Karl Lagerfeld, widely considered the most influential figure in the fashion world, has died at the age of 85. (Image courtesy of Chanel)
Paris—Chanel announced Tuesday that creative director Karl Lagerfeld has died.

He was 85.

The French fashion house did not give a cause of death. The only indication that the iconic designer was in poor health was his absence at Chanel’s haute couture presentation last month.

The Hamburg, Germany-born designer had occupied the top creative spot at Chanel since 1983, though the brand he helmed the longest was Fendi, which he joined in 1967.

At the time of his death he was also the creative director of eponymous label Karl Lagerfeld.

Chanel was where Lagerfeld made his greatest impact, having revived the brand at a time when it was terribly out of fashion, and shaping it into Paris Fashion Week’s most coveted fashion show ticket, partially for its extravagant presentations, which replicated everything from supermarkets to beaches with actual sand brought indoors.

He created compelling, contemporary clothing that always paid homage to Gabrielle Chanel’s legacy (a word he despised) through the founder’s signature tweeds, quilted bags and costume jewelry.

“My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done,” the designer is quoted as saying in a statement Chanel released. “The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.”


The barb-tongued designer, who flouted niceness with his sharp wit and controversial but often hilarious quotes, was also a cultural harbinger, shaping the fashion and entertainment landscapes through his choice of runway models—which often propelled their careers—his photography for Chanel and other brand’s campaigns, and his very own publishing house.

“I’m open to everything,” he told WWD in 2008. “When you start to criticize the times you live in, your time is over.”

Though his eponymous label never reached the creative heights of his work for Chanel and Fendi, Lagerfeld the man became his own cultural touchstone, appearing in video games, and even as a Fendi fur bag charm of his likeness called the “Karlito.”

In the fine jewelry world, Lagerfeld’s company inked a licensing agreement with Frederick Goldman to produce a line branded by the fashion house and it collaborated with Swarovski on a line of costume jewelry.

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In a statement, Chanel CEO Alain Wertheimer commented: “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.”

Chanel’s president of fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, added: “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.’”

Chanel has named Virginie Viard (pictured below with Lagerfeld), director of the brand’s fashion creation studio, as the house’s new creative director.

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