Karl Lagerfeld, one of most legendary and instantly recognizable figures in fashion, died in Paris at age 85. Chanel confirmed the news on Tuesday. The German designer, who was the longtime creative director for Paris-based Chanel and womenswear director for Italian design house Fendi, was one of the industry’s most influential – and at times, outspoken – figures.
The news of Lagerfeld’s passing comes shortly after the famed designer was absent from the brand’s Spring 2019 haute couture show, which was held January 22 in Paris. After failing to take the final bow at the conclusion of the show, the designer, famous for his ready-to-wear and couture offerings, as well as for his uniform of a white-collared shirt, black tie, white ponytail, fingerless gloves and black sunglasses, Chanel revealed that Lagerfeld was “feeling tired” and unable to attend.
The news of Lagerfeld’s absence caused the media to immediately pose questions about privately-owned Chanel’s successions plans for its creative great, who joined in 1983 to oversee its world-famous haute couture and ready-to-wear offerings after doing stints with Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou, and Chloe.
“A prolific creative mind with endless imagination, Karl Lagerfeld explored many artistic horizons, including photography and short films,” Chanel said in a statement on Tuesday. “The house of Chanel benefited from his talent for all the branding campaigns related to fashion since 1987. Finally, one cannot refer to Karl Lagerfeld without mentioning his innate sense of repartee and self-mockery,.”
Despite enduring rumors that Chanel would look to a big-name creative director to ultimately fill the void left by Lagerfeld, the 110-year old design house revealed that Virginie Viard, studio director of Chanel – who has worked with Lagerfeld for more than three decades, and whom Lagerfeld has described as his “right hand” – will take the helm in order to ensure “that the legacy of [the house’s founder] Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on,” according to Chanel.
In his own words on job of helping to build out the famed house of Chanel beginning 10 years after the death of its founder, the notoriously sharp-tongued Lagerfeld – who, in his day ruffled feathers with statements about everything from Adele and Pippa Middleton to weight and the treatment of models – said, “A sense of humor and a little lack of respect: that’s what you need to make a legend survive.”