The German designer, who was the creative director for Chanel and Fendi, was one of the industry’s most prolific figures and worked up until his death. His signature ponytail and dark glasses made him an instantly recognizable figure around the world. Industry heavyweights, including Italian designer Donatella Versace, issued heartfelt tributes.
“Today the world lost a giant among men,” said the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, Anna Wintour.
Lagerfeld’s website says his year of birth was 1938 – though most placed his age at five years older. Rumors of Lagerfeld’s ill health had swirled for several weeks after he missed a number of events – including Chanel’s spring/summer show last month. He died on Tuesday morning after being admitted to the hospital the night before, French media report.
As a designer, he transformed the fortunes of Chanel, one of the leading names in high fashion, but his work also filtered down to the high street. Away from his work, Lagerfeld made headlines for a range of provocative, and sometimes offensive, statements.
Members of the fashion industry have been lining up to praise Lagerfeld’s work. Donatella Versace said his genius had “touched so many” and was a source of inspiration for her and her late brother.
Wintour described the designer’s “creative genius” as “breathtaking”.
“Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind. I will miss him so very much,” her statement went on.
The model, Claudia Schiffer, said: “What Warhol was to art, he was to fashion; he is irreplaceable. He is the only person who could make black and white colorful.” Chanel’s chief executive, Alain Wertheimer, credited Lagerfeld with transforming the brand after he joined in 1983.
“Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of Chanel’s success throughout the world,” he said in a statement.
It has been announced that Virginie Viard, his deputy at fashion house Chanel, will succeed him as creative chief. Pier Paolo Righi, his own fashion brand’s CEO, described him as a “creative genius”.
“He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time,” a statement from the House of Karl Lagerfeld said. Celebrities including Victoria Beckham, actress Diane Kruger and models Gigi and Bella Hadid have also paid tribute.
US First Lady Melania Trump shared images on Twitter of a design created by Lagerfeld for her first official White House appearance.
Lagerfeld’s own look became famous in his later years – wearing dark suits and leather gloves with a signature white pony-tail and tinted sunglasses. Lagerfeld said of his appearance: “I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that.”
Despite his age and decades within the industry, the designer remained prevalent within popular culture – appearing in 2015 as a character in Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood smart-phone game. Lagerfeld’s beloved pet cat Choupette, whom he doted on, has a cult following of her own online.