A Tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, King of Fashion

Karl Lagerfeld is one of the most iconic and prolific designers of the 20th and 21st centuries and some of fashion’s most influential talents. His restless and aggressive approach to his work helped define the modern luxury fashion industry and shape the ways that the industry worked. Fashion, for him, was a constant evolution that was constantly flooded with a torrent of ideas. Lagerfeld has stated that his greatest fear was being bored, and sure enough, the icon worked tirelessly until his death. No one can deny the impact that this man had on revolutionizing the fashion industry for nearly seven decades.

By Kennedy Woodard and Kimberly Webb


Mr. Lagerfeld in New York in 2002, when he received a lifetime achievement award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 40th awards gala.   Photo from Bill Cunningham/The New York Times

Mr. Lagerfeld in New York in 2002, when he received a lifetime achievement award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 40th awards gala.

Photo from Bill Cunningham/The New York Times

Mr. Lagerfeld was born in Germany sometime in September possibly in the year of 1933. He never revealed his actual age, which only adds to the mysterious grandeur about him. At the tender age of 14 he made a decision that most of us only dream about. He move to Paris. The moment he arrived, he began making a name for himself by winning a design competition. After that he began working as an apprentice to Pierre Balmain. Soon he became a well known name in the fashion industry with his innovative style working with Fendi, Chanel, and Chloé. Lagerfeld served as Chanel’s creative director for over three decades, spent 54 years at Fendi, and founded a signature collection of his own. Chanel attempted to avoid controversy, but it was an inevitable accompaniment of Karl Lagerfeld’s brand. Some of his designs shocked the world. Looks such as a tiny Chanel printed bikini, a dress with passages from the Quran and dresses that slipped off the shoulder so much as to almost showing a nipple right next to a crucifix necklace. Though some people thought these designs were inappropriate or not right for Chanel, they emulated what Karl was about.

With his distinctive look and style (all-black suit or jeans, white ponytail, sunglasses, fingerless gloves accompanied by fingers full of rings, and collars), Lagerfeld radiated haute couture and luxury. I mean, for God’s sake, the man’s cat, Choupette, has become as famous as her owner, has her own maids, designer pillows, luxurious diamond necklaces and even an Instagram account. One of Lagerfeld’s biggest concerns was staying in the present, and he focused on designing and promoting in-the-moment styles. In an industry that changes as much as Texas weather, it is truly an exceptional testament to his hard work and genius creativity that Lagerfeld was able to stay relevant and iconic since the beginning of his fashion career, back in the 1950s.

Lagerfeld was responsible for countless shows and events throughout his career. He averaged 14 new collections per YEAR in the 80s and dressed cultural icons throughout the decades. He was recognized for his talents and contributions to not only fashion, but to society. In 1980 he won the Neiman Marcus Award, 1981, Bath Museum of Costume Dress of the Year and 1991, Council of Fashion Designers of America and Fashion Footwear Association of New York Award. In recent years he won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the British Fashion 2017 and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, awarded him the Medal of the City of Paris, the city’s highest honor, for his services to the community. Mr. Lagerfeld did what only few can do. He made his clothes transcend time and space, turned culture into couture and made his art speak. What a loud voice they had. For that he will be remembered for many years to come.

Mr. Lagerfeld with the singer Rihanna at a Fendi dinner in New York in 2015.   Photo from Danny Kim for The New York Times

Mr. Lagerfeld with the singer Rihanna at a Fendi dinner in New York in 2015.

Photo from Danny Kim for The New York Times

As unique and interesting as he is, Karl has many famous quotes, and we have decided to list a few of is most iconic lines below to look back on while we mourn the loss of such an influential being.

  • "I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that. It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long."

  • “Don’t dress to kill, dress to survive.”

  • “I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth.”

  • “Improvise. Become more creative. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Evolution is the secret for the next step.”

  • “I am physically allergic to flip flops.”


(Facts checked by NY Times Article)