The German designer is best known for his work as the creative director of Chanel, the French luxury fashion house. He was a prolific designer, also at the creative helm of Fendi and his eponymous label at the time of his death.
Lagerfeld died Tuesday morning in Paris, the city he helped turn into the fashion capital of the world, his label said. Rumors had swirled about his health after he was absent from his Chanel show in late January, due to what the fashion house described as tiredness.
After news of his death broke, celebrities and giants of the fashion world paid tribute to the late designer. Designer Donatella Versace paid tribute to Lagerfeld on Instagram, writing: “Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I. We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We were always learning from you.
The creative director of Chanel since 1983 and Fendi since 1965, and founder of his own line, Mr. Lagerfeld was the definition of a fashion polyglot, able to speak the language of many different brands at the same time (not to mention many languages themselves: He read in English, French, German and Italian).
Not only did his designs turn Chanel into one of the world’s most valuable couture houses, but Lagerfeld’s business savvy made him an early proponent of the now ubiquitous luxury collaborations with high street brands. He transformed not only the fortunes of Chanel (now said to have revenues of more than $4 billion a year) but also his own profile.
Lagerfeld, who transformed Chanel into a global powerhouse after becoming creative director, he was rarely seen without his dark glasses, a silver ponytail and finger-less gloves — gaining him the reputation as the most recognizable man in fashion, and one of its most outspoken.
“My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done,” he said of the brand’s founder, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. “The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.”
“Today the world lost a giant among men,” Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, said in a statement. “His creative genius was breathtaking and to be his friend was an exceptional gift. Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind. I will miss him so very much.
“We owe him a great deal: his taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known,” Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH, said in a statement. “We loved and admired him deeply.
He was also a photographer, whose work was exhibited at the Pinacothèque de Paris; a publisher.
Having founded his own imprint for Steidl, Edition 7L; and the author of a popular 2002 diet book, “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” about how he had lost 92 pounds.
From Hamburg to Haute Couture.
Born on September 10th 1933 in Hamburg, Germany, his love for fashion design started at the age of 8, and he immigrated to Paris at age 14.He got his start at 17 in Paris working under Pierre Balmain in the 1950s, moving three years later to the House of Patou. Lagerfeld went on to win a womenswear design competition in 1954He had stints as a freelancer for Chloé and was hired by Fendi in 1967 as a consultant director, responsible for modernizing the Italian house’s fur lines.
In 2004, he became the first designer to design a collection for H&M, a trend that was later followed by the likes of Stella McCartney, Comme des Garcons, Versace and Maison Martin Margiela.When Lagerfield took the reins at Chanel, he set to work reviving the brand’s staid offerings. “[Chanel was] a sleeping beauty. Not even a beautiful one. She snored,” he said of the fashion house in “Lagerfeld Confidential,” a 2007 documentary. “So I was to revive a dead woman.”
He was designing an average of 14 new collections a year, ranging from couture to the high street — and not counting collaborations and special projects. “Ideas come to you when you work,” he said making a statement before a Fendi show at age 83.
His signature combinations of “high fashion and high camp” attracted admirers like Rihanna; Princess Caroline of Monaco; Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and Julianne Moore. Even with his death he will surly stay a relevant force on how high fashion should continue to progress.
By Samantha Hunter