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Chanel Haute Couture AW16Photography Virginie Khateeb

Legendary Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld has died

The German fashion icon reportedly passed away earlier this morning at the age of 85

We are sad to announce that designer Karl Lagerfeld has passed away at the age of 85, according to French news sources.

The news follows the absence of the designer at his Chanel Couture show last month, where he did not appear for his signature wave – instead, the house’s director of Fashion Creation Studio Virginie Viard came out on his behalf.

The legendary designer started his career in fashion in 1955 as Pierre Balmain’s assistant, before moving on to Parisian label Jean Patou. In 1964, he moved to Chloé where he began by creating a few pieces for each collection, before creating full offerings to great critical acclaim. By 1965, he had joined Italian label Fendi, where he undertook the role of creative director of fur, and later the women’s ready-to-wear line. He remained in this position until his death, overseeing the rise (and recent resurgence) of the iconic Baguette bag, as well as the establishment of Haute Fourrure.

Lagerfeld’s first show for Chanel was on 25 January 1983, at a time when the designer was still working on both Chloé and Fendi collections simultaneously. At the time, he told WWD’s staff writer Christopher Petkanas that he was “delighted” to be working 16 hour days, demonstrating a work ethic he would carry with him throughout his life.

Over the years at the house of Chanel, the prolific designer was known for his showmanship and OTT runway presentations. Previous shows under his direction have seen a Chanel-themed airport, a supermarket, a cruise ship, and a casino provide the setting, as well as a forest, a beach, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. A recently-released Netflix documentary revealed the jaw-dropping work that goes into one of the house’s couture shows – and featured Lagerfeld at work behind the scenes.

The designer showed an unparalleled eye for detail and ability to reinvent the Chanel signatures – from the buttoned boucle suit to the iconic camelia, the CC motif and the 2.55 bag – season after season. Under his tenure, the house of Chanel also played a vital role in keeping Couture craftsmanship alive – partnering with ateliers such as Lesage (embroidery), Lemarié (feathers), and Maison Michel (millinery). Also working as a photographer and filmmaker, he shot the house’s campaigns himself – capturing Pharrell and Cara Delevingne as a prince and princess and Kristen Stewart as Coco Chanel.

He also designed for his own eponymous label, which was first established in 1984, before rebranding to Lagerfeld Gallery in 1998, and finally once more to simply Karl Lagerfeld in 2012. It collaborated with high street retailer H&M on an affordable collection in 2004.

Lagerfeld was and will remain one of fashion’s most beloved and revered figures, and his legacy and impact on fashion will, without a doubt, live on for generations to come. Our thoughts are with those who knew and loved him – including godson Hudson Kroenig and his beloved cat Choupette – throughout this difficult time.

Fendi’s show is due to take place on Thursday, while Chanel’s AW19 collection is scheduled to be unveiled during PFW on March 5.