PARIS, France — Karl Lagerfeld, arguably the world’s most iconic and prolific designer known as the king of fashion, has died in Paris. He was 85.
His career as fashion’s ultimate free agent spans seven decades, creating collections simultaneously for Chanel and Fendi, in addition to his signature label. He was known for his extravagant runway productions at the Grand Palais in Paris that achieved a staggering level of theatrical opulence.
His incredible longevity and success as a designer, and the fortunes of the companies for which he worked, can be attributed partly to Lagerfeld’s intentional detachment from the business side of fashion.
“I am a hired gun, even in my own business,” he said in a BBC interview, noting that his contracts with Chanel and Fendi allowed him to do whatever he wanted on the side. “I work my own marionette in a way, my own puppet,” he told The New York Times. “It’s something I control.” That extraordinarily rare freedom from the restraints of financial responsibility enabled him to continually make clothes that inspired consumers to dream.
He also collaborated with mass retailer H&M in 2004 that predated the industry obsession with disruption by more than a decade. Ignoring the traditional expectations of a luxury player, he designed hotel rooms, video games, motorcycle helmets, a BMW, and a cosmetics range inspired by his also-famous cat, Choupette. He directed an ad campaign for Magnum ice cream bars that featured a life-sized sculpture of model Baptiste Giabiconi rendered in chocolate.
His many nasty digs at celebrities he considered fat or unattractive became as much a part of the Lagerfeld mystique as were his signature white powdered ponytail and dark sunglasses, or his habit of drinking only Coca-Cola (later, Diet Coke or Coke Zero). But his penchant for flamboyance, combined with occasionally reckless comments in recent years, also resulted in backlash for Chanel. His critiques of Angela Merkel drew particular outrage.
He was best known for his work, since 1983, as artistic director at Chanel, which became one of the most profitable and admired luxury brands in the world under his tenure.(TMT)