Karl Lagerfeld, 1933 – 2019

Karl Lagerfeld died earlier today of pancreatic cancer at the age of 85. Rumours of failing health surfaced a few weeks ago when he didn’t make his end-of-show-bow at the Paris Chanel show on January 22.  

Karl Otto Lagerfeldt was born in Hamburg, Germany to a German mother and Swedish father on September 10, 1933. By 1952 he had moved to Paris and in 1954 he won a prize for a sketch of a coat that led to an offer to work as a design assistant at Pierre Balmain. In 1957 Lagerfeld left Balmain to take on the position of art director at Jean Patou where he remained until 1963. He began designing for Fendi in 1965 and Chloe in 1966.

In 1983 he took on the role of artistic director at Chanel where his successful revitalization of the atelier was spectacular. The following year Lagerfeld launched his own label, which he sold to Tommy Hilfiger in 2005.

In the 1990s Karl was known for wearing sunglasses at all times, as well as carrying a fan. Shortly after the turn of the century Karl kept the glasses, but dropped the fan, as well as 93 pounds. He began to wear the slim gentleman-vampire chic of Hedi Slimane, designer for Dior’s menswear. Karl became known for his look of leather pants, tall collars, mitts and beads.


About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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