It’s a sad day in fashion. Karl Lagerfeld has passed on today at age 85 after weeks of ill health, according to reports. The news came soon after Lagerfeld was noticeably absent from Chanel’s haute couture Paris shows back in January.
Lagerfeld has left behind a tremendous legacy. The designer helmed, and was unarguably the face of Chanel for over three decades. He was credited for giving the French couture house a radical facelift, with iconic runway shows that bordered on extravagant and designs that breathed new life into the label. His foray into fashion began with an apprenticeship in Balmain, before he took on the creative director role at Chloé.
One of the most prolific and influential designers, the Germany-born legend also held a long-term position in the house of Fendi.
Alain Wertheimer, CEO of Chanel, said in an official release: “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’.”
Instantly recognisable for his signature white, ponytail and tinted sunglasses, Lagerfeld was notorious for his wit and wisdom that few could emulate, as well as his penchant for controversial one-liners. He once famously declared: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
Designer Donatella Versace posted on her Instagram: “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.”
Model and designer Alexa Chung posted: “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. ❤️”
The Kaiser leaves behind Choupette, his world-famous cat (and a pop culture icon) with whom he shared glamorous adventures that were documented on Instagram.
Chanel announced that Virginie Viard — director of the label’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years — is now entrusted by Chanel’s CEO with the creative work, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.