Remembering Karl Lagerfeld 1933–2019

Karl Lagerfeld joins his models at the end of Chanel’s spring/summer show on October 16, 1997 in Paris

The Chanel and Fendi designer has died aged 85. PORTER looks back on the life of one of fashion’s greatest visionaries

The designer pictured at Chloé’s atelier on April 2, 1979 in Paris

Karl Lagerfeld has died at the age of 85.

Considered one of the true fashion greats and a household name, the designer’s incomparable talent and seven-decade-long career saw him work with the world’s biggest luxury fashion labels. He was best known for his long tenure at the helm of Chanel: he joined the iconic French house in 1983 and over the course of more than 35 years was responsible for creating some of the world’s most sought-after pieces as well as conjuring spectacular backdrops for his fashion shows. Renowned for being one of the industry’s most prolific designers, as well as being a talented photographer and illustrator, he served as Creative Director of Fendi from 1977 alongside heading up his eponymous label and working on a seemingly endless stream of collaborations and special projects.

Born Karl-Otto Lagerfeld in Hamburg in 1933, he started his career working for Pierre Balmain and designing couture at Jean Patou. Yves Saint Laurent, who began designing at the same time, was both a friend and creative rival. Lagerfeld went on to work at Chloé before taking up his record-breaking residences at Fendi and Chanel, transforming both labels into superbrands and changing the way that women dress in the process. He became one of the most recognizable faces in fashion – the image of him with his ponytail, dark glasses and white high-collared shirts practically a brand logo in its own right – and he was known as much for his forthright and uncensored opinions as he was for his creative genius and unbridled work ethic.

Truly the end of an era, Lagerfeld’s contribution to the fashion world and the impact that his loss will have is immeasurable. It will be most felt keenly at the upcoming Milan and Paris fashion weeks: Fendi’s FW19 show is due to be held on February 21, while Chanel is scheduled for March 5. Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion at Chanel, said: “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, Chanel’s Director of Fashion Creation Studio and Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, will now oversee the brand’s collections.