PARIS – Karl Lagerfeld passed away on the morning of Tuesday, February 19, 2019. He was 85. The extraordinary life of the designer, photographer and creative director is widely known. Here are a few highlights in this compilation of photos, moments, and quotations in memoriam of the late great design icon.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, Lagerfeld would move to Paris with his family when he was a teenager, finishing his secondary school education at the Lycée Montaigne, where he majored in drawing and history. 1954, at the age of 21, he was awarded the prestigious Woolmark Prize: “It was a worldwide contest organized by the international Woolmark company. They had huge posters in cities saying to send sketches if you aren’t a professional. I sent a few sketches, forgot about it. Later, I got a telegram. I was told I won the first for the prize…It was a lot of money…I went immediately in a place in the passage des Champs-Elysées and spent everything on clothes. It was a happy day. There were a few more.” (Buro)
Yves Saint Laurent, just 18 at the time, won best dress design. Theirs would be a rivalry and friendship to last a lifetime. Soon after winning the contest, Lagerfeld was hired by Pierre Balmain. He would work as Balmain’s junior assistant and later apprentice, for three years. After Balmain, there was Jean Patou, Tiziani in Rome in 1964, taking on freelance design work for Charles Jourdan, Krizia, Valentino, and Chloé. He would become the creative director at Chloé twice, in 1974 and again in 1992. The designer had worked with the house from 1964 and for the next decade would go on “to cement its bohemian romance through bold prints on flowing dresses that were confident, fun and liberating. Under his creative eye, the brand reached international success, which put Lagerfeld out there as a serious fashion name.” (Vogue)
It was in Rome in 1965 that Lagerfeld joined Fendi as head of ready-to-wear, beginning relationship (his longest) that would last a stunning 54 years. In 1983, after his contract with Chloé ended, the designer joined Chanel, a dying brand at the time, and changed the course of fashion history by building fashion’s greatest luxury empire in his 36 years as creative director.
The iconic designer ran three design houses simultaneously for over 35 years each: Chanel (which had an astonishing 7 shows per year), Fendi, and his own label, which was launched in 1984. Lagerfeld also crossed over into film and photography, shooting editorials and campaigns for a broad range of clients and publications. Known for his work ethic, it was reported that he worked until the very end, fitting for someone who once said, “Youthfulness is about how you live not when you were born.”
“I am a fashion person, and fashion is not only about clothes‒it’s about all kinds of change” –Karl Lagerfeld
“When I did H&M everyone said don’t do it and it worked. When I took over Chanel everyone said to me don’t do it, it’s dead, it doesn’t work, it worked. So I better not listen to people and follow my instincts.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“Fashion does not have to prove that it is serious. It is the proof that intelligent frivolity can be something creative and positive” –Karl Lagerfeld
“WHAT I LIKE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHS IS THAT THEY CAPTURE A MOMENT THAT’S GONE FOREVER, IMPOSSIBLE TO REPRODUCE.” ―KARL LAGERFELD
Choupette, Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, was given to him by the model Baptiste Giabiconi in 2011; he initially had Lagerfeld cat-sit Choupette while he was on holiday, but the designer fell in love with the cat.
“There can’t be many cats that boast a personal maid, travel by private jet, have their own book, an Instagram account, a Wikipedia page and a product line of their likeness. But Choupette is a special kind of feline.” (The Guardian)
“Evolution is the secret for the next step.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“Lagerfeld spent an astonishing, world-record-breaking 54 years at Italian house Fendi, producing more than 100 collections for it.” (The Guardian)
KARL LAGERFELD’S FINAL SHOW
As soon as guests entered the venue, the Italian house’s tribute to the late Karl Lagerfeld and his 54-year-long tenure as creative director was immediately felt: Above the catwalk’s entrance was his handwritten signature in lights; at every seat was a touching tribute card that commemorates his death; and show notes came with sketches of Lagerfeld’s final collection for Fendi.
After, the room went dark and a video featured a not-too-long-ago Lagerfeld sketching his first-ever design all the way from 1965, showing that at Fendi, his memory will always live on. (Fashionista)
“I want the bow.” That instruction came to Silvia Venturini Fendi from Karl Lagerfeld on Monday, the day before his death. Backstage after showing her and Lagerfeld’s beautiful Fendi collection, the last of their long-term collaboration, Venturini Fendi was emotional as she greeted well-wishers; she had known Lagerfeld up-close for most of her life. He started working with her mother and aunts at Fendi in 1965, a record for collaborative longevity and excellence that will never be approached. Her comments confirmed that which many who knew Karl had long assumed: If he couldn’t live forever, he would go engaged in the most important thing in the world to him―work.
Lagerfeld was fully engaged until the end and planned to attend the show. “He was supposed to come. We organized everything for him to be here,” Venturini Fendi said. “This collection made him live longer. Because we had been working a lot.”
It showed. Over the years Lagerfeld took Fendi in numerous directions, most recently, one that infused high polish with a sporty attitude. He achieved this mood via intricate cuts, layerings and working with remarkable materials, the fruits of Fendi’s incredible R&D. He would bring it all together ingeniously, the complications of construction belied by an inviting visual ease. That was the case here, in a collection that radiated relaxed authority.
Silvia Venturini Fendi recalls that she was 5 years old when she first encountered Karl Lagerfeld. It was at Casa Fendi—the real one—in Rome. “I didn’t know what he was doing,” she reminisced this afternoon. “I thought he was a painter.” In a working relationship that goes back to 1965 (way before Chanel was but a twinkle in his eye), Lagerfeld has become profoundly insinuated within the fabric of both the Fendi business and family. Or as Venturini Fendi put it today: “In my fantasy world, he is the only man related to Fendi. So yes, he is the man in my life.” ―Vogue
“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you.” –Karl Lagerfeld
Above, the designer with the original supermodels: Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Helena Christiansen and Claudia Schiffer in the 90’s. By 2001, he lost 93 lbs: “Lagerfeld was one of the most recognisable fashion designers in the world – thanks to his uniform of black suit, white shirt, fingerless gloves, pompadour and sunglasses. This look came together in the noughties, combined with drastic weight loss. “I suddenly wanted to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane,” he said, referring to the Dior Homme designer whose suiting is notoriously made in tiny sizes. Lagerfeld stuck to his diet – no sugar, cheese or bread, around 10 cans of Diet Coke a day–continuously, with no temptation.” (The Guardian)
Lagerfeld inhabited “Villa Jako”—which he named in remembrance of his partner of 18 years, Jacques de Bascher (who died in 1989)—between 1991 and 1998.
The three-acre estate is situated in Hamburg’s Blankenese, an exclusive area that features views of the River Elbe. The stone-exterior mansion was constructed in the 1920s and is an exercise in classical architecture with columns (as well as other characteristics) that are reminiscent of ancient Rome.
But, as he has shared with Engel & Völkers’ GG: “It’s impossible to live on the Elbe. You spend all your time looking out at the river. You ended up becoming lazy.” (Architectural Digest)
“What I love best in life is new starts.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die and it’ll all be finished.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“People who say that yesterday was better than today are ultimately devaluing their own existence.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“No, I never thought I would like cats.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“I get inspired when I’m working, it’s my engine.” –Karl Lagerfeld
La Vigie, a 1902 villa in Monaco that was restored (and lived in) by Karl Lagerfeld in the 1990’s (via Architectural Digest)
“I like to reinvent myself—it’s part of my job.” –Karl Lagerfeld
“I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth.” ‒Karl Lagerfeld