Karl Lagerfeld, the fashion designer who carried on the legacy of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel as creative director of her brand and who ran his own fashion house, died in Paris, Chanel said on Tuesday.
He was 85. Illness had kept him from attending fashion shows in recent days, according to news reports.
Virginie Viard, director of Chanel's Fashion Creation Studio and Lagerfeld’s "closest collaborator for more than 30 years," will succeed him, according to a Chanel news post.
Lagerfeld made a name for himself through tenures at several upscale fashion houses, including Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou and Fendi, where he arrived in the mid-1960s, according to the New York Times. He later worked for Krizia, Ballantyne, Charles Jourdan and, for a decade, Chloé.
Rest in peace, Karl. Love forever from your TeamKarl family. pic.twitter.com/8uSidZUhJm— KARL LAGERFELD (@KarlLagerfeld) February 19, 2019
But his mark has been indelible at Chanel, where, in designs spanning some 37 years, he is widely seen as carrying on her vision even as he updated it for the waning 20th century. Lagerfeld reinvented the "Chanel jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewelry," the company noted on Tuesday, quoting Lagerfeld himself saying, "My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done. The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things."
The Parisian house noted that, in addition to being a designer, Lagerfeld was a photographer and filmmaker, and that many of its marketing campaigns benefitted from those skills. And the company noted "his innate sense of repartee and self-mockery."
That was neatly encapsulated in a collection of his musings, "The World According to Karl," that includes his famous observation, "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat."
With his passing, "we have lost a creative genius who helped to make Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative Italian houses" and "fashion and culture has lost a great inspiration," Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of luxury French conglomerate LVMH, said in a statement.
LVMH alone owes "him a great deal," he also said, noting Lagerfeld's work as artistic director of Jean Patou in 1959, creator of Fendi since 1965 and member of the LVMH Prize jury since its creation in 2013.
"[H]is taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known. ...[H]e honored the LVMH group with an extraordinarily stimulating creative and entrepreneurial friendship," Arnault said. "I will always remember his immense imagination, his ability to conceive new trends for every season, his inexhaustible energy, the virtuosity of his drawings, his carefully guarded independence, his encyclopedic culture, and his unique wit and eloquence. The death of this dear friend deeply saddens me, my wife and my children. We loved and admired him deeply."