) 7-Forum

No matter how one rates these cars’ stylistic merits, one thing is for certain: either is obviously a much more appealing collector’s item than the Mercedes CLK Armani Edition.

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs www.auto-didakt.com // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

9 thoughts on “Special – Karl Lagerfeld’s Salo(o)ns”

  1. Kris, do you know what Lagerfeld is driving (or being driven in) these days?

  2. I saw KL once in Paris, over 20 years ago (I think it was in 1992). He had double-parked on Boulevard Saint-Germain outside a famous bookshop where he was buying a couple dozen art books, and several copies of his own book to sign and give to the shop staff who had indulged his every whim and carried his bags to the car. It was a Bentley.

  3. Modern car interiors don’t take well to customisation. Lagerfeld got that interior wrong. He needed another type of cloth not that Chesterfield leather he went for.

  4. Actually really like that dimpled leather especially in a tub style chair. As a BMW E38 owner I definitely feel that a car is not the place for it. I agree with Richard that it’s almost impossible to improve on the interior of a car that has been designed by someone who really knows what they are doing (hence they are extremely well paid by the manufacturers who obviously have a huge interest in how the interior is received). He might know about haute couture but………..

    1. Looking at a tired, worn E65’s interior, I’d claim it actually is possible to improve on the interiors of certain cars. But your E38 isn’t one such case. The interiors of the late Luthe cars are sublime.

    2. Yes even when new the E65 interior was chubby and a little ott. Maybe they felt they no longer needed the services of KL …

  5. The E32 is, at least, ahead of its time. The paint job is just the sort of thing you’d do onto the flanks of a rusty or dented 25 year old 7 Series you picked up for £620 on Ebay.

  6. These cars are like objects from nature. You can´t guild them. It says a lot about the self-contained completeness of automotive design that it can´t be added to, not most of the time anyway. Lagerfeld´s car is a gilded lily. His interventions are madly at odds with the rest of the vehicle.

    1. Yes, they are, and yet they wouldn’t look out of place when applied to a Phantom or Ghost at all. Which says a lot about the distinctiveness of those cars, too, what with them keeping the ‘coach’ character of proper limousines alive.

      Any BMW Seven – E65 notwithstanding – will always be far too close to its Threes and Fives relatives to wear such flamboyance truly gracefully.

      Having said all that, I’d definitely like to have a look at the E32 in person.

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