Karl Lagerfeld, the longtime creative director of Chanel and Fendi, passed away in Paris on February 19. He was 85.
The German-born designer, who was raised outside of Hamburg, moved to Paris to work in fashion, under designers like Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou, and Chloé. He started at Fendi in 1965, where he would remain until his death. He took over Chanel in 1983.
“Everybody said, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s dead, it will never come back,'” Lagerfeld told the New Yorker in 2007 about the Chanel job. “But by then I thought it was a challenge.”
“When I took over, nobody talked about her [Coco Chanel],” he said to The Cut this past December. “I reinvented the references, but that’s a good thing, no? Everybody said to me, ‘Don’t touch it.’ It’s dead, because 35 years ago, old labels were old labels. Now everybody wants to revive a label, and some of them, I don’t think it’s a good idea. But this was before Tom Ford and Gucci.”
He was not only a mainstay of the fashion industry, but Lagerfeld was also one of the most prolific designers in the business. He designed around 10 collections a year for Chanel, typically stepping out at the end of his elaborate runway presentations—a small-scale Eiffel Tower, a supermarché, and a space station have been staged at the Grand Palais in Paris—to take a bow. (He skipped his most recent Métiers d’Arts show in New York and couture show in Paris, citing health reasons; Chanel’s creative studio director, Virginie Viard, represented him instead, on both occasions.) According to Business of Fashion, Chanel’s operating profit was $2.69 billion.
The designer had an instantly-recognizable look, which was part of his personal brand for decades: white collared shirt, black suit and tie, sunglasses, broche, and driving gloves. It was a recurring element in his more affordable namesake line, Karl Lagerfeld Paris. And though he didn’t have a personal social media presence, his beloved cat Choupette was an Internet fixture.
Designers like Donatella Versace, Victoria Beckham, and others have taken to social media to remember the designer.
Many of Lagerfeld’s muses, like Diane Kruger and Carla Bruni, also posted tributes.
Glamour has reached out to Chanel for comment and will update this story when we hear back.