Eccentric German designer Karl Lagerfeld, hailed as one of fashion’s most influential and iconic figures, has died at the age of 85.
Lagerfeld, the artistic director behind luxury fashion brands Chanel and Fendi, was hospitalised in Paris on Monday local time and passed away late Tuesday, according to local media.
He had reportedly been suffering ill health for several weeks. but the exact cause of his death is not yet known.
It was the first time since joining the fashion house in 1983 that he had not taken a bow on the catwalk at the end of a runway show.
Following Lagerfeld’s absence, Chanel said the designer had been “feeling tired” and asked the “director of the creative studio of the house, to represent him”.
The fashion world took to social media to pay tribute to the legendary designer, with many describing him as a “genius” and “visionary”, who “touched the lives of so many”.
He enjoyed the stature of a revered figure in the world of fashion, where he stayed on top for well over half of a century and up to his death, at an age almost nobody apart from himself knew with to-the-day precision.
Rest In Peace Karl Lagerfeld pic.twitter.com/i8SncMXBTp
— Lady Gaga LGN (@LadyGagaLGN) February 19, 2019
“The future belongs to your imagination” – Karl Lagerfeld ♥️ RIP pic.twitter.com/eu17s7eoQQ
— seo-jin (@nenodarling) February 19, 2019
Lagerfeld, who simultaneously churned out collections for LVMH’s Fendi and his eponymous label – an unheard of feat in fashion – was almost a brand in his own right.
Sporting dark suits, white, pony-tailed hair and tinted sunglasses in his later years that made him instantly recognisable, an irreverent wit was also part of a carefully crafted persona.
“I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” runs one legendary quote attributed to him, and often recycled to convey the person he liked to play. “It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”
His artistic instincts, business acumen and commensurate ego combined to commercially triumphant effect in the rarefied world of high fashion, where he was revered and feared in similar proportions by competitors and top models.
A refusal to look to the past was one of his biggest assets, those who knew him said.
Lagerfeld also stood out as a craftsman. An accomplished photographer, he drew his own designs by hand, an increasingly rare phenomenon in fashion.
— riccardo conti (@ByzantineVampyr) February 19, 2019
Behind the facade, he was known for his erudition and penchant for literature, and he devoured the world’s leading newspapers daily.
The designer was not afraid of breaking the mould within often-pompous couture circles. He teamed up with mainstream retailer H&M in 2004 for limited-edition collections, a move that raised eyebrows and was then quickly copied by others.
His appearance changed over the years along with his affectations, such as a fan he at one time carried and fluttered incessantly.
Known to adore Diet Coke, Lagerfeld said he shed weight in the early 2000s to fit into the razor-thin suits brought in by Christian Dior’s then menswear designer Hedi Slimane.
In rare moments when he was not working, Lagerfeld retired to one of his many homes in Paris, Germany, Italy or Monaco, all of them lavish carbon copies of 18th-century interiors.