Best known for his three-decade reign at luxury French fashion house Chanel, Lagerfeld will forever be known as one of the most prolific fashion designers of all time.
With his signature monochromatic ensembles, snow white ponytail and dark glasses, over the years the creative director became as recognisable as the brands he was in charge of.
Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1933, his father, businessman Otto Lagerfeld, and mother, lingerie saleswoman Elizabeth Bahlmann, emigrated to France when he was a child.
Lagerfeld’s big break into fashion came in 1954 when, at the age of 17, he won first prize for a coat design in a contest organised by the International Wool Association. Following his win, the garment was produced by Pierre Balmain, founder of renowned luxury house Balmain, who offered Lagerfeld his first job as an assistant.
Just three years later he became art director for fashion designer Jean Patou. In 1962, Lagerfeld made the brave decision to go freelance and in doing so became one of the first freelancers in the modern fashion industry.
This stint as a freelancer allowed Lagerfeld to put his own mark on numerous brands, including a spring/summer collection for Chloe in 1964, which gained him worldwide recognition. This led to him to a collaboration with prestigious fashion house Fendi in 1965, which he continued right up until his death. During his time as creative director at Fendi the designer was responsible for the creation of the iconic double F logo, as well as the Baguette and Peekaboo bags.
Over the decades he has shaped the brand, creating trendsetting collections that managed to change with the times, as well as lavish haute couture and numerous signature tweed suits which stayed true to the original DNA of the Coco Chanel brand.
It’s not just his designs that will go down in history, but also his spectacular runway shows. From a casino to supermarket, airport to space centre, no one could transform the Grand Palais in Paris quite like Lagerfeld.
The designer also raised the profile of the brand by using celebrity muses, which over the years included Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner, Kristen Stewart and Lily Rose Depp.
Seperate to his work with Chanel, Lagerfeld became a brand in his own right. Thanks to his signature dark sunglasses and long white hair, the recognisable image of which led to the creation of his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld, in 1984. The brand led Lagerfeld to become the first designer in the world to collaborate with high street brand H&M in 2004. The Karl Lagerfeld label often collaborated with his celebrity muses, the most recent – and last – being with daughter of Cindy Crawford, Kaia Gerber.
Along with his creative genius and inimitable personal style, Lagerfeld was known for his razor sharp wit and biting judgements – he famously stated that ‘sweatpants are a sign of defeat’.
Up until his death, Lagerfeld continued to be at the helm of two of the most powerful fashion houses in the world, Chanel and Fendi. Reports state he had even been giving instructions on the Fendi autumn/winter 2019 show which is due to take place this Thursday during Milan Fashion Week.
Several times over the last few years Lagerfeld was asked whether he was writing his memoirs. “I have nothing to say.” he’d reply. “I’m actually trying to make sure that I won’t be remembered.”