Lagerfeld, titan of fashion, dies at 85

Karl Lagerfeld led a revival at Chanel.
Photo Courtesy of Google Images.

Karl Lagerfeld, one of the most powerful and recognizable fashion designers of the 20th and 21st centuries, died Tuesday morning in Paris at the age of 85.

The prolific German designer is best known for his work as the creative director of the French fashion house Chanel, a position he held from 1983 until his death. He was also creative director of the Italian fashion house Fendi and had his own eponymous fashion label.

Lagerfeld, who transformed Chanel into a global powerhouse after it was considered a “near-dead brand” after the death of designer Coco Chanel, was rarely seen without his dark shades, a silver ponytail and fingerless gloves. This gained him the reputation as the most recognizable and outspoken man in fashion.

“Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most impactful forces in the fashion industry,” said Florida A&M University senior Kathryn Lewis. “Despite how some perceive him, it is undeniable that he played a large role in carrying the Chanel brand successfully.”

After being hired by Chanel, Lagerfeld immediately went to work to bring life back into the company. “Chanel was a sleeping beauty. Not even a beautiful one, she snored. So, I was to revive a dead woman,” he said about the French fashion house in “Lagerfeld Confidential,” a 2007 documentary.

Lagerfeld’s designs not only turned Chanel into one of the world’s most respected couture houses, but his business savvy made him an early advocate of the now global luxury collaborations with high street brands.

In 2004, he became the first designer to launch a collection with H&M to make his designs more accessible. He set a trend that was later followed by the likes of Stella McCartney, Comme des Garcons, Versace and Maison Martin Margiela.

“I loved his collections, always full of vibrant colors, glitter, and the most creative pieces,” said FAMU freshman, Sabriya Sweeting.

After the news of his death broke on Tuesday, celebrities and pioneers of the fashion world paid tribute to the late designer.

"Karl was a genius and always so kind and generous to me both personally and professionally," Victoria Beckham wrote on Twitter.

Designer Donatella Versace paid tribute to Lagerfeld on Instagram, writing: "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."

Lagerfeld’s right hand for over 30 years and director of Chanel’s Fashion Creation Studio, Virginie Viard, will take over as the creative director of the brand “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.”

“I just hope that Chanel will continue to evolve with the times without losing that classic charm and elegance, which Karl Preserved,” said Lewis.