Karl Lagerfeld, one of fashion industry’s most influential and recognizable fashion designers of the 20th century, died on Tuesday at the age of 85. 

On Tuesday morning news broke that the German designer best known for his work as the creative director of Chanel died in Paris. Rumors had been swirling about his health after he was noticed to be absent from his Chanel show in late January, due to what the fashion house described as “tiredness.”

Lagerfeld was recognized for his dark glasses, silver ponytail and fingerless gloves, which led him to gain the reputation as the most recognizable man in fashion and one of its most outspoken.

“My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done,” he told the brand’s founder, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. “The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.”

After hearing the news of Lagerfeld’s death, Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, released a statement with her condolences. “Today the world lost a giant among men,” she said. “His creative genius was breathtaking and to be his friend was an exceptional gift. Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind. I will miss him so very much.”

Chanel CEO Alain Wertheimer also released a statement saying that the iconic designer was “ahead of his time” and that his “creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition contributed to the House of Chanel’s success throughout the world.”

“We owe him a great deal: his taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known,” Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH, which owns Fendi and Louis Vuitton, also said in a statement. “We loved and admired him deeply.”


Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany, and got his start working in Paris under Pierre Balmain in the 1950s and moving to the House of Patou three years later. He then went on to become a freelancer for Chloé and was later hired by Fendi in 1967 as a consultant director, which was responsible for modernizing the Italian house’s fur lines. Lagerfeld then went on to take the reins at Chanel by working to revive the brand’s staid offerings. 

“[Chanel was] a sleeping beauty. Not even a beautiful one. She snored,” he said of the fashion house in the 2007 documentary Lagerfeld Confidential. “So I was to revive a dead woman.”

Not only did Lagerfeld’s designs turn Chanel into one of the world’s most valuable luxury couture houses, but his business savviness made him one of the first designers to collaborate with brands. As in 2004, he designed a collection for H&M, which was a trend that was later followed by Stella McCartney, Comme des Garcons, Versace and Maison Martin Margiela.

Taking over Lagerfeld’s role as director of Chanel’s Fashion Creation Studio is Virginie Viard, who Chanel said was “Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years.”

“So that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on,” Chanel wrote in a statement.

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