Karl Lagerfeld was one of the industry’s most iconic designers, straddling the worlds of fashion and pop culture in a way no other has.
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He was also one of fashion’s most prolific stars, working successfully at the top of his game up until his death today, aged 85.
Known by many as the kaiser of fashion, his rule was one of creativity, elegance and innovation. He was endlessly talented and indefatigably hard working.
As creative director of French fashion house Chanel since 1983, he reinvented the company launched by Coco Chanel in 1909, and set a new template for modern day luxury brands and the star designers that lead them.
Lagerfeld was famously averse to sales figures, but there is no denying he is the man who turned Chanel into the industry-leading, multi-billion-pound business it is today.
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Not only did he honour the codes established by Coco Chanel, he reworked them season after season after season – more than 70 seasons in fact – designing up to six collections a year for the brand. From the iconic tweed jackets to the little black dresses, the quilted handbags and the pearls, all stamped with the famous interlocking double “C” logo, Lagerfeld created luxury fashion that often defined seasons, led trends and spoke to consumers across generations.
On top of his work at Chanel, he had also been creative director of Fendi since 1965, where he breathed new life into the Italian luxury label, and he launched his own eponymous brand in 1984.
He was one of the designers at the forefront of fashion’s new frontier, turning his ready-to-wear and couture catwalk shows into full-scale productions by spending millions on elaborate sets and headline-grabbing events.
Lagerfeld also spearheaded the democratisation of fashion. He was the first luxury designer to collaborate with a high street retailer via his link up with H&M in 2002, setting the trend for high-low brand collaborations.
His vision and understanding of the industry was unparalleled, as was the profile and celebrity he built for himself – the logo of his own brand being his iconic pony-tailed silhouette.
Lagerfeld stood for style and success, but also stability. In a time when the merry-go-round of designers spins faster than ever – some are given three years or less to prove themselves – Lagerfeld’s longevity was unmatched in the industry, having worked tirelessly through almost seven decades.
The impact and influence of the “kaiser” will live on much longer.