The Iconic Legacy of Designer Karl Lagerfeld

Headshot of Karl LagerfeldThe hearts of the fashion community collectively broke upon hearing the news of the death of the groundbreaking designer, Karl Lagerfeld, on February 19th, 2019. The fashion giant passed away in Paris at 85 years old. While the fashion industry will certainly mourn the loss of this prolific creative, it is safe to say he lived a fashionably full life.

Karl Otto Lagerfeldt was born September 10th 1933 in Hamburg, Germany. In the 1950’s, he got his start as assistant to French designer, Pierre Balmain. Then, after gaining notoriety at Jean Patou and Chloe, Lagerfeld boldly took the reins of Italy’s heavyweight of fur houses, Fendi. He would assume the role of creative director of ready-to-wear and fur, where he would remain until his passing. Later, the designer would become creative director of Chloe, a post he would only leave to explore the peaks he could reach as the new couturier at fashion juggernaut, Chanel.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jacques Langevin/AP/REX/Shutterstock (7338734a) Lagerfeld German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld is applauded by his models at the end of the presentation of Chanel's fall and winter haute couture collection in Paris, France FRANCE FASHION CHANEL, PARIS, France


1983 marked the beginning of an era defining creative leadership; Mr. Lagerfeld at the helm of Chanel. This union catapulted to such extreme heights that, although a German designer, Lagerfeld’s name became synonymous with French Couture. “When I took over Chanel in ’83, everybody said to me, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s dead.” And then in fact, it
was dead. But when I start a line, everything is completely new. I have a tight, precise concept and I stay with it.”

Through his particular reinterpretation of the brand, and while pumping out six collections a year, he practically defined fashion of the modern age. He was able to set new standards without sacrificing the brand’s identity or heritage. He was even the brains behind the intense marketing of the now iconic, interlocking double Cs. His sheer devotion to create is reason enough for him to have been the highest paid creative director in the world.

“When I took over Chanel in ’83, everybody said to me, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s dead.” – Karl Lagerfeld

All of these notable positions paved the path for the creator to found his eponymous brand. It is nothing short of amazing that at 85 years old, this man was simultaneously designing under three different labels. This only demonstrates the amount of outright passion Lagerfeld had for all things he did. Not only was he a designer, but also a writer and photographer as well. He was the exception; a jack of all trades, and master of all.

Karl Lagerfeld’s undeniably unique way of thinking and unrivaled talent was a transportation to what seemed to be another universe, full of magic and glamour. After witnessing a Chanel or a Fendi show, the rest become increasingly mundane. To quote the very man of whom we are speaking, “I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth.”

Here are Lagerfeld’s top five, jaw dropping moments, showcasing his position as fashion’s favorite Runway Revolutionäre.Lagerfeld's set for Fendi that looked like the Great Wall of China

Fendi Spring/ Summer 2008

Karl Lagerfeld did nothing halfway. In October of 2007, 500 esteemed guests were sent to The Great Wall of China to witness the lengthiest runway in history at approximately 1,500 miles long. 

Lagerfeld's Chanel show at a replica of the Trevi Fountain

Fendi Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016

To celebrate Fendi’s 90th birthday, Lagerfeld sent Paris Fashion Week to Rome for the night, specifically the iconic Trevi Fountain. Models seemed to walk on water byway of a transparent runway strip with glorious, spouting fountains behind them. This majestic event turned out to be quite the birthday party.  

Chanel show under a replica of the Eiffel Tower

Chanel Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2017

Reaching new peaks, the innovator celebrated Paris by sending his models down a runway beneath an incredibly accurate replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Chanel show featuring a giant glacier from Scandinavia

Chanel Fall/ Winter 2010

What better way is there to showcase a new collection of faux furs and outerwear than byway of a giant glacier? Mr. Lagerfeld had a 265 ton iceberg imported straight from Scandinavia to Paris for his Autumn/Winter 2010 runway show. Models donned their looks around the ice cap and strutted through its puddles as it slowly melted throughout the show.

Chanel show with faux rocket ship

Chanel Fall/Winter 2017

Lagerfeld took Chanel to new heights with the season’s – and perhaps Chanel’s – most futuristic runway show. The models walked the catwalk surrounding a massive rocket-ship which actually appeared to fire up and take off during the finale.

To say this loss is the end of an era is an understatement. Mr. Lagerfeld certainly made his mark on the fashion industry and has left quite the legacy behind him, including his fluffy friend, Choupette. We are privileged to have witnessed such artistry.

Thank you for sharing your craft with the world. You will certainly be missed.

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