As the world mourns the loss of one of fashion’s most prolific designers, we reflect on the ways Karl Lagerfeld shaped the fashion industry as we see it today.
1. He revived the house of Coco Chanel
After Coco’s passing in 1971, the house of Chanel experienced a slow and steady decline in sales. Lagerfeld was recruited to take the reins in 1983, resulting in billions in profits with his popularization of pearls, chains, the double-C logo and reworking their iconic skirt suits. The designer mastered the complicated art of designing for a heritage house without compromising the founder’s ideals and aesthetic. Each season, Lagerfeld presented successful iterations of the French label’s core tweed suits and quilted handbags in ways that felt innovative and modern.
2. The designer gave new meaning to the word #Extra with his OTT runway shows
Remember the sandy beach with a functional shoreline that transformed the Grand Palais for Chanel’s spring/summer 2019 collection? Or the logo-bearing rocket ship that actually launched during fall/winter 2017? How about the colossal iceberg that was shipped from Scandinavia to Paris, to complement the fur-lined suits and arctic snow boots of fall/winter 2010? Lagerfeld had a knack for transporting his audience into an other-worldly fantasy where excess knows no bounds.
3. Lagerfeld proved that age is irrelevant
Although he was known to lie about his age, the designer validated himself as an authority on style and elegance up until the age of 85. Not many designers can attest to spending 36 years with one brand, especially with the current state of musical chairs the industry’s most storied houses have been playing with designers like Claire Waight Keller, Ricardo Tisci, Hedi Slimane and many more. Yet, he proved that his perspective and talents were just as pertinent to society towards the end of his career as they were in the beginning.
4. He designed for some of the industry’s most successful brands
Lagerfeld’s resumé includes a stint at Balmain as an assistant, before he moved on to freelance for Chloé, Krizia and Valentino. In 1967, the designer joined Fendi where he oversaw their fur and ready-to-wear line for 52 years until his death. In the 1980s, he was recruited to revive Chanel (while still working for Fendi) and 4 years later, also started his eponymous label. During his latter years, Lagerfeld was designing up to 14 collections per year (8 of which were for Chanel).
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And Boom, Just Like That We Have Lost Another #Fashion Icon Who Will Be Remembered For His Incredible Talent And Endless Inspiration. Monsieur @karllagerfeld Thank You For All Those Many Dreams. This Truly Is An End Of An Era ?… #fashiondesigner #style #karllagerfeld #inspiration #chanel #fendi #ripkarllagerfeld #louisvuitton #legend ?…
5. The designer was an advocate for the fashion uniform
Enigmatic sunglasses, fingerless leather gloves, crisp high-neck collar and white ponytail—Check. If I were to put just those objects on a page, without filling in the rest of the silhouette, you would know exactly who I was talking about (case in point, the image below). Karl Lagerfeld made a case for the daily uniform and how to stick to it unfalteringly.
6. Lagerfeld introduced Ready-to-Wear to France
In 1964, Lagerfeld began designing for Chloé which was regarded as France’s first ready-to-wear brand. It was his cultivation of the label’s flowy, bohemian dresses that helped to put Chloé on fashion’s global radar. In fact, he returned to Chloé in 1974 and again in 1992 to serve as the Creative Director.
7. He pushed the limits of his own creativity
A true artist to the core, Lagerfeld developed an interest for additional creative outlets like photography. This passion led the designer to shoot his own campaigns for Chanel, as well as editorials and magazine covers (like Kim and Kanye’s revolutionary Harper’s Bazaar September 2016 cover). Proving that his talents surpassed the boundaries of clothing, the designer also used his skills in illustration to voice political and social commentary on public figures like Harvey Weinstein and Angela Merkel.
8. The designer brought high fashion to high-street
In 2004, Lagerfeld was the first designer to collaborate on a collection with H&M and it sold out in minutes. Designers Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf and Roberto Cavalli followed suit which set the precedence for high-end designers merging couture with mass-market.
It’s clear that Karl Lagerfeld’s many contributions helped shape the fashion industry as we know it today. Whoever Chanel taps next to fill the position of Creative Director definitely has some big shoes to fill.
Kim Kardashian & Kanye West on the September 2016 cover of Harper’s Bazaar | Photo by Karl Lagerfeld