The fashion industry mourns the loss of Karl Lagerfeld, a creative genius in every sense of the word. Lagerfeld will be remembered as one of the most popular designers of the 20th and 21st centuries and marked by his motivation, drive and perseverance that lasted until the day he died. Lagerfeld passed away at the age of 85 in Paris just two weeks shy of the Chanel Autumn Winter 2019 show for Paris Fashion Week. Despite his controversial persona, he is nothing short of a legend in the industry, making his mark on brands such as Balmain as Pierre Balmain’s assistant, Chloé, Charles Jourdan, Krizia and Valentino as a freelance designer.
With designer experience in many top and luxurious European brands, Lagerfeld was at the peak of his career in 1967 when he joined Fendi in hopes of modernizing their fur line. His introduction of mole, rabbit and squirrel pelts into high fashion was groundbreaking and promoted him to eventually become the Creative Director. Despite his many notable successes, he will be most remembered for his career at the ever-so coveted, Chanel.
Chanel was considered a brand on the outs in the 1980s after Coco Chanel’s death a decade earlier, but Lagerfeld completely changed that. Immediately after being hired, Lagerfeld brought the pride back to Chanel’s name by revamping its ready-to-wear line and creating the famous “CC” monograph that catches everyone’s eye to this day. The classic tweed skirt-suits, little black dresses and quilted handbags that all embraced the Chanel name were revived and modernized.
Lagerfeld’s artistic eye reached further than any dress could do justice and this was seen at the showings of the six Chanel collections designed each year. Not only were his designs chic and breathtaking, but so was the Grand Palais, the shows’ location. Karl once said, “We need houses as we need clothes, architecture stimulates fashion. It’s like hunger and thirst – you need them both.” He showed this as the Grand Palais has housed everything from rocket ship to a replica of the Eiffel Tower.. Every show took the viewers, models and everyone involved to an entirely different world that no one knew could exist, especially not in Paris, France.
March 5th, 2019 marked Karl’s final Chanel line in the Grand Palais. A one-minute silence preceded the AW 19 Chanel show to reflect upon and respect his 36 years of dedication to the iconic fashion house. As previously mentioned, every show took on a new world and this world was the snowy wonderland of anyone’s dreams. The shearling snow boots, hound’s-tooth print detailing and fluffy white dresses all stitched to perfection gave the audience one last taste of Karl. There was a memento laced with hopeful optimism on every seat: a sketch by Lagerfeld of himself and Coco Chanel with the words, “The beat goes on…”
The beat will go on with Virginie Viard, the newly-appointed artistic director of the fashion collections, and artistic director of fashion image Eric Pfrunder. Both Viard and Pfrunder have worked closely with Karl and played an integral role in the fashion house. It seems as though the iconic Chanel we have grown up with will continue as so, but nonetheless, the man behind the sunglasses will be dearly missed by many. His sense of fashion and design was ahead of the time and he will continue to be the catalyst of movements to come. “I do my job like I breathe – so if I can’t breathe I’m in trouble,” Lagerfeld once mentioned, yet who knew this would become a reality. Cultivating his name in the fashion industry until his last breath, Karl Lagerfeld is an inspiration in and outside of fashion.