The death last month of longtime Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld has only increased demand for the brand and heightened interest in the man. Now, a little-known chapter in his career will be illuminated when a Palm Beach auction house on April 18 offers 125 of Lagerfeld’s fashion sketches dating to the early Sixties when he was working for the House of Tiziani in Rome, long before he joined Chanel in 1983.
The trove of sketches is the second sale of Lagerfeld’s fashion drawings by the Urban Culture Auctions division of Palm Beach Modern Auctions. The company in 2014 offered sketches by Lagerfeld, which were saved by Tiziani’s founder Evan Richards and preserved by subsequent owners who maintained the archive.
Urban Culture’s co-owner Rico Baca in 2014 traveled to Rome with the consignor and spent a week sifting through the archive. “Many of the sketches had Lagerfeld’s signature on them,” he said. “I had to look at the rest of the collection and find similarities. You can see how the shoes are done and how the faces are done. Many design studios don’t add hair to the faces.”
While Baca thought he’d auctioned the last of the sketches in 2014, he subsequently learned that the consignor had kept some of his favorites images for his own collection. “Even we didn’t know that he had them,” Baca said. “He’s decided to let a new generation become the caretakers of the irreplaceable artworks.”
Baca is struck by the fact Tiziani’s Richards saved Lagerfeld’s drawings, a sign that he recognized the designer’s early talent. He said the collection is rare and may not have survived had it been in Lagerfeld’s possession since the designer often said he never saved anything.
The oblong sketches are hand-colored and have penciled notes at the sides or bottom. Some have original fabric swatches attached. Seven portfolios, each containing between 22 and 44 sketches, are estimated to bring $2,000 to $4,000 each. Individual sketches are estimated to fetch $1,000 to $1,500. Two sketches of designs for Elizabeth Taylor, a Tiziani client, are seen selling for up to $3,000 each.
The auction of the Tiziani archive may have amused Lagerfeld. When the first round was revealed in 2014, Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette posted on her blog, “Daddy is going on auction…” Baca recalled. “We would assume that it was Mr. Lagerfeld, and not Choupette, who did the actual blog posting. Either way, it added a nice bit of indirect authentication for the collection.”