Feb 19, 2019
Reading time
5 minutes
Download the article
Click here to print
Text size
aA+ aA-

Fashion mourns death of the Kaiser Karl Lagerfeld

Feb 19, 2019

Superstar designer Karl Lagerfeld died at the age of 85 on Tuesday, his fashion label Chanel confirmed.

The announcement came just a month after the man known as the "Kaiser" for his dominance of the industry did not appear at his Paris haute couture week show for Chanel, which he led since 1983.

The prolific German had left many younger creators in the dust well into his 80s, turning out collections season after season for Fendi and his own label, as well as Chanel -- the world's richest brand.

But in recent years Lagerfeld had visibly weakened, even if his extraordinary creative stamina showed little sign of flagging on the catwalk.

Friends had always said that the prolific creator would die with a pencil in his hand, and just last week his own fashion line Karl Lagerfeld was still announcing new design collaborations.

But speculation about his health spiralled last month after he missed the first show of his life, with Chanel executives saying that he "was tired this morning".

Milan is due to host the latest Fendi collection on Thursday, Lagerfeld's final work for the label, which paid a moving tribute.

"I was just a child when I first saw Karl," said Silvia Venturini Fendi, the label's creative director for Men's, Accessories and Children's collections.

"Karl Lagerfeld was my mentor and my point of reference. One look was enough to understand each other.

"For Fendi and myself, Karl's creative genius was and will always remain our guide and light."

Other Italian houses set to present at this year's Milan Fashion Week also reacted, with Gucci artistic director Alessandro Michele sharing a photograph of the designer, accompanied by a black heart.

Bernard Arnault, the most powerful man in fashion and owner of the luxury giant LVMH, said he was "infinitely saddened" by the loss of a "very dear friend" and a "creative genius".

"Fashion and culture have lost a major inspiration. He contributed to making Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative of Italian brands," the billionaire said.

Italian designer Donatella Versace wrote on Instagram: "Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I," she said, referring to her murdered brother who founded her brand. "We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We were always learning from you."

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte offered their condolences to the designer's family and colleagues, the Elysee Palace said, adding that the designer had "helped define French style and elegance".

"France owes so much to this aesthete whose creative genius has left a mark on the imagination of our country and made it shine around the world," it said in a statement.

Lagerfeld's longtime muse, Ines de La Fressange, one of the world's first supermodels, told AFP that he "never rested on his laurels, never doing the same thing twice".

"I saw him draw surrounded by 15 people. He was the opposite of the great couturier who had to suffer to create. He did nothing but work yet he refused to make it look like work," she added.

US First Lady Melania Trump, a former model, paid tribute to Lagerfeld on Twitter, saying "today the world lost a creative genius".

The singer and former French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who worked as a model for Lagerfeld, wrote a touching tribute to her former mentor on Instagram.

"Thank you for all the sparkles .... thank you for bringing beauty and lightness in our world, so much colour in the darkness, so much wit in our dull days. I think you wouldn't have wished for too many tears or too many flowers but you will be missed. The whole world and I will miss you."

In an equally emotional tribute, actress and model Diane Kruger said she was not able to get to his bedside in time.

"I cannot tell you how much you meant to me and how much I will miss you," the German star wrote on Instagram.

With his powdered white pony tail, black sunglasses and starched high-collared white shirts, Lagerfeld was as instantly recognisable as his celebrity clients.

Pop star turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham said that "Karl was a genius".

He was "always so kind and generous to me both personally and professionally. RIP," the former Spice Girl added.

"It's a privilege to be able to say that you've worked with him, that you've listened to him speak, that you've talked with him, that you've been dressed by him," said the French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis on Instagram.

"Karl Lagerfeld is an immense personality, someone out of the ordinary," French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told RTL radio.

But while the Hamburg-born creator's razor wit won him many fans, it also landed him in trouble.

Despite formerly being overweight himself, Lagerfeld caused a furore for lashing "fat women sitting in front of televisions with their pack of crisps" for "saying slim models are hideous."

And he provoked even more outrage in 2017 by attacking German Chancellor Angela Merkel for opening the country's borders to migrants.

"One cannot kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place," he told a French TV show.

- 'I'd rather die' -

The controversies were drowned out, however, in a wave of tributes, with British pop star turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham praising Lagerfeld's "genius" and generosity.

"Thanks for the dry shampoo tip. Will always think of you as I powder my wig," joked British designer, writer and model Alexa Chung on Instagram, echoing the designer's love of repartee.

Lagerfeld had long declared that he didn't want to be mourned at a grandiose funeral like the one France granted its rock legend Johnny Hallyday.

"What a horror!" he cried. "There will be no burial. I'd rather die... I've asked to be cremated and for my ashes to dispersed with those of my mother and those of Choupette (his cat), if she dies before me," he said.

"I just want to disappear like the animals in the virgin forest," Lagerfeld added.

Copyright © 2023 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.