Tributes are pouring in after news broke that German creative director Karl Lagerfeld passed away at the age of 85 in Paris. This comes a month after Lagerfeld skipped his bow at the end of the recent Chanel haute couture Spring 2019 show in Paris, with rumours that he was in poor health.
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It is with deep sadness that the House of CHANEL announces the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the Creative Director for the CHANEL Fashion House since 1983. An extraordinary creative individual, Karl Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the CHANEL jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewelry. Regarding Gabrielle Chanel, he said, “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.” A prolific creative mind with endless imagination, Karl Lagerfeld explored many artistic horizons, including photography and short films. 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. Alain Wertheimer, CEO of CHANEL, said: “Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of CHANEL’s success throughout the world. Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand.” Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion at CHANEL, said: “Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Karl Lagerfeld left his mark on the legend of Gabrielle Chanel and the history of the House of CHANEL. He steadfastly promoted the talent and expertise of CHANEL’s ateliers and Métiers d’Art, allowing this exceptional know-how to shine throughout the world. The greatest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow the path he traced by – to quote Karl – ‘continuing to embrace the present and invent the future’.” Virginie Viard, Director of CHANEL’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, has been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.
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With his passing, Lagerfeld joins Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel at the echelons of the maison’s lustrous history, after having worked tirelessly at the brand since 1983 — a decade after Chanel’s passing. In his stead, Virginie Viard, director of Chanel’s design studio (whom he had worked with for more than 30 years) is slated to take over.
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With a career that spanned close to seven decades, Karl’s presence can be felt at every corner of the fashion industry, and it goes without saying he has touched the lives of many. Above, a look at how the fashion world and celebrities are mourning over the loss of a visionary who dared to dream; transcending modern-day norms to reinvent the future.
Artistic director for Dior’s menswear, Kim Jones lauded Lagerfeld’s ingenuity, adding that his “creative vision and unique talent will always be an extraordinary inspiration for generations to come”. He also highlighted Lagerfeld’s special way of working with his teams which involved “building them up with profound intelligence and a sense of humour that was his alone”. He added: “The fashion world will miss him greatly, and of course my thoughts are with his colleagues who doubtless are heartbroken today.”
“The only thing more inspiring than #karllagerfeld’s prolific creative genius was his kind heart, generosity and irreverent spirit,” said the American model. “His mark on the fashion industry will live on forever, his loss resonates deeply with all who had the privilege to work with him.”
South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech had nothing but gratitude to the late designer who had given her a lift in her career. “Shocked doesn’t even describe what I’m feeling right now … It’s so hard to believe that you’re gone, I didn’t think that 3 weeks ago would be the last time I saw, hugged and kissed you. Karl thank so much for being one of the people in this industry that really believed in me and took a chance with me. Working with Chanel had always been one my biggest dream since I started modelling and you made that dream come true for me. I don’t think I could ever thank you enough for the life changing experiences and opportunities that I received from you. It makes me so proud and honoured to know that I got to be apart of your legacy. I got to be in front of your camera while you took some of the beautiful images of me. We got to make history together. It’s moments like this that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
She added: “Karl I love you, the world loves you and we will miss and think of you everyday. Thank you for everything you did for me and the industry. You have done more than enough for this world , now it’s time for you to finally rest in peace legend.”
Runway makeup artist extraordinaire Pat McGrath shared a playful old photo of Karl, who had posed cheekily as model Linda Evangelista laughingly leapt into his arms. “Deeply saddened over the loss of a true legend, Karl Lagerfeld. Rest In Peace.”
American fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who previously helmed Louis Vuitton, had difficulty processing the news. He wrote: “Waking up to a world without Karl. So sad. And strange. He was a great inspiration to me, and, undeniably a unique and extraordinary talent. RESPECT. Rest In Peace KL.”
British hair stylist Sam McKnight, who had worked extensively with Chanel, kept it short and sweet. “Dear Karl, it has been an enormous pleasure. I’m honoured to have known you.”
A peer to Lagerfeld, Italian designer Valentino, 86, showed us a glimpse into their youth with an old photo of the two with a caption that reads, “I am so sad and the words cannot express my sorrow! I love you my friend.. au revoir (good bye).”
Donatella Versace paid homage to Lagerfeld with a photo of the two accompanied by a simple yet emotional caption that encapsulated the influence he had in their world. “Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I. We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We were always learning from you.”
In her tribute, Chinese model Liu Wen recalled her history with Lagerfeld that dated back to 11 years ago. “I still remember when I walked the Chanel show the first time in 2008. To be able to wear Karl’s design felt like such an honour and thrill. For so many years, he gifted us with an iconic era of fashion and inspired countless around the globe to take up fashion as their own mantle. Godspeed @KarlLagerfeld — we may all age and pass on from this world, but your artistic vision will never disappear! And to the hardworking team members of Chanel around the world: my sincere condolences to all of you during this difficult time.”
Exclaiming that a true legend has been lost, Kim K recalled how she was nervous when she had to work with Karl, who was the photographer for her first fashion shoot. “The world is so much chic-er because you existed! I am beyond honoured to have met you and had the opportunity to work with you. You are so loved and will be so missed.”
The former Spice Girl-turned-fashion designer, who had just showed at the London Fashion Week, thanked Karl for his support. “So incredibly sad to hear this. Karl was a genius and always so kind and generous to me both personally and professionally. RIP.”
In her tribute, British model, writer and designer Alexa Chung recalled fondly the memories the pair had together. “Rest in peace, Karl. I remember being so scared to interview you and yet you were in fact incredibly witty and generous. Thank you for inviting me to some of the most glamorous experiences of my life, it was an honour to know you. Oh yeah and thanks for the dry shampoo tip, will always think of you as I powder my wig.”
Russian model Natalia Vodianova was clearly in shock, expressing her disbelief and reiterating his generosity, “I can’t deal with this. My heart is exploding. We knew this day would come but I am not ready for it. You were a quiet force of love and support for so many people, me included. So grateful for everything you have done for me. RIP king @karllagerfeld.”
Gucci’s chief designer Alessandro Michele left a simple black heart with a throwback photo of the late German designer.
Mert, who is one half of fashion photographer duo Mert and Marcus (Piggott), shared a photo taken by fellow photographer Ezra Petronio, which showed the enigmatic personality’s side profile. “From the stage of the fashion industry, one of the most talented and charismatic men of history! Rest in peace Mr Lagerfeld”
A model of the ’90s, Danish model Helena Christensen left a lengthy and heartfelt dedication that detailed the history the two had shared. “Karl, since the day I first walked into your office on rue Chambon you took me under your wing and brought me along on an incredible journey. My first campaign ever was for Chanel, the second for the Karl Lagerfeld brand. We did numerous campaigns and shoots together in the years that followed but the real beauty and luck about this for me was getting to know you, observe you, learn from you, laugh with you, enjoy so many special moments with you,” she mused.
“Oh the many wonderful meals we shared.. the many stories.. the many late nights sitting with you in your vast library in candlelight with you talking about your childhood, work, books, writers, architects, artists, nature, food, people… everything. You knew everything about everything! I saw you last time at the Chanel show at the MET and I wanted to run out to you on the runway and hug you because I had a feeling.. well, I don’t think you passed away, you were just picked up by a UFO and brought back to the planet you’re from. Because you were as close to a super human that I have ever come across. I will miss you very much and always think of you. You gave me so much..”
Sharing both old and recently taken photos, Bella’s message was both heartfelt and emotional. “Nothing feels right today..at a loss for words and so heartbroken by the loss of Karl. His humour, wit , love and passion for fashion will live on forever. Thank you for the inspiration that you gave to this world and for all of the hearts that you touched in the process. Every time I saw you it felt like the first time and I will miss your hugs so much. I feel so lucky to have been in your presence. Sending my love to the Lagerfeld family and to all closest to him. I am so sorry. We all love you so much .There are so many things I wish I could say to you but for now I will say goodbye… Rest In Peace KL.”
British stylist Katie Grand left an emotional message to the designer. “Rest in peace Karl. There are too many great stories and fun times to detail, you are incredibly special and talented and I was very lucky to have known you.”
Creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri expressed her extreme sadness through Dior’s Instagram account, while paying tribute to his impact on the industry. “He was such an emblematic personality, an icon with whom I had the immense good fortune of working early in my career, at Fendi. I appreciated his culture, directness and humour and admired his creations for the free and modern vision of fashion he offered women. We will miss him terribly and my thoughts especially go out to his teams at Fendi and Chanel.”
British makeup guru Charlotte Tilbury showered praises in her condolences for the designer she called a friend. “Beyond devastated to hear that my darling friend and legendary genius, Karl Lagerfeld, has passed away. Karl was a true artist and visionary, and was one of the most magical, inspiring, mesmeric beings to know and work with. His awe-inspiring presence and legacy in fashion and life will be eternal. I will miss you, my darling friend, and treasure the amazing, joyful and fun memories we made together.”
A recent fixture to his runways, Kaia Gerber thanked him effusively for imparting his wisdom to those around him. “This one hurts to write. my dearest Karl, you have taught me things that I am eternally grateful for. I cannot put into words how lucky we all are to have been gifted your vision. Your girls love you so much. The world is more beautiful now because of you. Thank you for everything, no one will ever compare.”
Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller kept it personal and talked about how Lagerfeld had touched her life. “I don’t think I can fully express in words what Karl meant to me and to so many others in this industry. My heart is broken by the news today — he was an inspirational force behind many moments in my life and I feel truly privileged that I could call him a friend. Goodbye dear Karl.”
The British model had nothing but gratitude for the German designer who had given her a break. “Karl .. too many memories to write. I thank you, thank you, thank you!!! For taking the chance on (a) 16 year old girl from South London and opening my eyes. May you rest with Highest.”
Dutch fashion photography duo Inez and Vinoodh shared a portrait they had taken of Karl (looking impossibly cool!) for V Magazine back in 2002. “#karllagerfeld Rest In Peace although peace and quiet was never your thing. You shot through life’s inspiration like a flaming arrow leaving the biggest legacy behind. Kisses.”
Karen Elson showed an old photo of herself after a Chanel show by Lagerfeld. “I was 18 and this was one of my first major fashion shows I walked in. To be the bride at Chanel was as big as it got! I remember being so terrified but Karl, Linda and Naomi et al, were all so sweet and protective of me,” she reminisced.
“Karl shot me for many Chanel campaigns afterwards. I remember being in his studio listening to Karl’s encyclopaedic mind as he’d have conversations with many interesting cultural figures who’d drop by for lunch or dinner. The mountains of books piled high from every subject imaginable. I learnt so much in that time both about fashion, photography and art. Karl to those who knew him, was kind, funny and even shy. My heart goes out to all the people close to Karl especially to Amanda Harlech. We will miss you Karl and thank you for all that you contributed to fashion.”
The American actress has appeared in multiple Chanel ads and is a friend of the maison. Her message simply said: “Rest in peace.”
A fellow compatriot, model-turned-actress Diane Kruger shared the last few memories she had with the designer and expressed regret at having missed seeing him for the last time. “Karl…..I cannot tell you how much you meant to me and how much I will miss you. I will never forget your kindness towards me, your laughs, your imagination. I came to France to see you this week and introduce you to my daughter…I’m heartbroken I was too late. Rest In Peace, I adore you.”
Another model who had received the support of the great designer was Adwoa Aboah. “Ohhh karl, deeply saddened by the thought that I’ll never see you again, never be able to exchange sweet laughs and bouquets of flowers. Biggest supporter, loyal beyond belief….Thank you for all the great opportunities you have given me, for the generosity and kindness. I will walk my very best for you on Thursday as I know myself and all the models always tried to do. You will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure to meet and work with you.”
Despite Lagerfeld’s tendency to portray a stern face most of the time, Mario Testino showed a gentler side to the designer with this snap of him beaming widely. “Bye dear Karl. We shall miss you. RIP.”
A simple heart expressed the condolences of Dutch model Lara Stone, who was once shot by Lagerfeld for the 2011 Pirelli calendar.