Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel and Fendi, dies

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Fashion designer and creative director of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, has died.
USA TODAY

Karl Lagerfeld, the eccentric German designer who blended fashion and art, who favored white hair, black sunglasses and 19th-century-style shirt collars, and simultaneously was creative director of French (Chanel), Italian (Fendi) and eponymous international fashion labels, has died. He was in his 80s.

One of the most celebrated, if controversial, fashion icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, Lagerfeld passed away early Tuesday, according to AP.

“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,” CEO Alan Wertheimer said in a release posted to the brand’s website.  “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, Chanel’s president for fashion, added, “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.’ ” 

The Chanel release also confirmed that Lagerfeld would be succeeded as creative director by Virginie Viard, his longtime studio director and collaborator.

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The Chanel haute couture show went ahead despite the snow in Paris and the absence of Karl Lagerfeld. (Jan. 23)
AP

Fendi’s chairman and CEO Serge Brunschwig lauded Lagerfeld’s “immense culture, his ability to rejuvenate at all times, to taste all the arts, to not overlook any style” in a press release issued to USA TODAY Tuesday. 

“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,” Brunschwig said.

On Jan. 22, 2019, Lagerfeld worried fans when he who had looked increasingly frail in recent seasons, did not come out to take a bow at Chanel’s couture show in Paris, which the company attributed to fatigue him being tired. It was is the first time in recent memory that Lagerfeld, who has designed for the house since 1983, did has not come out to receive applause at the end of one of his shows.

Viard, appeared in his place, emerging from the door of a lavish Italian “villa” that was the set painstakingly created by the house to showcase its spring-summer designs.

Never shy about his own genius, Lagerfeld considered himself world renowned for his “cutting-edge, aspirational and relevant approach to style,” with a fashion sensibility “rooted in a DNA that’s accessible-luxe and cool,” and a “signature aesthetic combining timeless classics with a modern, rock-chic edge,” according to his website. 

“His visionary creativity expands beyond fashion to include illustration, photography, styling and publishing.”

“Edgy” might be a better one-word summary of Lagerfeld – the man, his fashion and his art. He designed clothes that made people gasp with delight; he said things that made people gasp with shock.

At one point in 2013, he said he wanted to marry his closest companion – his cat, a white Siamese named Choupette, who has nearly 50,000 Twitter followers and an Instagram account where she frequently snarks about this and that. 

Karl Lagerfeld’s death:  Celebrities mourn the fashion icon

But that was only one of the headlines chronicling outre conduct over the years: He once used strippers and a porn star as models, thus annoying Anna Wintour who walked out of one of his shows in 1993.

An unapologetic supporter of fur in fashion (even though he doesn’t wear it himself), he invited the wrath of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, which tried to throw a pie at him at a New York event in 2001. They missed and hit Calvin Klein.

“A fashion dinosaur who is as out of step as his furs are out of style,” sneered PETA of Lagerfeld. 

Then there were the uproars after he called supermodel Heidi Klum “insignificant” in the fashion world because she was “too glamorous” in 2009; criticized singer Adele as “a little too fat” in 2012; and later that year dissed Pippa Middleton’s face, suggesting she only show her backside.

From the 1950s, Lagerfeld exchanged frequent public barbs with rival French designer Yves Saint Laurent until the latter died in 2008. He even got into a fracas with Oscar queen Meryl Streep when he claimed in 2017 that she dropped out of wearing a Chanel dress to that year’s Oscars in favor of a brand that would pay her.

“He lied,” Streep snapped indignantly.

Such was the enigma surrounding the designer that even his age was a point of mystery for decades, with reports he had two birth certificates, one dated 1933 and the other 1938.

In 2013, Lagerfeld told French magazine “Paris Match” he was born in 1935, but as of 2019, even his own assistant still didn’t know the truth. They told the Associated Press he liked “to scramble the tracks on his year of birth – that’s part of the character.”

Born in Hamburg to a father whose company made evaporated milk and the daughter of a local politician, Lagerfeld migrated to Paris, where he finished his education at Lycée Montaigne.

He started his career in 1954 when he won first prize in a contest to design a wool coat, a design subsequently produced by designer Pierre Balmain who offered Lagerfeld, then 17, a job as his assistant. By 1957, he was an art director for designer Jean Patou.

Lagerfeld also started his own label, Karl Lagerfeld, which though less commercially successful than his other ventures, was widely seen as a sort of a sketchpad where the designer worked through his audacious ideas.

In 1982, he took over at over Chanel, which had been dormant since the death of its founder, Coco Chanel, more than a decade earlier.

“When I took on Chanel, it was a sleeping beauty – not even a beautiful one,” he said in the 2007 documentary “Lagerfeld Confidential.” ”She snored.”

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  • German designer Karl Lagerfeld acknowledges the public at the end Chanel Fall-Winter 2009 Haute Couture collection show in Paris on July 1, 2008. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: - ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1DL9W11 of 24
  • (FILES) In this file photo taken on March 01, 1987 Le couturier Karl Lagerfeld pose avec une paire de ciseaux en mars 1987 dans son atelier de haute couture.German designer Karl Lagerfeld poses with scissors on March 1987 in his fashion studio. - Tired, Karl Lagerfeld, the star of haute couture, missed on January 22, 2019 both Chanel fashion shows, with a very eighteenth century atmosphere, organized at the Grand Palais in Paris. (Photo by PIERRE GUILLAUD / AFP)PIERRE GUILLAUD/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1CI5NR2 of 24
  • epa07380352 (FILE) - German designer Karl Lagerfeld waves as models present creations from his Spring/Summer 2019 Women's collection for Chanel at the Grand Palais during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 02 October 2018 (reissued 19 February 2019). According to media reports, Lagerfeld has died on 19 February 2019. He was 85.  EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON *** Local Caption *** 546711533 of 24
  • Singer Lady Gaga, centre, and designer Karl Lagerfeld, right, watch the Celine Spring/Summer 2019 ready to wear fashion collection presented in Paris, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) ORG XMIT: LENT1374 of 24
  • FILE PHOTO: According to reports Karl Lagerfeld dies aged 85 - PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:  Designer Karl Lagerfeld walks the runway during the Chanel show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017  on October 4, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 669368945 ORIG FILE ID: 6123574605 of 24
  • TOPSHOT - German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (R) acknowledges the audience next to French and US actress and model Lily-Rose Melody Depp at the end of the Chanel during the 2017 spring/summer Haute Couture collection on January 24, 2017 in Paris.  / AFP PHOTO / Patrick KOVARIKPATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: 691911991 ORIG FILE ID: AFP_KM1YK6 of 24
  • People walk through an exhibition of German fashion designer, artist and photographer Karl Lagerfeld's photography at the Pinacotheque in Paris on Oct. 15, 20157 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld and Beyonce attend the CHANEL Paris-Salzburg 2014/15 Metiers d'Art Collection in New York City at the Park Avenue Armory on March 31, 2015 in New York City.8 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld  poses with Gisele Bundchen after the presentation of his 2015-2016 Chanel cruise collection at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea,  May 4, 2015.9 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld poses with Kristen Stewart after the presentation of his 2015-2016 Chanel cruise collection at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, May 4, 2015.10 of 24
  • Cara Delevingne and Karl Lagerfeld pose at the presentation of Chanel's ready to wear fall/winter 2014-2015 fashion collection presented in Paris, March 4, 2014.11 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld takes to the catwalk at the end of the Chanel fashion show from the Spring/Summer 2014 Ready to Wear Collection during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, October 1, 2013.12 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld (C) attends the Coca-Cola Light  Karl Lagerfeld New Collaboration Celebration Cocktail at Restaurant Le Georges on April 7, 2011 in Paris.13 of 24
  • Blake Lively and Karl Lagerfeld arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala benefit, celebrating the 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' exhibition, May 2, 2011 in New York.14 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld and actress Diane Kruger attend the grand re-opening of the Chanel SOHO boutique on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in New York.15 of 24
  • Ralph Lauren (R) embracinf Editor-in-Chief of the French edition of Vogue, Carine Roitfeld (2-R) looks at his wife Ricky Lauren (L) dancing with  Karl Lagerfeld (2-L) during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 15, 2010.16 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld attends the Karl Lagerfeld and DJ Big Ali Party at the VIP Room St Tropez on Aug. 12, 2009 in St Tropez, France.17 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld presents a gold coin worth 5,900 euros (7,440 US dollars), representing French legend designer Gabrielle Coco Chanel (1883-1971) on Nov. 19, 2008 at Paris Hotel des Monnaies. French Culture Minister Christine Albanel and Karl Lagerfeld were invited by the CEO of Monnaie de Paris (The French Mint) Christophe Beaux to present the 10,000 copies first mint collection series specially designed by Lagerfeld.18 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld hands a Bambi award to Britney Spears during the Bambi 2008 media award ceremony in Offenburg, Germany, Nov. 27, 2008.19 of 24
  • Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and  Karl Lagerfeld arrive at the Fashion Group's 25th annual Night of Stars in New York on Oct. 23, 2008.20 of 24
  • Lindsay Lohan and designer Karl Lagerfeld pose at the International Launch of Dom Perignon Rose Vintage 1996 Champagne by Karl Lagerfeld on June 2, 2006 in Beverly Hills, Calif.21 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld (L) and harstylist Alexandre (R) adjust a model's outfit during his 1st Chanel's Spring-Summer collection on Jan. 24, 1983.22 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld poses during the presentation of his KL fragrance in Hamburg, Germany Picture on July 29, 1982.23 of 24
  • Karl Lagerfeld at the premiere of his film 'Lagerfeld Confidential' in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 10, 2007.24 of 24

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