Fashion icon and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld has died at the age of 85.
The German designer died on Tuesday morning at the American Hospital just outside Paris after being admitted the day before.
His death comes just under a month after he failed to greet the audience on the runway at the end of Chanel’s haute couture show in Paris because he was “tired”.
Known for his indefatigable energy, it was the first time since he took over as the fashion house’s creative director in 1983 that he had not spoken to fans – or taken a bow – after a show.
The eccentric designer was recognised around the world for his distinctive white ponytail, black sunglasses, gloves and high starched collars.
He was also creative director for Italian fashion house Fendi, owned by LVMH, from 1977, as well as his eponymous label.
A statement from Pier Paolo Righi, CEO of the KARL LAGERFELD brand, said the world “has lost an icon”, calling the designer a “creative genius” who was “influential, curious, powerful and passionate”.
“He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time,” he said, as he promised to continue to share Lagerfeld’s vision and ethos through the brand.
The renowned designer started off in 1955 as Pierre Balmain’s assistant, before moving to French couture house Jean Patou.
He then designed for Italy-based Tiziani, of which actress Elizabeth Taylor was a fan.
Lagerfeld worked for French fashion house Chloe for 20 years, and collaborated with a variety of labels, including Diesel, Hogan and H&M, as well as designing costumes for theatrical productions and singers for their tours, including Madonna and Kylie Minogue.
He was also an acclaimed photographer, having taken pictures for a number of high fashion magazines and his own campaigns.
His Chanel shows were known for being dramatic, turning the Grand Palais in Paris into a beach, complete with a sea with waves for his spring-summer show in October last year.
Celebrities and big names from the fashion world have revealed their sorrow at his death.
Designer Donatella Versace posted a photograph of herself and Lagerfeld on Instagram, writing: “Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I.
“We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We were always learning from you.”
The House of KARL LAGERFELD shares, with deep emotion and sadness, the passing of its creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, on February 19, 2019, in Paris, France. He was one of the most influential and celebrated designers of the 21st century and an iconic, universal symbol of style. Driven by a phenomenal sense of creativity, Karl was passionate, powerful and intensely curious. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time, and there are no words to express how much he will be missed.
A post shared by KARL LAGERFELD (@karllagerfeld) on
American Vogue editor Anna Wintour said the world has lost “a giant among men”.
Wintour, who was in London for fashion week, said she will miss Lagerfeld “so very much”.
“Karl was so much more than our greatest and most prolific designer,” she said.
“His creative genius was breathtaking and to be his friend was an exceptional gift.
“Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind.”
British fashion designer Henry Holland tweeted a quote from Lagerfeld: “To design is to breathe, so if I can’t breathe I’m in trouble” RIP @KarlLagerfeld #karlargerfeld.”
Lagerfeld’s former muse, Claudia Schiffer, said her fellow German was the equivalent of Andy Warhol in the fashion world.
The supermodel said he was “irreplaceable”, was her “magic dust” and she “will be eternally grateful to him”.
“He transformed me from a shy German girl into a supermodel. He taught me about fashion, style and survival in the fashion business,” she said.
Actress Diane Kruger revealed she was meant to see Lagerfeld this week and introduce him to her daughter.
She wrote: “Karl…..I cannot tell you how much you meant to me and how much I will miss you – I will never forget your kindness towards me, your laughs, your imagination – I came to France to see you this week and introduce you to my daughter…I’m heartbroken I was too late – Rest In Peace, I adore you.”
Actress Keira Knightley, who features in Chanel’s perfume ads, said she was “incredibly sad”, as she called Lagerfeld “a legend both as a man and a creative force”.
Victoria Beckham posted a picture of Lagerfeld, saying he was “always so kind and generous to me”.
Model and TV star Alexa Chung said: “Rest in peace, Karl. I remember being so scared to interview you and yet you were in fact incredibly witty and generous.
“Thank you for inviting me to some of the most glamorous experiences of my life, it was an honour to know you. Oh yeah and thanks for the dry shampoo tip, will always think of you as I powder my wig.”
A statement from Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said: “We are deeply saddened to learn the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing today.
“His unrivalled contribution to the fashion industry changed the way women dress and perceive fashion.
“He inspired generations of young designers and will continue to do so. His tenure of over thirty years, saw his unique vision transform Chanel from a classic French house into a global superbrand.
“It is a great loss for our industry. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH group, which has more than 70 high end brands including Louis Vuitton, said: “Karl Lagerfeld was a creative genius who helped make Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative Italian houses.
“We owe him a lot: his taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known.”
He said Lagerfeld gave LVMH “an extraordinarily stimulative creative and entrepreneurial friendship”, as he praised his “immense imagination” and “ability to arouse new trends every season”.
“We loved and admired him deeply. Fashion and culture lose a great inspiration,” he added.
An enigma until the end, Lagerfeld was even cagey about his birth year, with reports he had two birth certificates, one dated 1933 and the other 1938 – although his parents placed a birth announcement in 1933.
Although he spent most of his career at luxury labels, his designs quickly trickled down to high street retailers, giving him an almost unprecedented impact on the entire fashion industry.
His outspoken and often unforgiving remarks on everything from French politics and celebrity waistlines earned him the name “Kaiser Karl” in the fashion media.
However, he was known for being kind to his staff and was happy to give journalists long interviews after every show.
One of his most stinging comments was directed at President Francois Hollande, with Lagerfeld calling him an “imbecile” who would be “disastrous” for France.
After the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding to Prince William, he said he did not like her sister Pippa Middleton’s face, saying: “She should only show her back.”
In 2001, Lagerfeld lost 42kg (92.6lbs) in 13 months because he wanted to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane, but the clothes were modelled by “very, very slim boys – and not men my age”, he said.
He had a long-standing feud with animal charity PETA over his unapologetic support of fur in fashion, although he did not wear fur and hardly ate meat.
Lagerfeld never married, although he said if he could legally marry his fluffy white cat, Choupette Lagerfeld – who has her own social media accounts – he would.