Chanel’s artistic director Karl Lagerfeld, one of the fashion industry’s most influential figures in history, has died.
Per French entertainment website Purepeople, Lagerfeld was rushed to the hospital Monday night but passed away Tuesday morning. These reports come one month after Lagerfeld was notably absent from Chanel’s spring 2019 couture show in Paris due to feeling “tired.”
Born in Germany in 1933 (or 1938, depending on the source), at the age of 14, Lagerfeld moved to Paris, where he got his start in the fashion industry in 1955 as a career assistant to Pierre Balmain. In the 1960s, he moved on to work at Fendi and Chloé.
Lagerfeld’s biggest career move came in 1983, when he took over as head of Chanel — a house that was, at the time, considered sleepy and bourgeois. But under Lagerfeld, Chanel became synonymous with high fashion and luxury, and it was there that he rewrote the rules of the fashion industry. (While at Chanel, Lagerfeld also simultaneously delivered collections for LVMH Fendi and his own eponymous label.)
A tireless inventor who often talked about how much he loved to work, Lagerfeld helped establish fashion’s contemporary nonstop schedule. In the early 2000s, he launched the concept of high-low designer collaborations when he teamed up with H&M on a collection (it quickly sold out.) He caused an uproar in 2004 by inviting Nicole Kidman to a show and embracing her on the runway, underscoring the growing role of celebrity culture in fashion. And in later years, his shows became full-fledged spectacles staged in far-flung locations with special effects.
And Lagerfeld himself had one of fashion’s most — if not the most — instantly recognizable looks, with his dark sunglasses, short ponytail, and black gloves. However, he was never too serious with his aesthetic; he had fun with it, as he did in all areas of his life. He was an eccentric, larger-than-life character in the fashion world known not only for his designs, but also everything from his clever quotes to his photography and publishing imprint to his storied love for his cat Choupette.
Following reports of Lagerfeld’s death, Chanel CEO Alain Wertheimer remembered the designer as someone who was “ahead of his time,” mourning that he has not just lost “a friend,” but “an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand.”
Per the Evening Standard, Chanel president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky echoed Wertheimer’s sentiments, honoring Lagerfeld through the designer’s own words.
“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,’” he said.
This story will be updated as more details emerge.