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We had a virtual sit-down with Karl Lagerfeld CEO Pier Paolo Raghi and street artist Endless about their recent link-up.

The first thing that springs to mind when you think of Karl Lagerfeld, as magnetic a personality as he may have been, isn’t usually a fridge. Turns out there’s some cool logic behind the comparison, though.

“All my artwork is kind of advertising,” Endless tells me. “It goes back from when you were a baby and your mum puts it on the fridge, and then your relatives come around and look at it. It’s just on a bigger scale.” The equivalent for Pier? Lagerfeld’s collab with H&M – where he “put his fashion onto the door of the refrigerator.”

This buzzing, electric synergy between Pier, CEO of Karl Lagerfeld, and Endless, an anonymous London street-artist, continues throughout our Zoom call. Originally planning to meet up in Karl Lagerfeld’s Amsterdam HQ, we set up base virtually to talk through the brand and artist’s recent capsule collection of printed tees, raglan hoodies and corresponding artworks.

Serendipity is a pretty potent thing when it comes to collabs, and it played a part with the pairing on this occasion too. Pier, walking through Amsterdam, chanced across Endless’ etchings of Karl Largefeld plastered on the city walls. Endless had been “putting Karl Largefeld street art on the streets and on canvases for about three or four years,” he says, “commenting on the fashion world and advertising.”

Endless was hyped when Pier got in touch, but a little cynical. “Brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton,” he says, “contacted graffiti artists before” but had little understanding of the scene. This, though, was the “perfect match”. It’s clear to see why: there’s a natural chemistry between the two as they speak to each other, fizzing with creative energy and twinned via intertwining ideas of art’s purpose.

After receiving Karl’s blessing, the collaboration got underway, with Endless living up to his name by sending pitches by the bucketload. “I call myself Endless because I have endless ideas. I think I gave you about a hundred different ideas,” he says to Pier.

After a thorough sift through the archives, Endless plucked-out a self-portrait of Karl, simplified it into a stencil and then cut-it out by hand. “The reason I make stencils,” he says, “is I like the sprayed edge, but…you can see the spray as well. And then in the background, it was like a circle, and that was a bit more experimental brush strokes and dips…it makes the image stand out.”

From that, the Karl x Endless capsule of printed tees and hoodies was born. “Finally seeing the product,” Endless remembers, “was the most exciting thing to me. It’s like a full circle of me commenting on the fashion world and then being in the fashion world.” For Pier, it was a strangely prophetic and characteristically ironic comment on Karl’s passing a year later. “Ironically, when Karl passed, [‘endless’] took on a different meaning that Karl would have very much also liked to give to it. It’s almost his self-ironic way. The collaboration survived him.”

Here, we’ll jump headfirst into the conversation between Pier and Endless, exploring the nature of collaborations (and fridges, obvs):

PIER (P): Apart from the ironic element that Karl had, he was himself, of course, a very artistic person. He was very much drawn to artists, the artistic world, and had also surrounded himself with a lot of artists all the time from all different angles. So, Endless, as an artist yourself, how do you think this artist association influenced his creative work?

ENDLESS (E): I think, yeah, when you say the word art or art world or anything it’s such a broad aspect. I mean, when I think of art, it’s anything creative: it can be fashion, drawing, photography. He was all of that himself, and then there were all the collaborations he did throughout his life. I guess he was touching on different genres of design, illustration; picking out things that he loved in that world and that fed into his work as well, maybe. We use the word ‘inspired’ but when you see different things in the world, it often feeds into your work without you knowing. He always came up with his own ideas. But who knows where he got those from? He was very embedded in the whole creative world of art and photography. I mean, even some of his photography exhibitions were amazing. Some professional photographers don’t put on shows like he did. I would say he was more of a true creative than simply a fashion designer.

P: I would totally agree with that. I think he would also not have defined himself as a fashion designer, per se. If it would have been something, it would have been an artist. He always wanted to be an illustrator. He was really, really fascinated by illustrators from the 30s and 40s. And it’s really incredible. If you look at what we have recently done; you’ve done a great Instagram activation with us. And I’m sure there’s more touch points to come in the future. How did you perceive our latest [#StayHomeWithKarl] project and how do you look into the future in that regard?

E: It was a way of interacting with the fans of Karl Lagerfeld and fashion fans, art fans… I filmed a video painting the actual artwork, the Endless Karl artwork. And then we had a link where you could make your own artwork. I think sharing like this is the future now – it brings people together. At a time like this, people are apparently more creative…

P:  I remember when speaking with Karl also about the fashion house Karl Lagerfeld as opposed to Chanel or Fendi, he always said “when I do something for Karl Lagerfeld, I don’t want to interpret anything. I want it to basically be about myself and about my key attributes. When I work for Chanel or Fendi, I have to interpret their attributes. At the same time I want to invite people. I want to be inclusive, the opposite to exclusive. I want to include people and make them become part of my world.” I want to be an accessible designer and not leave people out when I do something for Karl Lagerfeld: I think this is also the place where he wanted to share his fascination for artists and photographers, everything he was fascinated by. Karl wanted people to participate in it and include them. And I totally agree. We definitely want to take Karl’s spirit and culture of doing things into the future; have this inclusiveness, participation and sharing. If you think back about Karl Lagerfeld, what inspires you most about him as a person and the brand?

E: One thing I haven’t mentioned, is work ethic: how much he worked, constantly. To me, that’s a massive inspiration, because I think when people are outside of the creative world, thinking about fashion design or art, they think about you swanning around doing a few things here and there. It’s not really like that at all, you have to work constantly. And when you see documentaries about him and how much he worked, it’s inspiring to me.

“I want to be inclusive, the opposite to exclusive. I want to include people and make them become part of my world."

P: It’s true, very very true. And if I may add, I think the only way he has been able to work as he did is because he didn’t perceive it as work. He just loved what he was doing. He would never have said, “Oh I have to work”, he would say “I do what I love to do and I just do it”. He once said, “if I were to stop breathing air, nobody would tell me I have to breathe air. I just breathe air. And that’s what I do with working.” And that is, of course, a great ethic. So he never thought that things came just kind of by coincidence. Also, the creative process was not just a coincidence…

E: And also your brand has that same ethic, like the work ethic and the open mindedness of it all. Like you will collaborate with artists, musicians, I think that’s a strong point in today’s world.

P: Absolutely. I think we share the curiosity that Karl had, as a culture for our brand: that curiosity of his remains and is what drives us. I can say with you, you know, we had an amazing bond and relationship and the collaboration has been exceptional. We are looking forward to keeping that bond of that relationship, we’re happy to have you as part of the Karl family.

Collaborations, then, have to be credible to be given any credit. What is it that inspired you to actually represent Karl Largefeld rather than just use his work as a source of inspiration?

E: I think when I used Karl himself as the image of Karl, I was using supermodels like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and then I used Karl because he’s like the godfather of all of them. Like, the ultimate creator almost. That’s how that’s how I drew him or painted him sometimes. I dialled it down in some stencils where it was less of a religious thing, it was more just him as a person. I guess it’s aesthetics as well, like the aesthetics of some of my stencils works well, black, white, greys, silvers, pink: my colour palette worked well with the actual brand and what they are doing as well.

P: Actually it goes back to what we just discussed earlier about Karl’s key attributes that he would like to have seen in the brand, too, and I think you touched upon a few of them very well. I would say there is the ‘three I’s: the ‘iconic’ element, so basically the way how Karl also portrayed himself, which you reflected upon. But then it’s also the other ‘I’, the ‘ironic’ element, so Karl did not take himself too seriously. Then the other element you mentioned before, and this is the other ‘I’, is inclusive. By this being street art, you make it accessible to a broad audience. It’s not exclusive to anybody, it’s inclusive.

E: That’s true. You know what? That’s the power of street art as well. It’s all inclusive. So anyone can see it, it’s almost like the perfect way of advertising as well. Without selling anything. You’re just selling the idea.

And how, I ask, did having art on commodities rather than canvases affect your perception?

E: Well, all my artwork is kind of advertising, street art is advertising basically, so you want more people to see. It goes back from when you were a baby and you put the artwork on the fridge, your mum puts it on the fridge, then your relatives come around and look at it. It’s just on a bigger scale. Then ultimately, more people see your work as well because you’re collaborating with a brand. Because I’m an artist not a fashion designer, it goes to another genre and then more people see it, which it’s always a good thing.

P: Yeah. It’s a little bit comparable also to when Karl was the first one collaborating with H&M about 12/13 years ago. You know, the whole world asked the question, how can someone who is the designer of the highest iconic exclusive luxury standard go to H&M? And that is basically when he said, like, you know what, I want people to participate and see what I do as a fashion designer, not only the ones that can afford Chanel. He went out and put his fashion onto the door of the refrigerator, which was in this case H&M. Karl always said that with a collaboration, it has to be fun.

Check out the collaborative collection online here


The discussion has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Words by Kyle MacNeill

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