Haute-couture designer Karl Lagerfeld, artistic director at Chanel and an icon of the fashion industry with his extravagant outfits and striking catwalks, has died aged 85.
Instantly recognizable in his dark suits, pony-tailed white hair and sunglasses, Lagerfeld was best known for his association with Chanel but delivered collections for LVMH’s Fendi and his own eponymous label.
Rumors of Lagerfeld’s ill-health had swirled after he failed to show up at Chanel’s January show in Paris for his customary bow.
Chanel chief executive Alain Wertheimer recalled how he had given carte blanche to Lagerfeld in the 1980s to reinvent the brand, from the Chanel jacket to its tweeds and two-tone shoes.
“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,” Wertheimer said in a statement.
A craftsman who combined artistic instinct, business acumen and commensurate ego, Lagerfeld was known for his strikingly visual fashion show displays.
LVMH chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault said the fashion world had lost a creative genius who helped make Paris the fashion capital of the world, and Fendi one of the most innovative Italian houses.
“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,” Arnault said.
Chanel said Virginie Viard, director of the house’s creative studio, would take over creative work for the brand’s collections. Several sources told Reuters the appointment was transitional and that Lagerfeld’s successor would be announced after the mourning period.
Born in Hamburg in 1933, Lagerfeld made his debut with designer Pierre Balmain as an apprentice before moving on to Patou and Chloe and then Fendi.
“He was one of the most influential and celebrated designers of the 21st century and an iconic, universal symbol of style,” his own Karl Lagerfeld brand wrote on Instagram.
“He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time.”