Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director of Chanel and Fendi, has died at age 85.
Photo: Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Karl Lagerfeld, Visionary Creative Director of Chanel and Fendi, Dies at 85

The iconic designer put his stamp on everything from fashion to hotels

Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld has died in Paris; he was 85-years-old.

The German designer, who was the longtime creative director of Chanel and Fendi, was one of the fashion industry’s most prolific figures and worked up until his death. In addition to his design positions at the famed couture labels, Lagerfeld had an eponymous line and collaborated with H&M on a capsule collection that debuted in November 2004. Outside the fashion realm, his interests include photography, which was exhibited at the Pinacothèque de Paris, and a publishing imprint for Steidl, Edition 7L.

He will be remembered for the otherworldly suites he curated for the Hôtel de Crillon and his extravagant runway productions, which have ranged from an ice-filled cavern and a rocket launch pad to a re-creation of Paris’s most iconic landmarks and a hall of mirrors. He is survived by his beloved cat, Choupette, which was the inspiration for the cosmetics line Lagerfeld launched in collaboration with ModelCo in May 2018.

“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,” said Chanel CEO Alain Wertheimer in a statement. “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.”

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Born in Germany in the early 1930s, Lagerfeld immigrated to Paris as a teenager and became a design assistant to Pierre Balmain, before working at Fendi and Chloe in the ’60s. He took the reigns at Chanel in 1983, bringing with him a flair for glitz and glamour. In his later years, Lagerfeld was known for his signature powdered white ponytail, dark suits, and sunglasses. “I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” the designer said of his look.

Though the cause of death has not yet been made public, rumors were swirling about Lagerfeld’s health after he was absent from his Chanel show in late January, due to what the fashion house described as tiredness.

“I will ever cherish every second of creative joy experienced next to Karl Lagerfeld, his free spirit, immense culture, tactful generosity, his titan’s memory, constant curiosity, the seriousness with which he added lightness in every professional adventure,” architect Aline Asmar d’Amman, who collaborated with Lagerfeld on the Hôtel de Crillon and on a sculpture collection, tells Galerie. “Karl transported everything to another level, a room, a piece of furniture, a pen stroke, adding that extra inimitable chic to it all. Seeing a sketch drafted at the corner of a table with the exact finality of what he was describing with a flow of specifically curated words and cultural references mixed with his inimitable humor is, to me, the closest thing to a physical form of poetry.”

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