Fashion icon and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld dies aged 85
Legendary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has died at the age of 85, his fashion label Chanel confirmed on Tuesday (Feb 19). The announcement came just weeks after the icon of the global fashion industry failed to turn up at shows during Paris Haute Couture week for Chanel, which he has led since 1983. He had reportedly been in ill health.
"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," said Chanel in a statement after the announcement of his death.
The CEO of Chanel, Alain Wertheimer, added that Lagerfeld was "ahead of his time". “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," he said. "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.”
The House Of Chanel offered his family, relatives and friends its deepest condolences. Friends have always said that the prolific creator would die with a pencil in his hand, and just last week his own fashion line Karl Lagerfeld was still announcing new design collaborations.
The veteran German designer died on Tuesday morning after being rushed to a hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine just outside Paris the night before, reported French celebrity online magazine Purepeople.
Lagerfeld, who simultaneously churned out collections for Fendi and his eponymous label – an unheard of feat in fashion – was almost a brand in his own right. Sporting dark suits, white, pony-tailed hair and tinted sunglasses in his later years that made him instantly recognisable, an irreverent wit was also part of a carefully crafted persona. "I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that," runs one legendary quote attributed to him, and often recycled to convey the person he liked to play. "It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long."
Dubbed "Kaiser Karl" and "Fashion Meister" among a whole host of media monikers – Lagerfeld was born in 1933 in Hamburg to a German mother and a Swedish father who imported condensed milk. He spent early childhood tucked away from war in the 1,200-acre family estate in Bavaria and had a French tutor. The big breakthrough came shortly after a move to Paris when, in 1954, he drew a wool coat that won a prize and landed him an apprenticeship with designer Pierre Balmain. Lagerfeld first found real success in the mid-1960s with Chloe, the fashion label now owned by Switzerland's Richemont. But it was Chanel that propelled him to rock-star status, as he sexed up the brand and lifted its profile with grandiose runway shows. In the past year these have featured a full-scale beach and an enormous replica ship.
LAGERFELD WAS A 'CREATIVE GENIUS': BERNARD ARNAULT
Bernard Arnault, owner of the luxury giant LVMH - the most powerful man in fashion - said he was "infinitely saddened" by the loss of a "very dear friend" and a "creative genius". "Fashion and culture have lost a major inspiration. He contributed to making Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative of Italian brands," the billionaire said.
News of his death led to an outpouring of emotion in the industry, and tributes began flowing in from politicians and fans. "It's a privilege to be able to say that you've worked with him, that you've listened to him speak, that you've talked with him, that you've been dressed by him," said the French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis on Instagram. "Karl Lagerfeld is an immense personality, someone out of the ordinary," French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told RTL radio.
Virginie Viard, deputy artistic director of Chanel, will become chief designer of the fashion house following the death of haute couture icon Karl Lagerfeld, a source at Chanel said on Tuesday.