Karl Lagerfeld, indisputably one of the industry’s biggest names and perhaps the most prolific of designers, has died in Paris, reports say. The designer was often inconsistent when it came to the year of his birth, and information about his early life was scant, but German records revealed that he was born in 1933, making him 85 at the time of his death.
Last month, the designer was noticeably absent from the haute couture show for Chanel, prompting concern in the industry. Lagerfeld was said not to attend because he felt tired. There are still fashion shows lined up in the following days for the previously Lagerfeld-led Chanel and Fendi in Milan and Paris, respectively, where his absence will be felt immensely.
Dubbed as fashion’s Renaissance Man, Lagerfeld had a long career that surpasses many in the industry, even his once friend and eventual rival Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008. He was constantly working, even until the years leading to his passing, and felt that he was secured in doing what he loved: design. After all, he headed three labels all at once: Fendi, Chanel and his namesake house. Even more impressive is the length of time he has been with the houses: Lagerfeld worked with Fendi since the late 1960s and began his stint with Chanel in the 1980s, and often implied that he held a lifetime contract with both.
He was especially revered for his work with Chanel after transforming the house from an aging brand into one of the most influential and most profitable luxury labels around—Chanel’s sales unveiled in 2017 proved that it was performing excellently and could maintain its status of being independent, which were in stark contrast with other brands of its size. Hired by the Wertheimer family in 1983 to reinvent Chanel, Lagerfeld went on to bring life to the house’s iconic pieces and make them more of the times, while still keeping the spirit of its founder, Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, very much alive. In Chanel, he had as much artistic freedom as he desired, something that has been a subject of envy for many of his peers.
Lagerfeld’s 36 years at Chanel is remarkable, but he has an even longer relationship with Fendi. He has been the creative director since 1967, and met Silvia Venturini Fendi, the only one from the family to still be working with the brand, when the latter was still a child. The creative director for menswear and accessories considers the iconic designer to be a most important mentor. With the Italian house, Lagerfeld was credited for giving its fur line a much needed update. The allure of fur is diminishing in recent times, but it is worth noting that it was Lagerfeld who introduced fashion to rabbit and mole skin.
Even though the German designer had enough responsibility on his hands, he still went on to explore other ventures. Lagerfeld was a noted photographer, occasionally doing the shoots for his campaigns. He also delved in the beauty industry, interior design, film as well as endeavors that are far from fashion, such as cars and video games. Still, it was fashion design that he considered most essential in his life, even comparing it to breathing.
In his death, Lagerfeld has left behind the most enviable of positions, including the creative director for his very own line. Chanel has tasked Virginie Viard, longtime friend and collaborator to Lagerfeld and currently the French line’s design studio director to take over. It is unsure if it will be a temporary stint. Fendi still has not decided on a successor, but there have been speculations that it will be Venturini Fendi who will follow the designer’s footsteps. Meanwhile, there still aren’t any names for the eponymous label Karl Lagerfeld, which he founded in 1984.
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The House of KARL LAGERFELD shares, with deep emotion and sadness, the passing of its creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, on February 19, 2019, in Paris, France. He was one of the most influential and celebrated designers of the 21st century and an iconic, universal symbol of style. Driven by a phenomenal sense of creativity, Karl was passionate, powerful and intensely curious. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time, and there are no words to express how much he will be missed.
Image credits: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images, Philippe Wojazer/Reuters, Vittoriano Rastelli/Corbis/Getty Images, Benoit Tessier/Reuters, Stephane Mahe/Reuters, Andreas Rentz/Getty Images, Remy De La Mauviniere/AP/REX/Shutterstock, AP, Stephane Feugere, Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, Fashionstock/Shutterstock