If the walls within Karl Lagerfeld‘s photographic haven on Rue de Lille in Paris could parle, their multilingual dialogue might yield enough captivating tales to fill numerous tomes, adding to the 33,000 volumes that already grace the perimeter, floor to rafters. Situated discreetly behind the cherished 7L bookstore, this was where the late German maestro passionately toiled into the late hours, several times each week. It was the birthplace of countless Chanel campaigns and press kits, and the backdrop for a renowned coffee-table book featuring portraits of global luminaries adorned in iconic little black jackets.
When not immersed behind the lens capturing editorials or experimenting artistically with Polaroid transfers, daguerreotypes, platinotypes, resinotypes, or digital prints, Lagerfeld would swiftly transition to an adjacent meeting space. There, he would engage in media interviews or collaborate with architects, filmmakers, playwrights, authors, publishers, musicians, and actors. The poignant silence that followed Lagerfeld’s passing in February 2019 draped this iconic space. However, 7L is now experiencing a renaissance in a manner the designer would have wholeheartedly embraced. The venue is now pulsating with cultural events, dance performances, musical showcases, exhibitions, book signings, readings, lectures, bespoke services, and chic merchandise.
Emphasising that 7L is not a mere museum, Laurence Delamare, the recently appointed director since Chanel’s acquisition in 2021, envisions the space as a hub for contemporary artists. “To continue a project that Karl created is an honor; it’s exceptional and such an exhilarating mission,” she enthuses. Over the past two years, Delamare and her team, coincidentally numbering seven, have been working behind the scenes on various fronts. They’ve crafted a rich cultural program, now available through subscription, initiated an Instagram presence, overhauled 7L’s website and recommenced online sales, and revived 7L’s role as a publisher.
¨In the vibrant rebirth of 7L, Karl Lagerfeld’s creative legacy is honoured by the transformation of his iconic photo studio into a now dynamic space for contemporary artists. It’s not just a cultural revival; it’s a living testament to Lagerfeld’s eclectic spirit and an invitation for artists, authors, and book lovers to unite in this avant-garde journey of inspiration and exceptional creativity.¨ – Charles Daniel McDonald
Guided by Lagerfeld’s vision, who founded 7L in 1999, the venue specialises in displaying photo books like artworks, paying homage to its former life as an art gallery. Delamare, in her first interview, stresses her commitment to restoring creativity to this space. “It won’t be a fashion photo studio anymore, but a place for contemporary artists,” she declares. Lagerfeld’s vast collection of 33,000 books, covering photography, visual arts, literature, music, and dance, dictates the thematic framework for 7L’s activities. Even live performances draw inspiration directly from the library’s eclectic selection.
Delamare, who spent 15 years at Lagerfeld’s side as Chanel’s global head of fashion public relations, acknowledges the challenge of upholding Lagerfeld’s high creative standards. She affirms that all of 7L’s cultural events must be live and exceptional, a sentiment mirrored in the commissioned press release penned by poet Claire Marin. Running 7L as a business, not philanthropy, Delamare has developed plans for the bookstore, publishing house, and cultural space. Revamping the website, restarting e-commerce, and introducing bespoke library services for clients’ homes are part of the strategic initiatives. The curated book selection, reflecting Lagerfeld’s taste, remains a cornerstone of 7L’s appeal.
In addition to regular book signings, 7L now offers “book boxes” for holiday gifting, featuring a trio of books on a specific subject, stationery items, and a numbered artwork. Merchandise includes tote bags, sketch pads, pencils, and co-branded items like a Smythson slogan notebook with Karl Lagerfeld’s maxim: “Books Should Be an Everyday Affair.” Upcoming book signings include fashion illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme and fashion editor Carine Roitfeld. A Friends of 7L membership, offering admission for two to live events and a monthly Reading Room program, is also available.
With Lagerfeld having published numerous books under the 7L imprint during his lifetime, Delamare plans a different approach for Éditions 7L. Collaborating with various publishers, the imprint’s first release was a reedition with Editions Seghers and Villa Noailles. Delamare anticipates the release of half a dozen books in 2024 and 2025. In concluding her vision for 7L, Delamare expresses a desire for the space to remain a source of inspiration for artists, creative minds, authors, and publishing houses, an avant-garde haven that is not nostalgic but vibrantly forward-looking, hosting events with artists of today and tomorrow.
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald
Photography: Librairie 7L