Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld has died at the age of 85. Regarded as one of the most important fashion visionaries of the 20th and 21st centuries, he was known for regularly wearing sunglasses and a black suit with a white shirt, and with his grey hair pulled back into a ponytail.
Lagerfeld, who was the creative director of the giant French fashion brand, missed his label’s spring/summer couture show during the Paris Haute Couture fashion week in January because he was unable to attend.
It is understood he was admitted to the American Hospital in Paris on Monday and died there on Tuesday after a period of ill-health, according to local reports.
Lagerfeld’s date of birth has long been unclear, as it was previously widely believed to be 1933, although it is listed as 1938 on his official website. In 2013 he told Paris Match magazine that he was born in 1935.
Tributes from across the globe have come pouring in for the iconic figure, with many in the industry – including Victoria Beckham and Donatella Versace – expressing their sadness at the passing of “genius” Lagerfeld.
Lagerfeld had also worked for Chloe and H&M, and was an acclaimed photographer, having gone behind the lens for a number of high fashion magazines and for his own fashion campaigns.
He was also the creative director of LVMH-owned Italian fur and leather goods fashion house Fendi, as well as his eponymous fashion label, which he opened in 1984.
But Lagerfeld was best known for his association with France’s Chanel.
He failed to attend this year’s Paris Haute Couture fashion week. It was the first time since the German took over as the fashion house’s creative director in 1983 that he had not spoken to fashion fans after a show.
Chanel is due to show its spring/summer ready-to-wear collection in Paris on Tuesday, March 5.
Lagerfeld’s top five quotes
You can read the full list Karl Lagerfeld’s most memorable – and controversial – quotes here, but here is a small selection:
On tracksuit bottoms: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
On always wearing sunglasses: “They’re my burka… I’m a little shortsighted, and people, when they’re shortsighted, they remove their glasses and then they look like cute little dogs who want to be adopted.”
On not having children: “They grow so fast, and having adult children makes you look 100 years old. I don’t want that.”
On not being human: “I have no human feelings.”
On the Middleton sisters: “Kate Middleton has a nice silhouette and she is the right girl for that boy. I like that kind of woman, I like romantic beauties. On the other hand, her sister struggles. I don’t like the sister’s face. She should only show her back.”
Chanel’s ‘deep sadness’ at the passing of ‘extraordinary creative mind’
Paris fashion house Chanel has released a statement confirming the passing of its creative director Karl Lagerfeld.
Read it here, in full:
It is with deep sadness that the House of Chanel announces the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director for the Chanel fashion house since 1983.
An extraordinary creative individual, Karl Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the Chanel jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewellery.
Regarding Gabrielle Chanel, he said: “My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done. The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.”
A prolific creative mind with endless imagination, Karl Lagerfeld explored many artistic horizons, including photography and short films.
The House of Chanel benefitted from his talent for all the branding campaigns related to Fashion since 1987. Finally, one cannot refer to Karl Lagerfeld without mentioning his innate sense of repartee and self-mockery.
Alain Wertheimer, CEO of Chanel, said: “Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of Chanel’s success throughout the world.
“Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand.”
Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion at Chanel, said: “Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Karl Lagerfeld left his mark on the legend of Gabrielle Chanel and the history of the House of Chanel.
“He steadfastly promoted the talent and expertise of Chanel’s ateliers and Métiers d’Art, allowing this exceptional know-how to shine throughout the world.
“The greatest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow the path he traced by – to quote Karl – ‘continuing to embrace the present and invent the future’.”
Virginie Viard, Director of Chanel’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, has been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.
The House of Chanel offers his family, relatives and friends its deepest condolences.
Tributes to the ‘genius’ of Karl Lagerfeld
Designer Donatella Versace posted a photograph of herself and 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.”
Actress Diane Kruger said she was heartbroken in a long message on Instagram.
She wrote: “Karl…..I cannot tell you how much you meant to me and how much I will miss you – I will never forget your kindness towards me, your laughs, your imagination – I came to France to see you this week and introduce you to my daughter…I’m heartbroken I was too late – Rest In Peace, I adore you.”
Victoria Beckham posted on Instagram: “So incredibly sad to hear this. Karl was a genius and always so kind and generous to me both personally and professionally. RIP.”
She signed off the message with a kiss and her initials.
Model and TV star Alexa Chung said: “Rest in peace, Karl. I remember being so scared to interview you and yet you were in fact incredibly witty and generous.
“Thank you for inviting me to some of the most glamorous experiences of my life, it was an honour to know you. Oh yeah and thanks for the dry shampoo tip, will always think of you as I powder my wig.”
Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH – which owns Fendi – said: “With the passing of Karl Lagerfeld we have lost a creative genius who helped to make Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative Italian houses.
“We owe him a great deal: his taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known. Artistic director of Jean Patou in 1959, creator of Fendi since 1965, member of the LVMH Prize jury since its creation in 2013, he honoured the LVMH group with an extraordinarily stimulating creative and entrepreneurial friendship.
“I will always remember his immense imagination, his ability to conceive new trends for every season, his inexhaustible energy, the virtuosity of his drawings, his carefully guarded independence, his encyclopedic culture, and his unique wit and eloquence.
“The death of this dear friend deeply saddens me, my wife and my children. We loved and admired him deeply. Fashion and culture has lost a great inspiration.”
A post on the official Fendi Instagram account read: “Thank you Karl for the most beautiful journey.
“With all our love. Your Fendi family.”
British fashion designer Stella McCartney and singer Kylie Minogue were also among the names to pay tribute to Lagerfeld.
McCartney posted a message on Instagram alongside a black and white photograph of the Chanel creative director, saying it was “a truly sad day”.
She continued: “To say I knew this gentle man that changed how we all looked at the world, is an honour.
“My heart goes out to his loved ones and to all that felt his delicate and spectacular touch on an industry that is so crowded with characters.
“He held his place high above all and his sharp wit and mind blew us all away.
“A true icon… One that will be missed for many, many years to come and will always be responsible for so much creative genius.
“Thank you Karl for all the beauty and for seeing the world through those iconic glasses that were truly rose-tinted with a vision that was like no other.
“You will be very missed… And always loved x”.
Australian singer Minogue described Lagerfeld as “Unique, masterful, funny and generous” in a post on social media.
Designer Marc Jacobs also shared his sadness, writing on Instagram: “Waking up to a world without Karl. So sad. And strange.
“He was a great inspiration to me, and, undeniably a unique and extraordinary talent. RESPECT. Rest In Peace KL .”
German supermodel Claudia Schiffer described the designer as her “magic dust” and said he “transformed me from a shy German girl into a supermodel”.
In an Instagram post, she added: “He taught me about fashion, style and survival in the fashion business. What Warhol was to art, he was to fashion; he is irreplaceable.
“He is the only person who could make black and white colourful! I will be eternally grateful to him.”
Model Bella Hadid said she was “at a loss for words and so heartbroken by the loss of Karl”.
She posted on Instagram: “His humor, wit , love and passion for fashion will live on forever.
“Thank you for the inspiration that you gave to this world and for all of the hearts that you touched in the process.
“Every time I saw you it felt like the first time & I will miss your hugs so much.
“I feel so lucky to have been in your presence. Sending my love to the Lagerfeld family and to all closest to him. I am so sorry. We all love you so much . Rest In Peace KL”.
Her sister Gigi said she was “heartbroken” in a message shared in an Instagram story.
She wrote: “I’m so heartbroken. I almost don’t have words… There will never be another Karl Lagerfeld.
“Every second with you was an honor, joy, and inspiration. I wish I could give you one last hug. I love you Karl. Thank you for everything. Rest In Peace.”
Actress Marion Cotillard wrote on Instagram: “Dear Karl. Dear maestro. Your Being was so vibrante, your profound kindness, your curiosity of the world and humanity touched me so deeply.
“What you have left is Alive, Luminous and Bright. The word Genius suits you perfectly.
“Thank you for the beauty, the humour, the poetry, the authenticity, the excellence, the passion and the love.
“Thank you for giving so much to France. And to Art. I wish you a wonderful and peaceful journey. With all my love. Marion.”
Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s creative director for women’s collections, was quoted in a long Instagram post, saying: “I was extremely saddened to hear of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing.
“He was such an emblematic personality, an icon with whom I had the immense good fortune of working early in my career, at Fendi.
“I appreciated his culture, directness and humour and admired his creations for the free and modern vision of fashion he offered women.
“We will miss him terribly and my thoughts especially go out to his teams at Fendi and Chanel.”
American designer Tommy Hilfiger said he would “miss his generosity and the unique sense of humour he brought to our partnership”.
A post on Twitter said: “Karl Lagerfeld continuously pushed boundaries with his unparalleled vision. I will miss his generosity and the unique sense of humor he brought to our partnership. His timeless legacy will never cease to inspire future generations.”
David Beckham, Sir Elton John and Lily Allen also remembered the designer with touching posts on social media.