What the Fashion World Is Saying About the Passing of the One and Only Karl Lagerfeld

PARIS, France  The fashion industry has lost one of its most prolific and beloved talents. Karl Lagerfeld, whose death was announced on Tuesday morning, was widely admired for his Renaissance mind and unparalleled work ethic, creating collections simultaneously for the storied houses of Chanel and Fendi, in addition to his namesake label.

“The motivation is doing for doing, not [for] having done,” he told BoF’s Imran Amed in a 2014 interview. “It’s great that in life you do something that you want to do because you like doing it and you’re not bored. I’m not bored at all. I’m even interested in lots of things, more so today than before.”

Some of Lagerfeld’s closest friends and collaborators, including Carine Roitfeld, were overcome with grief and declined to speak so soon after the designer’s death, but many in the industry shared their thoughts and feelings in an outpouring of sentiment on an emotional day for fashion. Here, fashion industry leaders pay tribute to the late designer:

Alain Wertheimer, CEO of Chanel
“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
“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.’”

Silvia Venturini Fendi, creative director of Fendi
“I am profoundly saddened as today we have lost a unique man and an unrivalled designer, who has given so much to Fendi and to myself. I was only a child when I first saw Karl. Our relationship was very special, based on a deep and very genuine affection. We had a lot of mutual appreciation and endless respect. Karl Lagerfeld has been my mentor and my point of reference. A blink of an eye was enough to understand each other. For Fendi and myself, the creative genius of Karl has been and will always be our guiding light, moulding the Maison’s DNA. I will miss him deeply and always carry with me the memories of our days together.”

Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH
“With the passing of Karl Lagerfeld we have lost a creative genius who helped to make Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative Italian houses. We owe him a great deal: his taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known. Artistic director of Jean Patou in 1959, creator of Fendi since 1965, member of the LVMH Prize jury since its creation in 2013, he honoured the LVMH group with an extraordinarily stimulating creative and entrepreneurial friendship. 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. The death of this dear friend deeply saddens me, my wife and my children. We loved and admired him deeply. Fashion and culture has lost a great inspiration.”

Pietro Beccari, chairman and CEO of Christian Dior Couture
“Karl has been for me and my wife much more than just someone I worked with. He entered our life as a tornado and we became friends. Many words will be said about his talent and genius, but I would like to single out his profound culture. Indeed, you could speak with him for hours about any subject and he always had his well-informed point of view. He had an immense sensibility and he behaved like a gentleman with all the teams and at every level. Karl had an enormous generosity with the people he loved. We feel gifted to have met him on our path and deeply honoured to be his friend. The huge sorrow will not, in any way, take away the incredible memories and moments we shared together. How to forget the first haute couture show of Fendi in Paris, the Trevi Fountain defile and his eyes the first time he entered our new offices at Palazzo della Civiltà. He was a giant and I do not think there will be anybody like him anymore. He leaves a huge empty gap in the world of fashion and we will miss him a lot.”

Valentino Garavani, designer
“Part of my youth went away with you… With whom can I now laugh and remember those happy and carefree moments spent at Fiacre or Flore .. our first hopes, you at Balmain and me at Desses .. Our arrivals in Rome where I opened my first Maison de Couture and where you arrived to Tiziani, a Roman Couture House. You who made me promise unsuccessfully never to withdraw. Karl, my friend, Karl genio gigantesco. .. my sadness is infinite .. Au Revoir Karl !”

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at American Vogue
“Today the world lost a giant among men. Karl was so much more than our greatest and most prolific designer — 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.”

Serge Brunschwig, chairman and CEO of Fendi
“Working with Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi allowed me to catch a glimpse of the secret of the continuous renewal of the house. I profoundly admire Karl’s immense culture, his ability to rejuvenate at all times, to taste all the arts, to not overlook any style, along with a persistent refusal to turn to his past, to look at his work in a mirror. He was restless and his exigent nature would never leave him. The show was just ending that Karl would always say, ‘And now number next!’ He leaves us an enormous heritage, an inexhaustible source of inspiration to continue. Karl will be immensely missed by myself and all the Fendi people.”

François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering
“It’s with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, a man of quality, with a lively spirit, a refined intelligence and exceptional culture. An incomparable aesthete and couturier who has transformed his profession, fashion, and the world of Luxury, he is one of those people whose creativity and personality will leave an indelible mark on our times.”

Carla Sozzani, founder of 10 Corso Como
“Memories go back to the very beginning of my career in the late ’60s, when we were seeing a lot of each other, with common friends in life and work: Karl and Carla Fendi, Karl and Anna Piaggi, Karl and Mariuccia Mandelli, Karl and Helmut Newton, Karl and Gaby Aghion, Karl and Alfa Castaldi, Karl and Franca. Another sad moment in life.”

Miuccia Prada, co-CEO and creative director of Prada
“Karl was one of the most cultivated and brilliant men and whenever we got together we always had great fun. His contribution to fashion is and will always be memorable.”

Giorgio Armani, chairman and CEO of the Armani Group
“I’ve always thought of Karl Lagerfeld as an extraordinary man, both for his professional talent and his life, which he blended and turned into a unique art: the Lagerfeld way of being. Maybe this was also the reason that, although he was designing for brands with a strong personality, his presence came through so evident and recognisable that it always exuded the joy he experienced when designing, photographing, working on books and setting up spectacular fashion shows. I am deeply affected by his passing and can’t help but think that he lived until his last breath immersed in his biggest pleasure: letting his imagination fly through his work. I remember meeting him many years ago in Tokyo at a fashion show for a number of international designers. I will never forget the kindness with which he welcomed me into this important group.”

Donatella Versace, artistic director and vice president of Versace
“Today the world has lost an icon and a genius. We will always remember his amazing talent, which taught us all throughout the years. We will miss you.”

Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino
“I met Mr Lagerfeld at the beginning of my career, in Fendi. The way he approached his work was tenacious and fierce: he had a unique devotion that made him extraordinarily meticulous and accurate, in everything he did. His visionary creativity was tireless, his enthusiasm contagious. He was always projected forward, never backward, and this was of great inspiration for me and many other designers. Being able to change people’s perception of beauty concretely proves what a strong personality can do. Fashion is a dream, but it is hard work too and nobody has ever demonstrated this as much as Karl Lagerfeld. He will be greatly missed and never replaced.”

Ralph Lauren, founder of Ralph Lauren
“Karl Lagerfeld was the definition of passion; it fuelled both his life and his craft. His curiosity about everything from history to pop culture inspired him to dream big and create collections that captured a rare kind of imagination that had influence way beyond the world of fashion. He was the modern couturier committed to the artistry of those traditions, but always with an eye for everyday life. Karl was an inspiration, but more than that my personal friend and always a generous supporter. I think more than anything he brought a spirit to fashion that was energetic and alive, a belief in both the dream and the reality.”

Carolina Herrera, founder of Carolina Herrera
“Karl Lagerfeld was a polymath and Renaissance Prince whose talent and curiosity led him to triumph in many fields. The world will miss this great man. I shall miss his friendship and his contribution to elegance.”

Tommy Hilfiger, founder of Tommy Hilfiger
“Karl Lagerfeld continuously pushed the boundaries of our industry with his unparalleled vision and creativity, infusing the traditional with pop culture and a modern perspective. I will personally miss his generosity and the unique sense of humour he brought to our partnership. He was a genius in the purest form who will forever be remembered for his unprecedented creativity and sophistication. His legacy is timeless and will never cease to inspire today and tomorrow’s generations.”

Marco Bizzarri, CEO of Gucci
“With Karl Lagerfeld’s passing the industry has lost a towering figure, whose legacy is both epic and extraordinary and will inspire generations to come. Above all though, it was the pure passion and joy that he never ceased to bring to his work that defined him, along with his consummate wit and wisdom.”

Victoire de Castellane, creative director of Dior Joaillerie
“I spent 14 years working with Karl Lagerfeld, he taught me everything about the business. He taught me to be serious about work without taking myself seriously. I am immensely grateful to Karl and am very sad to see him go.”

Anthony Vaccarello, creative director of Saint Laurent
“Karl Lagerfeld was and always will be an extraordinary man of culture and vibrant creativity, a symbol of strength, passion and a true icon for the world of fashion and its history.”

Sam McKnight, hairstylist
“It’s a sad day today to think that we’ll never see you again, or hear your wicked sense of humour and laughter. But I will be forever thankful to have been a small part of your team, and to have learned so much from your creative force and kindness. I am blessed and lucky to have known you, Karl, and we’ll all miss you like crazy.”

Karen Elson, model
“Rest In Peace Karl Lagerfeld. I was 18 and this was one of my first major fashion shows I walked in. To be the bride at Chanel was as big as it got! I remember being so terrified but Karl, Linda and Naomi et al, were all so sweet and protective of me. Karl shot me for many Chanel campaigns afterwards. I remember being in his studio listening to Karl’s encyclopedic mind as he’d have conversations with many interesting cultural figures who’d drop by for lunch or dinner. The mountains of books piled high from every subject imaginable. I learnt so much in that time both about fashion, photography and art. Karl to those who knew him, was kind, funny and even shy. My heart goes out to all the people close to Karl especially to Amanda Harlech. We will miss you Karl and thank you for all that you contributed to fashion.”

Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of Givenchy
“I don’t think I can fully express in words what Karl meant to me and to so many others in this industry. My heart is broken by the news today — he was an inspirational force behind many moments in my life and I feel truly privileged that I could call him a friend. Goodbye dear Karl.”

Stella McCartney, creative director of Stella McCartney
“This is a truly sad day. To say I knew this gentle man that changed how we all looked at the world, is an honour. My heart goes out to his loved ones and to all that felt his delicate and spectacular touch on an industry that is so crowded with characters. He held his place high above all and his sharp wit and mind blew us all away. A true icon… One that will be missed for many, many years to come and will always be responsible for so much creative genius. Thank you Karl for all the beauty and for seeing the world through those iconic glasses that were truly rose-tinted with a vision that was like no other. You will be very missed… And always loved x.”

Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of Dior women’s collections
“I was extremely saddened to hear of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing. He was such an emblematic personality, an icon with whom I had the immense good fortune of working early in my career, at Fendi. I appreciated his culture, directness and humour and admired his creations for the free and modern vision of fashion he offered women. We will miss him terribly and my thoughts especially go out to his teams at Fendi and Chanel.”

Kim Jones, artistic director of Dior men’s collections
“I am deeply moved to hear of Karl Lagerfeld’s death. He came to my first show for Dior. His creative vision and unique talent will always be an extraordinary inspiration for generations to come. As will his way of working with his teams, building them up with profound intelligence and a sense of humour that was his alone. The fashion world will miss him greatly, and of course my thoughts are with his colleagues who doubtless are heartbroken today.”

Emanuele Farneti, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia
“‘A la recherche du temps perdu, on perd son temps’ — so Karl Lagerfeld welcomed the journalist, on the occasion of his last interview for Vogue Italia just a few months ago. A fashion legend who, as he said, chose to ‘never be sprawled in the unmade bed of your past.’ For this reason, he represents an extraordinary example for all the new generations of creatives. His collaboration with Fendi, the longest one in fashion history, is destined to be a unique case of success — and, also, an example of the affinity between Italy and France, sealed by a German genius: a very good metaphor of how much beauty there is in a ‘Europe without borders.'”

Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief at British Vogue
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Karl Lagerfeld. He has exerted an incredible influence over the fashion industry over the past six decades, and it goes without saying that the world has lost one of the greatest designers in the history of fashion. But it has also lost one of its greatest teachers. I first met Karl in the late nineties, at a Chanel party. I was working for Franca Sozzani at Vogue Italia, and he was extremely welcoming to me. When I later became fashion director at W magazine, he was very supportive. He continued to offer support and friendship when I took the editor position at British Vogue. I remember sitting with him for an hour or so every season while he was preparing his latest show, and I was always struck by his intelligence and wit. He had a very no-nonsense approach to life. I frequently left our meetings feeling I had learnt so much about art, history, politics and fashion. The world has lost an icon.”

Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council
“We are deeply saddened to learn the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing today. His unrivalled contribution to the fashion industry changed the way women dress and perceive fashion. He inspired generations of young designers and will continue to do so. His tenure of over 30 years, saw his unique vision transform Chanel from a classic French house into a global superbrand. It is a great loss for our industry. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”

Stephanie Phair, chair of the British Fashion Council
“Karl Lagerfeld was an iconic designer, photographer and creative. He undoubtedly changed the industry and his timeless collections established Chanel and later Fendi as two of the most important fashion houses in the world. Karl had everyone’s admiration and respect, he was a visionary designer of our time.”

Steven Kolb, president and CEO of the CFDA
“Karl Lagerfeld was the most prolific designer in fashion history. He changed the way we look at the role of a designer, and set the template for the reinvention of a fashion house at Chanel. His knowledge went beyond fashion. Lagerfeld synthesised the arts, literature, celebrity, and pop culture in collections for Chanel, Fendi, and his own label. He gave the keynote speech at the 2010 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund dinner. His remarks were a great inspiration to the young designers in the programme and all of us in attendance at the event.We were privileged to have Karl Lagerfeld show the Chanel Métiers d’Art collection in New York this past December. He made an irreplaceable contribution to fashion, and he will be missed.”

Michael Kors, chief creative officer of Michael Kors
“Karl was a man ahead of his time. Always thinking about what was next and what was new. His work ethic and focus were an inspiration for many generations and will continue to be for many generations to come. The fashion world without him is almost unimaginable and his talent, energy and quick-witted mind will be sorely missed.”

Pierre-Yves Roussel, CEO of Tory Burch
“I remember when I was in a meeting with Karl for the LVMH Fashion Prize, the jury was having discussions with the other designers from the group, we were debating what the criteria should be to select the prize and the winner. Someone said, ‘It should be the best designer in the world in 10 years.’ Quickly Karl responded, “Yes, but it will still be us!” Karl was incredibly amusing, he was always challenging himself and looking at new ideas with passion and he was interested in the younger generation of creative talents, always having a fresh perspective and being current in his way of thinking.”

Ronald Yan, Greater China CEO & President of Karl Lagerfeld
“Karl Lagerfeld has already spread his genius from fashion to the industries beyond, and as his namesake brand, Karl Lagerfeld will continue to carry his creative legacy and spirit forward.”

Liu Wen, model and Chanel brand ambassador
“I still remember getting emotional when I first wore one of his designs in 2008. Like a shooting star, Karl left behind an era of beauty. Everyone ages, but style is eternal.”

Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief of Vogue China
“Karl is one of the few icons who I truly admire. For the Chinese, apart from everything else great about him, he will always be remembered as the first international designer who put on a fully fledged fashion show on the Great Wall, which was not an easy feat, more than 10 years ago.”

Sarah Andelman, founder and former creative director of Colette
“He was a great man, a genius. We are going to greatly miss him. We’re very proud of the multiple collaborations that we did with him at Colette.”

Katie Grand, editor-in-chief of LOVE Magazine
“We all thought Karl was invincible; he tirelessly worked on so many different projects — always designing or shooting and travelling. He was one of those people you were always incredibly flattered by when he recognised you and knew your name and came to say hello, always charming and extremely funny and sharp-witted as well as being phenomenally talented with a great vision. He adapted extremely well to the modern world of technology and social media. He recognised the importance of ‘having a show’ that went above and beyond the clothes and was the first to pioneer resort shows in emerging territories. On a personal level I had huge respect and love for him.”

Alicia Drake, journalist and author of ‘The Beautiful Fall’
“Will, intelligence, resilience, daring and extraordinary talent: Karl Lagerfeld had it all. When he was a child in war-torn Northern Germany he imagined an exceptional life for himself and he made that life happen. He brought curiosity, wit and extreme beauty to the house of Chanel. He invented the blue-print for breathing life into a moribund fashion house, and all those who have come after — Tom Ford, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière and Demna Gvasalia — have emulated his formula in some way. In 1954 he won the International Wool Secretariat Competition in Paris for his coat design at the age of 21. He was still the force of fashion 64 years later at the age of 85. Karl Lagerfeld: The last of the kings.”

Xiao Xue, editor-in-chief of Elle China
“I had the pleasure of working with Karl twice. The first was in 2003, when I interviewed him. He spoke so fast and my English was poor, I almost burst into tears. The second time was in 2013, when we invited him to photograph the cover of Elle China and worked with him in his Paris studio for an entire day. He stood in front of the monitor display and asked me, ‘Is this the cover you’re looking for?’ That moment, as an editor in chief, is something I’ll never be able to forget. Heaven will be more beautiful with him there. Rest in Peace.”

Zhou Xun, Chinese actress and Chanel brand ambassador
“I was lucky to work with Mr Karl for over a decade, and admire him for his professionalism and dedication. Life is short, style is eternal. RIP.”

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