The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2023 Costume Institute exhibition and gala is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” celebrating Lagerfeld’s enduring legacy, along with the translation of his 2D renderings to their final 3D form. And though said legacy may not be immediately synonymous with makeup, those familiar with his creative process know that Chanel’s longtime creative director enjoyed a unique relationship with beauty products—particularly eye shadow. To create his iconic sketches, Lagerfeld relied on unique mediums like Tipp-Ex Whiteout (the better to communicate volume and texture) and eye shadow, particularly from Shu Uemura’s cultish palettes.
“The makeup, I don’t have any clue now when it came—many years ago,” says Caroline Lebar, SVP of image and communications at Karl Lagerfeld. “It came as a surprise for everyone because we did not see that it was makeup. Karl was always drawing at home, so we could not know what kind of material he was using.” After dreaming and drawing, Lagerfeld would arrive with a folder of creations and scrutinize the sketches with Anita Briey (the director of the atelier), determining how best to transmute them to garment form.
Though the use of shadow may have begun with any number of pots and palettes, it soon filtered down to one: Shu Uemura. Lagerfeld became enamored with a specific red, which, once discovered, was incorporated into sketches for the remainder of his career. In fact, when the brand was forced to discontinue the hue due to lead content, Mr. Uemura re-created the color for Lagerfeld.