German-born designer Karl Lagerfeld died this morning (February 19, 2019) in Paris at the age of 85. “It is with deep sadness that the house of Chanel announces the passing of Karl Lagerfeld,” Chanel announced in a press statement, which didn’t reveal the cause of his death. According to Pure People, Lagerfeld was admitted to the American Hospital of Paris on Monday night and died on Tuesday morning.
The statement also noted Lagerfeld’s connection with label founder Gabrielle Chanel: “An extraordinary creative individual, Karl Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the Chanel jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewelry. Regarding Gabrielle Chanel, he said, ‘My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done. The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.'”
Responsible for three labels, Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label, Lagerfeld was known for his tireless work ethic. Still, he recently showed signs of fatigue when he failed to take the final bow at the Paris label’s haute couture presentation in January 2019.
However, he was in good enough health in his final days to provide direction to the Fendi design teams who are in the midst of preparing for the label’s fall ready-to-wear collection.
Lagerfeld has been the lead creative at Chanel since 1983. He was also was the fur and then ready-to-wear designer at Fendi since 1965 and started up his own label in 1984. Additionally, he was a working photographer and shot editorials for all the top fashion magazine as well as campaigns for Chanel and Fendi plus Dom Perignon, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Pirelli, among others.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, he moved to Paris in 1952 to attend Lycée Montaigne, following by a school where he studied drawing. His first fashion role was as an apprentice under Pierre Balmain. He subsequently held design-related positions at Jean Patou, Fendi and Chloé, Mario Valentino, Max Mara, Tiziano, Repetto and Monoprix.
Extraordinary in no small part because of his enduring success, Lagerfeld credited open-mindedness for his staying power. In 2008 he commented, “I’m open to everything. When you start to criticize the times you live in, your time is over. The most important thing in fashion is lucidity, if you want to last.”