Karl Lagerfeld, the fashion designer best known as the creative director of Chanel, has died at the age of 85. Chanel confirmed that Lagerfeld died in Paris on Tuesday in a statement celebrating his work for the fashion house, where he had been creative director since 1983.
Lagerfeld was known for transforming Chanel, adding new flair and creativity to the fashion house’s classic tweed suits. He was also known for his own unique style, with his shock of white hair always in a ponytail and his outfit consisting of high-collared white shirts, black jacket, trousers and tie, fingerless gloves and big, dark sunglasses. As well as his work for Chanel, preparing runway and haute couture collections each season, he also designed for Italian fashion brand Fendi and had his own Karl Lagerfeld line, bringing the number of collections a year up to 15, according to a Vogue profile last year.
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It is with deep sadness that the House of CHANEL announces the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the Creative Director for the CHANEL Fashion House since 1983. An extraordinary creative individual, Karl Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the CHANEL jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewelry. Regarding Gabrielle Chanel, he said, “My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done. The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.” A prolific creative mind with endless imagination, Karl Lagerfeld explored many artistic horizons, including photography and short films. The House of CHANEL benefited from his talent for all the branding campaigns related to Fashion since 1987. Finally, one cannot refer to Karl Lagerfeld without mentioning his innate sense of repartee and self-mockery. Alain Wertheimer, CEO of CHANEL, said: “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, said: “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’.” Virginie Viard, Director of CHANEL’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, has been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.
However, it was not only in fashion where he exercised his eye for design. From early on in his career at Chanel, he also carved himself a niche in photography, shooting many of his own fashion campaigns, as well as portraits and photoshoots for magazines including V and Harper’s Bazaar. He also shot photos collected into several books, including one on modern Italian architecture. In 2008, he collaborated with artists and architects, commissioning Zaha Hadid to create the Chanel Mobile Art Container, a travelling pavilion that contained works by artists including Yoko Ono.
In recent years, he turned his hand to interior design, something that had been evident in his Chanel collections’ frequently extravagant set designs, and late last year he created a collection of furniture for Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris.
The pieces he created for the Carpenters Workshop Gallery were eventually some of his last works, but were also a first for the designer – the collection of “functional sculptures”, called Architectures, was his first foray into sculptural design. The Architectures collection, first shown in Paris, is now on display at the London branch in Mayfair until 8 March 2019.
The inspiration he took from classical Rome in these marble sculptures was something he had also drawn on in his recent interior designs for the Estates at Acqualina, a residential complex in Miami – his first interiors in a US building, but just his latest in a line of work that included hotels in France and Singapore.
Lagerfeld contunued working and creating right up until his last few weeks – the only sign of stopping was the fact that he didn’t appear for his post-show bow at Chanel’s Spring 2019 haute couture show in January because he was “too tired.” Throughout his career and until the last few weeks, he continued to create because he enjoyed it, telling Town & Country magazine of his Miami project: “I don’t have to. I do [it] for fun. I have more than a decent job.”