German haute-couture designer Karl Lagerfeld, artistic director at Chanel and an icon of the global fashion industry for over half a century, has died, a source at the French fashion house Chanel said on Tuesday. He was 85.
Lagerfeld, instantly recognizable in his dark suits, pony-tailed white hair and tinted sun glasses, was best known for his association with Chanel but simultaneously delivered collections for LVMH’s Fendi and his own eponymous label.
French celebrity online magazine Purepeople said Lagerfeld died on Tuesday morning after being rushed to a hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine just outside Paris the night before.
A spokesman for Chanel was not immediately available for comment.
In 1955 Lagerfeld was hired as Pierre Balmain’s assistant after winning the coats category in a design competition sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. In 1958, after three years at Balmain, he moved to Jean Patou where he designed two haute couture collections per year for five years. His first collection was shown in a two-hour presentation in July 1958. Lagerfield said that his design silhouette for the season was called by the letter “K” for Karl, which was translated into a straight line in front, curved in at the waist in the back, with a low fullness to the skirt.
Lagerfeld began to freelance for French fashion house Chloé in 1964, at first designing a few pieces each season. As more and more pieces were incorporated, he soon designed the entire collection.
From the 1970s Lagerfeld occasionally worked as a costume designer for theatrical productions. He collaborated with stage directors such as Luca Ronconi and Jürgen Flimm, and designed for theaters such as La Scala in Milan (Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz, 1980; directed by Ronconi), the Burgtheater in Vienna (Komödie der Verführung by Arthur Schnitzler, 1980; directed by Horst Zankl), and the Salzburg Festival.
In 2002, Karl Lagerfeld asked Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, to collaborate with him on a special denim collection for the Lagerfeld Gallery. The collection, Lagerfeld Gallery by Diesel, was co-designed by Lagerfeld and then developed by Diesel’s creative team, under the supervision of Rosso. It consisted of five pieces that were presented during the designer’s catwalk shows during Paris Fashion Week and then sold in highly limited editions at the Lagerfeld Galleries in Paris and Monaco and at the Diesel Denim Galleries in New York and Tokyo.
In October 2018, Karl in collaboration with Carpenters Workshop Gallery launched an art collection of functional sculptures titled Architectures. Sculptures were made of Arabescato Fantastico, a rare vibrant white marble with dark gray veins and black Nero Marquina marble with milky veins. Inspired by antiquity and referred to as modern mythology the ensemble consists of gueridons, tables, lamps, consoles, fountains and mirrors.
The designer is said to have been working hard close up until his death, even giving his team instructions relating to the Fendi autumn/winter 2019 show, which is due to take place during Milan Fashion Week this Thursday.
Lagerfeld is one of the most prolific and celebrated fashion designers of all time and has headed up some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, including Fendi, Chanel and his own namesake label, all three of which he acted as creative director for until his death today.