Pic: Christopher William Adach
Karl Lagerfeld, one of fashion’s most influential and controversial figures, has died at the age of 85 following a short illness.
Lagerfeld missed a number of runway shows and events in January, fueling speculation about his health. According to reports, he was rushed to hospital on Monday night before passing away on Tuesday.
Lagerfeld was the creative director of the French luxury fashion house Chanel. He also produced collections for Fendi and his own label.
The German-born visionary’s career started in 1955 when he was hired as Pierre Balmain’s assistant after winning a design competition. He then moved to the Jean Patou fashion house where he designed haute couture collections.
He initially used the name Roland Karl before he began to be referred to as Karl Lagerfeld in the 1960s. He found international fame in the 1980s and became known for his own unique look: dark suits, pony-tailed white hair, fingerless gloves, high starched collars, and black sunglasses.
He joined Chanel in 1983 and is credited with revitalising the label and turning the company’s fortunes around.
Lagerfeld often caused controversy, not only for his use of fur, but also because of his acerbic remarks, often about women. In 2012, he angered many when he called the singer Adele “a little too fat.” Speaking about Pippa Middleton, Kate Middleton’s sister, that same year, Lagerfeld said: “I don’t like [her] face. She should only show her back.”
Recently addressing the #MeToo movement, he asserted: “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model!”
While he rarely spoke about his sexuality, Lagerfeld had a long-term relationship with socialite Jacques de Bascher from the early 1970s until de Bascher’s death from AIDS in 1989.
In a 2008 book, Lagerfeld opened up about de Bascher, who was described as the only love of his life. “He made me laugh more than anyone. He was the opposite of me. He was also impossible and despicable. He was perfect,” said Lagerfeld.
Following his death, fellow designer Donatella Versace said that Lagerfeld’s “genius touched the lives of so many” and praised his “incredible talent and endless inspiration.” Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, added: “Today the world lost a giant among men.”
Chanel’s chief executive, Alain Wertheimer, said of Lagerfeld: “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.”