PARIS (Reuters) – High fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, artistic director of Chanel and icon of the fashion sector with his extravagant outfits and impressive fashion shows, has died at the age of 85.
Recognizable instantly in his dark suits, white hair in ponytails and sunglasses, Lagerfeld was best known for his association with Chanel, but he had also bought collections for Fendi from LVMH and for his own eponymous brand.
Rumors about Lagerfeld's ill health had swirled after he had not come to the Chanel parade in Paris for his usual bow.
Chanel's Executive Director, Alain Wertheimer, recalled that he gave Lagerfeld carte blanche in the 1980s to reinvent the brand, from the Chanel jacket to tweeds to bi-color shoes.
"Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which greatly contributed to the success of Chanel House worldwide," Wertheimer said in a statement.
A craftsman who combined artistic instinct, business acumen and a corresponding ego, Lagerfeld was known for his remarkably visual fashion shows.
LVMH President and CEO Bernard Arnault said that the fashion world had lost a creative genius that had helped make Paris the fashion capital of the world and that Fendi was one of the most important Italian houses in the world. more innovative.
"I will always remember his immense imagination, his ability to conceive new trends for each season, his inexhaustible energy, the virtuosity of his drawings, his carefully preserved independence, his encyclopedic culture, his wit and his his unique eloquence, "said Arnault.
Chanel said Virginie Viard, director of the house's creative studio, will take over the creative work for the brand's collections. Several sources told Reuters that the appointment was transitional and that Lagerfeld's successor would be announced after the mourning period.
Born in Hamburg in 1933, Lagerfeld debuted with designer Pierre Balmain as an apprentice before moving on to Patou and Chloe, then to Fendi.
"He was one of the most influential and famous designers of the 21st century and an iconic and universal symbol of style," wrote Karl Lagerfeld on Instagram.
"He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time."
Fendi announced that it would unfold as planned with a fashion show in Milan from Lagerfeld's last line for Thursday's mark.
"Fendi's House is in mourning after the death of Karl Lagerfeld, who has left his mark and his genius for more than five decades," he said.
"This is not the time to discuss his estate. We intend to take the time to honor his life and pay him the tribute he deserves. "
It was after joining the Chanel French fashion house in 1983 that Lagerfeld acquired the status of rock star, which allowed him to improve the label founded by Coco Chanel in 1910 and to attract a younger clientele.
He was known for staging lavish shows, building Chanel bridges among replicas of a supermarket, a casino and even an airport terminal.
On January 22, Chanel hosted guests in a Mediterranean garden simulated for its fashion show. In a collection inspired by Lagerfeld's favorite period, the 18th century, new folds were added to the brand's classic tweed suits, with ankle-length skirts or fishtail skirts.
Tributes poured in from around the world for the man affectionately nicknamed "Kaiser Karl" and "Fashion Meister".
British Victoria Beckham wrote on Instagram: "So incredibly sad to hear that. Karl was a genius and always so kind and generous to me, personally and professionally. "
Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace, sister of the late Gianni Versace, wrote: "Karl, your genius touched the lives of so many people, especially Gianni and me. We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We have always learned from you.
Italian designer Giorgio Armani described Lagerfeld as "an extraordinary man, both for his professional talent and for his life, which he mixed and transformed into a unique art: the way to be of Lagerfeld".
Actress Keira Knightley, who starred in Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle fragrance campaign, described it as "a legend both as a man and a creative force".
According to the French online magazine Purepeople, Lagerfeld died Tuesday after being hospitalized in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, the night before.
"It has inspired generations and, above all, it has given us the opportunity to dream, with its ability to embrace the present and invent the future," said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian National Association of Fashion CNMI .
Report by Richard Lough and Pascale Denis; Additional report by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Claudia Cristoferi in Milan; Written by Richard Lough; Edited by Janet Lawrence and Alison Williams