Karl Lagerfeld, fashion designer

Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld
0
Have your say

With his dark sunglasses and white hair in a ponytail, Karl Lagerfeld, was one of the most distinctive faces in the fashion world.

To those who knew him, he was also the hardest working man in the industry, heading up Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label and producing around 15 collections a year.

Lagerfeld, who drew his own designs by hand, transformed Chanel’s fortunes following the start of his association with the company in 1983.

He embraced celebrities such as the Kardashians and celebrity models while not losing touch with Chanel’s heritage.

He often hit the headlines because of his controversial quotes, describing the pop star Adele as “a little too fat” during an interview.

He also called Russian men “ugly” and said the British royal family was “unnecessary”.

Born in Hamburg, his date of birth has long been unclear. It had been widely believed to be 1933, although it is listed as 1938 on his official website. In 2013 he told Paris Match magazine that he was born in 1935.

He left Germany for Paris when he was 17, and got his big opening in fashion when he won the 1954 International Woolmark Prize, based on his sketch of a coat that was picked up by the French designer Pierre Balmain. The award was sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat, based in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

He went on to work as Balmain’s assistant for three years, before going on to design collections for Jean Patou, Chloe, Krizia, Charles Jourdan, Mario Valentino, Fendi and, ultimately, Chanel.

There, he was known for putting on a huge spectacle at his couture shows.

He imported an entire iceberg one year, built a Chanel supermarket, a casino, and, last season, a beach – complete with waves and even lifeguards. As recently as last year he paired up with Cindy Crawford’s 17-year-old daughter, Kaia Gerber, for his own brand.

But he had a less exotic side, working with H&M before such collaborations became a staple of the high street.

His image, defined by with black clothes and starched collars, was so recognisable that a high-price Karl Barbie doll was created in his honour.

“I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that. It is like a mask,” he said, while also proclaiming that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat”.

He was handed the outstanding achievement award at the British Fashion Awards in 2015, where Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of US Vogue, said he represented “the soul of fashion – restless, forward-looking and voraciously attentive to our changing culture”.