Karl Lagerfeld, 1985
The Chanel logo that we all know and love, that when we see it imprinted on bags, shoes, and earrings, makes us feel a sense of everlasting elegance and classic chiqueness, would not be what is is today without the brilliant mind of Karl Lagerfeld. From taking on the role of creative director of Chanel in 1983, he brought the French fashion house out of a decline that came with Gabrielle Chanel’s death in 1971. In his 36 years working for the brand, he never limited himself to what Chanel had been in the past:
What I do Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it’s up to me to update it. I do what she never did. I had to find my mark. I had to go from what Chanel was to what it should be, could be, what it had been to something else.
-Karl Lagerfeld, 2011.
Lagerfeld was constantly reinventing Chanel’s classical pieces – from the tweed skirt-suits worn by Jackie Kennedy and Anna Wintour, to the mastery of the timeless LDB, and the irreplaceable quilted CC handbags – Karl Lagerfeld took risks “without ever forgetting what the revolutionary Coco stood for: independence, freedom, and modernity” (Phelps 2019).
Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel look for Kate Moss. Vogue, April 2012.
In Anna Wintour’s remembrance of the designer in his wake, she describes him as “standard unto himself”; their close relationship meant that wearing his designs was more than just fashion:
I’ve worn Karl’s beautiful clothes during the most important, emotional moments of my life…Putting on his exquisite dresses or perfect suits made me feel close to him, and secure in crucial moments in the comfort of a friend. What helps me now is knowing I’ll still find him there when he’s gone (Wintour 2019).
Lagerfeld with model Linda Evangelista. Chanel Fall/Winter 1991-1992 Runway.
Whether or not it is know, Karl Lagerfeld’s designs have likely influenced every any fashion brand within the past 30 years. Before he worked at the Chanel House, He was not only committed to the Chanel house, he was Fendi’s creative director since 1965. Although his work at Fendi was not as wildly successful as his work at Chanel, his impact on the brand was still influential. Fendi’s Fall 2019 Ready-to-Wear show came only three days after his passing, but he was not forgotten. It was clear that the models’ sleek, low ponytails and, some, large frames paid homage to the late designer (Kim 2019).
In the aftermath of his passing, our social media has been flooded with images from the many hearts that Lagerfeld touched: from models like Bella Hadid, Cara Delevigne, and Kaia Gerber, who worked with him so closely, to designers like Olivier Rousteing (creative director of Balmain) to Virgil Abloh (CEO of Off-White and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear). It is clear that Karl Lagerfeld transcended the fashion world, and his brilliancy will not be forgotten:
For all his prolificacy and professionalism, what made Karl Karl was something far more intimate and squarely in the artist’s realm: a hidden thread of love, and maybe loss, that drew him to reach out, in life and work, and try to connect with the singular person hiding in the fashionable crowd (Wintour 2019).
Karl Lagerfeld’s Métiers d’Art collection for Chanel. Vogue, March 2014.
Kim, Monica. “How Fendi’s Beauty Look Honored the Memory of Karl Lagerfeld.” Vogue, Vogue, 21 Feb. 2019, www.vogue.com/article/fendi-fall-2019-beauty-karl-lagerfeld-tribute.
Wintour, Anna. “My Brilliant Friend: Anna Wintour Remembers Karl Lagerfeld.” Vogue, Vogue, 22 Feb. 2019, www.vogue.com/article/anna-wintour-remembers-karl-lagerfeld.
Phelps, Nicole. “Legendary Designer Karl Lagerfeld Has Died.” Vogue, Vogue, 22 Feb. 2019, www.vogue.com/article/karl-lagerfeld-obituary.
Vogue. “Karl Lagerfeld’s Quotes.” Vogue, British Vogue, 19 Feb. 2019, www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/karl-lagerfeld-famous-quotes.