Karl Lagerfeld, Legendary Fashion Designer, Dies at 85

The longtime creative director of Chanel and Fendi was an influential figure in fashion

karl lagerfeld
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Karl Lagerfeld, the legendary fashion designer who served as longtime creative director of major brands such as Chanel and Fendi, died early Tuesday. He was 85.

Chanel, which he had led since 1983, announced the news of his passing.

The German-born designer was both influential, with his fashions trickling down from his runway shows to mass retailers, and prolific. In addition to his work for Chanel, he also oversaw the LVMH-owned label Fendi as well as his own self-named label.

“When I took on Chanel, it was a sleeping beauty — not even a beautiful one,” he said in the 2007 documentary “Lagerfeld Confidential.” ”She snored.”

But he soon made his mark, both with his designs and provocative stunts such as hiring strippers and a porn star for a 1983 runway show. He was an unapologetic supporter of fur in fashion, provoking enmity from animal-rights groups like PETA.

And he maintained a reputation for snark, with a longtime public spat with French designer Yves Saint Laurent until his 2008 death, as well as pointed barbs at such figures as Heidi Klum (“insignificant”), the singer Adele (“a little too fat”) and Pippa Middleton (“she should only show her back”).

He could also direct his caustic wit toward the masses, with such memorable lines as “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”

Lagerfeld, who had long been open about his homosexuality, became a recognizable figure in fashion for his unique personal style — black sunglasses, 19th-century-style high-collared shirts, Chromes Hearts rings and a shock of white hair often pulled back into a ponytail.

Tributes quickly poured in from others in the fashion world.

“Karl your genius touched so many lives,” Donatella Versace wrote on Instagram.

“The end of an era,” noted the model Iman.