An Icon Lost: Karl Lagerfeld

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Aged 85, Karl Lagerfeld, who had been at the helm of Chanel since 1983, passed away on 19th February 2019. The German fashion designer was a powerful force in the industry, and a friend to many a designer and model across the world.

Chanel’s former Creative Director, amid reports by the French, died “in the early hours of the morning”, according to The Express. In January, it was reported that he was absent from Chanel’s Haute Couture shows. That was the first time Lagerfeld had ever missed one of his own shows, and he had asked the Director of Chanel’s Creative Studio, Virginie Viard, to represent him. He had apologised in a statement read out at the end of the second Haute Couture show.

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Karl’s way with fashion was second-nature. He knew what was coming, and always kept to a six-month time schedule. Out with the old, and in with the new. He more than revolutionised Chanel, but revived it, and kept it at the top of the chain year after year. Lagerfeld was always himself, and used his abrupt and cutting approach to dominate an industry that is ever-changing.

I am like a caricature of myself. And I like that.”

He used his persona and directness to, with style, develop not just the House of Chanel, but Fendi and his own personal brand. Karl went with the “spirit of the times”, describes Alexandra Shulman, former editor and chief of Vogue, on BBC Two’s Newsnight. “He kept everything…he took what was the raw ingredient and made it kind of supersonic,” continues Shulman.


Muse. Lagerfeld has more than just models as his muse. He knew to attract celebrities, as well as industry leaders and models to build the brand and modernise it continuously. He was way ahead of the times of social media, and perhaps not only a director but a true marketer when it came to Chanel’s place in the fashion market. Through his celebrity cohort as muses, Karl achieved for Chanel the status of an aspirational luxury brand, and time and time again, he played on that fact.


Lagerfeld made Chanel shows into a show. More than a show even. “He made himself into a very visually striking moment”, shared Shulman. The Grand Palais in Paris had a rocket launch, a supermarket and many a garden, just to name a few of his iconic and contemporary shows. They remain memorable, and the Kaiser’s revolutionary approach to fashion yet respect for the past, and for example Chanel’s heritage, inspired a international cohort of new designers to step up and challenge the ideas of upper class designer fashion houses. He showed the need for every fashion house to up its game and stay in the limelight.


Conspiracy over his death arose on February 17th, after a series of reports about a Facebook group suggesting his death, but the stories are now said to have been false and perhaps even an internet hoax. on February 19th, the BBC reported that Lagerfeld has been ill for some time, and confirmed his death on their website at midday.

Countless celebrities and friends of the designer took to Twitter and other social media outlets to express their wishes and condolences. The news hit the fashion industry hard.

Image courtesy of KOKO via

SCAN Fashion & Beauty send heartfelt wishes to his family, and the fashion industry as a whole. Karl Lagerfeld was an icon that truly led the industry, through his own brand, and his reign at Chanel and Fendi.

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