Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel and Fendi, has died in Paris, aged 85.
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The news follows weeks of ill health. Lagerfeld did not appear at Chanel’s haute couture show in Paris in January, and asked his right-hand woman, Virginie Viard, director of Chanel’s Fashion Creation Studio, to appear in his place.
His mane of white hair, ever-present sunglasses and constant creative output made Lagerfeld one of fashion’s most recognisable and iconic figures. Known for reinventing Chanel and creating catwalk spectacles that in past seasons have included rocket ships, ornate villas and even a supermarket, Lagerfeld was also creative director of Fendi.
Alain Wertheimer, Chanel CEO, said: “Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to 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.”
Pier Paolo Righi, CEO of Karl Lagerfeld, said: “The world has lost an icon. Karl Lagerfeld was a creative genius; he was influential, curious, powerful and passionate. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to have known and worked with him, and there are no words to express how much he will be missed.”
Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC), praised Lagerfeld’s “unrivalled contribution” to the fashion industry: “He inspired generations of young designers and will continue to do so. His tenure of more than 30 years, saw his unique vision to transform Chanel from a classic French house into a global super-brand. It is a great loss for our industry.”
Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH, 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. 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 encyclopaedic culture, and his unique wit and eloquence.”
In an Instagram post, Versace chief designer Donatella Versace said: “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.”
Victoria Beckham posted: “Karl was a genius, and always so kind and generous to me both personally and professionally.”
Born in 1933 in Hamburg, Germany, Lagerfeld began his seven-decade long career in fashion aged just 17. After moving to Paris, he began working as a design assistant for Pierre Balmain. His career also included time at luxury fashion houses Fendi and Chloé throughout the 1960s, but Lagerfeld has been synonymous with Chanel since he first joined in 1983.
Under his tenure, Chanel has become a powerhouse of the luxury industry. Last year, the French fashion house publicly disclosed its financial figures for the first time, revealing it brought in close to £7.54bn in revenues in 2017.
Viard, Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, will take over the creative work for the collections, “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on”, Chanel said in a statement.
During his long career, Lagerfeld also launched his own eponymous fashion house in 1984 and became the first designer to launch a collaboration with Swedish retail giant H&M in 2004.