The Karl Lagerfeld company has birthed a completely new brand for spring 2023 with Gen Z in mind — and it has big ambitions for it.
“We believe that down the road the Karl Lagerfeld Jeans line can generate a similar size of business like our main line and we will resource accordingly, and will connect with our target audience with this opportunity in mind,” said Pier Paolo Righi, chief executive officer of Karl Lagerfeld.
Boasting loose fits, bold colors and a fluid approach to gender definition, the first drop lands Thursday on Karl.com and Zalando. Other key digital launch partners include About You, Answear and Farfetch.
The fashion house has long sold denim as part of its main-line business, accounting for about 10 percent of the total collection size.
In an exclusive interview, Righi characterized jeans as a “compliment to the overall offering” — and an explosive one at that, with the denim portion logging a triple-digit increase over the past year.
To launch the brand, shown under embargo during Paris Fashion Week in September alongside the main spring 2023 Karl Lagerfeld collections, the Karl Lagerfeld Jeans line is overseen by design director Hun Kim and a “dedicated in-house team of denim experts,” according to Righi.
While prices will be lower than its main-line denim, “Karl Lagerfeld Jeans is not a diffusion line, but its own brand with a new logo, brand codes and identity,” Righi stressed.
There will be separate men’s and women’s collections, though many of the styles are considered gender-neutral “as Gen Z is dropping restrictive labels and embracing fluidity more than ever,” according to the executive. “We continue Karl’s legacy by embracing his wit, playfulness and style — we are just connecting it to the younger generation.”
To be sure, the brand’s late founder wholeheartedly embraced jeans as part of his uniform after a dramatic weight loss in the early 2000s.
He favored black denim, and often wore jeans from his signature brand printed with a camouflage-like repetition of his cameo.
“They were his daily ‘go-to,” is how Righi puts it.
The project fits the late founder’s vision for his signature house, reconfigured in 2011 as a digitally driven brand in the “masstige,” or affordable luxury, category.
Righi said Karl Lagerfeld Jeans will be sold in physical stores eventually.
“But for launch we have decided to take a digital-first approach with the exception of our Marais store in Paris, which will become a dedicated Karl Lagerfeld Jeans store for the second drop on Feb. 2,” he said, referring to the unit at 25 Rue Vieille-du-Temple.
Campaigns will be digitally focused for a digitally native generation, spanning user-generated content, social-media activations and influencer initiatives, according to the brand.
Righi described a “fully integrated approach” with multiple touch points. The brand plans to “focus very strongly on TikTok,” but Instagram will remain an important platform, too.
“We want to build a diverse community,” Righi said. “Every individual has the power to speak out and we are looking to develop conversations, collaborating with creatives from varied and inclusive backgrounds.”
Fashion-wise, Karl Lagerfeld Jeans will offer skinny, straight-leg and relaxed fits in denim alongside a range of denim jackets, “layering essentials” and sportswear items bearing abstract and camouflage-like patterns.
Cropped tops, hoodies and bomber jackets telegraph the youthful spirit of the line, while color-blocked jersey, gradient washes and bouclé-effect denim add visual punch.
According to Kim, the look is “creative, authentic and effortlessly cool, for trend-setters and rule breakers.”
He noted that Lagerfeld “was a master of mixing cool, rock-chic denim with more dressed-up pieces,” referring to his uniform of dark jeans, a white shirt, black tie and a tailored jacket with some pizzazz.
An intense blue, Pantone 2736 C, dominates the branding and appears on box logos, buttons, toggles and rivets. Hun said he got the idea for the Yves Klein-esque shade from a photo shoot Lagerfeld did for Interview magazine. “When people look at this blue, I want them to think about Karl Lagerfeld Jeans, so we really focused on the color and then we built a story around it,” he said.
There’s a green element, too: In line with the company’s eco ambitions, many items in the collection are made with organic cotton and recycled polyester created from postconsumer and post-industrial materials like PET plastic bottles and apparel. Items that contain at least 50 percent of sustainable materials are to carry a Karl Cares hangtag.
The company noted that denim is finished with techniques that use less water and energy than traditional denim manufacturing.