These days, the moniker of “genius” gets thrown around somewhat liberally — but never has that title been more apt than for Karl Lagerfeld, whose imprint on the fashion industry goes beyond measure. Over seven decades, his visionary work for the houses of Chanel, Fendi and several others, including his own eponymous brand, shifted the paradigm for how modern women and men dress.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1933, Lagerfeld began his career as the assistant to Pierre Balmain, later moving on to Creative Director roles at Chloé and French couture house Jean Patou. In 1965, he assumed the role as Creative Director at family-owned Italian label Fendi, which he held until his death. In 1983, he was tapped to revive the once-thriving Chanel business, which went into decline following the passing of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1971. Countless spectacular runway shows and miles of tweed later, Lagerfeld reinvigorated the identity of the iconic French maison, putting his innovative and, at times, subversive stamp on looks that undeniably screamed “Karl” as much as his iconic white hair, slim-fit suit, and sunglasses.
“Karl’s talent was omnipotent, inspiring, and really transcended fashion,” Barneys CEO Daniella Vitale recalls of the late designer. “It is rare in our industry to have someone whose career spanned decades, yet was so prolific, inspiring, and relevant to the very end. Barneys was fortunate to have been part of his epic career. He will surely be missed.”
It’s hard to imagine what the future of fashion will look like without Lagerfeld at the helm. His incredible legacy and genius will continue to influence and mold future generations of creative visionaries.
KARL LAGERFELD: 1933–2019