The world of fashion is a little bit sadder after the passing of fashion great Karl Lagerfeld.
“Karl Lagerfeld was the definition of passion. It fuelled both his life and his craft. His curiosity about everything from history to pop culture inspired him to dream big and create collections that captured a rare kind of imagination that had influence way beyond the world of fashion. He was the modern couturier committed to the artistry of those traditions, but always with an eye for everyday life. Karl was an inspiration, but more than that my personal friend and always a generous supporter. I think more than anything he brought a spirit to fashion that was energetic and alive, a belief in both the dream and the reality.”
“I won’t talk about Karl’s extraordinary and prolific talents. That is undeniable and a known fact. What I can share is my experience. I met Karl through a telegram he sent to me when it was announced that I was appointed the designer at Perry Ellis (some 30-plus years ago). He told me how he knew and had great respect for Perry and that he thought he was a very nice man. He congratulated me on the appointment. He himself would often repeat this story when we were together and around others. He told it even at the last LVMH Prize lunch that we were at last year. He was consistently and hugely supportive of me during my time at Vuitton. He would send me some fantastic (and wildly wicked) sketches from time to time. He continued to be friendly, supportive and very generous with me until the end. He has always been a huge inspiration to me and his work at Chloe always resonates when I think of why I love fashion. What he did at Chanel is beyond words. He made it more Chanel than even Coco could have done. What a life, what a legacy. He is already missed, and, has left a giant, unfillable hole in the disappearing world we call fashion.”
“Youthful curiosity, unimaginable talent, a brain that never stopped clicking and fabulous wit, Karl rewrote what it is to be a designer in the modern world. His reach was far greater than fashion. Early on he understood the connection of fashion to the culture at large and showed all of us in the fashion world to never lose your passion, energy and drive — no matter how busy and fast the fashion life has become. He will forever be an inspiration to all of us and his legacy will continue for many years to come.”
Hilfiger recalled the first time he met Karl Lagerfeld, he was shooting American designers in Paris for Harper’s Bazaar. “I was one of the designers being photographed, and we just hit it off. We were just laughing hysterically. He had 10 assistants setting up his cameras. He would walk up behind the camera, look through the lens, and then click and then walk away. Then they’d reset it, and he would click it again.
“He invited me to his home, and I told him about the business, and I said we’re a public company and thinking about possibly making acquisitions. And he said, ‘Why don’t you buy my (Karl Lagerfeld) company?’” He said he wanted to sell it and wanted a great partner. He said he wanted to do “an affordable fashion brand.”
In less than 90 days, Tommy Hilfiger Corp. bought the brand.
“He did teach me one thing I’ll never forget,” said Hilfiger. “In one of my many visits, I said, “Karl, how did you become so successful with Chanel?” He recalled Lagerfeld saying, “I went to the archives, and everything Coco Chanel had done in the past, I made it relevant for today.
“When we began to re-invent Tommy Hilfiger, I used that philosophy with my design team. Let’s go back to the archives, and let’s bring out all the greatest hits and make them relevant for today. It worked.”
“I always thought Karl Lagerfeld was an extraordinary man for his talent at work and in life, which he fused and transformed in a single and unique art: being Lagerfeld. Perhaps for this reason, too, although he designed for brands with great personality, his presence has been so clear and recognisable letting transpire his pleasure in drawing, photographing, in writing books and setting up spectacular shows. I am very moved by his passing, I can’t avoid thinking that until the very last he lived immersed in his biggest pleasure: letting his imagination fly dedicating himself to his work.
“I remember him when many years ago we were together in Tokyo for a show of various international brands. I will never forget the kindness with which he welcomed me as part of this important group.”
Kenzo Takada, designer:
“Karl Lagerfeld was a genius, an endless source of inspiration. He will be remembered for his infinite generosity, forward-thinking and immeasurable knowledge.
“Karl has always been a great support, a friend that I have always admired. He was one of the most hardworking and talented men that I have ever had the chance to know. I am deeply saddened by Karl’s departure, it is a terrible loss. We often used to have dinner together, either at Le Sept, La Coupole or at his hotel particulier, which had a beautiful garden and was filled with books. We never used to talk about fashion, but when the evening ended, he would go home to work – I didn’t! He worked so, so much. Jacques de Bascher told me once that he didn’t really need to sleep much.”
Takada and Lagerfeld were part of the infamous party crowd that took over Parisian clubs in the 1970s. “I remember when the New York crowd first arrived in Paris. My collaborator [Gilles Raysse, director of the Kenzo brand before the arrival of François Beaufumé in 1a80] introduced me to Lagerfeld along with Antonio Lopez, Juan Ramos, Pat Cleveland and that whole group. Lagerfeld really helped all these creatives, he was such a generous person. And when my partner [Xavier de Castilla] passed away, he wrote me a long, long letter. It touched me immensely.”
Tom Ford, designer:
“I was lucky enough to get to know Karl when I lived in Paris. During my time at Gucci and at Yves Saint Laurent we saw each other often and occasionally had dinner alone, usually at Caviar Kaspia. Karl’s zodiac sign was Virgo and we had that in common. Virgo’s tend to understand each other, and I think that we clicked in a certain way. I always found him incredibly kind and thoughtful. He would take his glasses off with me at dinner and soften, and I felt so lucky that he was comfortable enough with me to do that. I mean, how many people in the world can say that they ever saw Karl’s eyes?
“Karl was obviously an incredibly talented designer, but Karl was a genius in many other ways as well. He was wonderfully wicked. His humour could be cutting but have you buckled over with laughter, as long as it was not directed at you. He always said out loud the thing that you might be thinking but were afraid to say and he would say it in such a sharp and clever way that it left you in a kind of shocked state of hysterics.
“He was smart. Very smart. His intellect and irrepressible wit made him great fun to be around. He was intense in the way that could often leave one exhausted simply from the barrage of thoughts and witticisms that constantly streamed from him.
“Karl was the first of all of us. The first ‘hired gun’ brought in to restore the lustre of a tarnished fashion house. He invented the template for what has become modus operandi in fashion.
“I will miss Karl. I will miss just knowing that Karl is somewhere in the world designing and quipping as he always has. He seemed permanent. A fundamental part of fashion and of the world. It is strange that he is no longer with us. I am deeply sad that he is gone.”
Valentino Garavani, designer:
“Part of my youth went away with you….With whom can I now laugh and remember those happy and carefree moments spent at Fiacre or Flore? Our first hopes, you at Balmain and me at Dessès….Our arrivals in Rome where I opened my first Maison de Couture and where you arrived to Tiziani, a Roman couture house. You who made me promise unsuccessfully never to withdraw. Karl, my friend, Karl genio gigantesco…my sadness is infinite…au revoir, Karl!”
Miuccia Prada, designer:
“Karl was one of the most cultivated and brilliant men and whenever we got together we always had great fun. His contribution to fashion is and will always be memorable.”
“Karl was my magic dust, he transformed me from a shy German girl into a supermodel. He taught me about fashion, style and survival in the fashion business. What Warhol was to art, he was to fashion; he is irreplaceable. He is the only person who could make black and white colourful. I will be eternally grateful to him.”
Alessandro Michele, designer:
“I met Karl when I was very young and then I met him again when I was in a totally different position. He has always been extremely affectionate and kind toward me. Karl was an intelligent, sharp, kind and empathetic person. A complex man with an easy approach to things. Instead of speaking about the emptiness he leaves behind, I would like to talk about the abundance he is leaving us. He was in love with life, with humans, with beautiful things and he was always ready to have a laugh. Karl was a fresco of vitality and love for the things that surrounded him. If I think of Karl, I think of life.”
“Today the world has lost an icon and a genius. We will always remember his amazing talent, which taught us all throughout the years. We will miss you.”
“Karl was my rock, he’s always been there for me. Ten years of friendship, creation, and precious memories of this time spent together. His sense of humour and words of advice will never leave my thoughts. Karl was truly once in a lifetime, my eternal guardian angel.”
Diane von Furstenberg:
“Karl left us as he lived…quietly, with dignity and no sentimentality. Karl was extraordinarily intelligent and a true talent. He read everything and was a most perceptive witness of history. He understood all he saw and yet always remained detached. Totally unique, he will be missed.”
“I first met Karl when I was a child, he formed a small fashion group with my mother Rosita and Anna Piaggi and ever since then I was impressed by his speed in drawing, sketching beautiful portraits incredibly fast. His extraordinary talent in my eyes made him almost extra-terrestrial. As a person, he was also very fascinating and interesting. He lived in the moment, I felt he did not really like dwelling on memories, he always looked ahead.”
Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel parent company OTB:
“I first met Karl Lagerfeld in 1999. He had just shot Diesel in one of his first photographic jobs and had expressed appreciation for the product on set, so I thought ‘Why don’t we invite him to the opening of our first Paris flagship store?’ He showed up, surprising me. A few months after he reached out and said: ‘I am doing my own collection, I want to do denim for the first time, and I want to do it with Diesel.’ To see the products, we had done for him open his Paris show was an emotion I still remember very well. That project, dubbed Lagerfeld Gallery by Diesel, was by far the forerunner of any modern-day collaboration. That was Karl: He could only do things before the others. Fashion will miss a bright and witty mind and a unique talent, but his positivity, will and legacy will stay on forever.”
Laudomia Pucci, deputy chairman and image director of Pucci:
“Karl Lagerfeld has been a lifelong friend, and I, like many, will miss him. He was gifted with an incredible curiosity and was a very cultured man. His innate respect for iconic brands, resulted in a very personal vision: playing with fashion moments and excitement, while tapping into French grandeur with Chanel and Italian heritage with Fendi. He has taught a generation of designers with his dedication and hard work his eyes saw every detail. He was the first designer that had more success creating a legacy for brands that didn’t carry his name. In fact, he successfully brought Chanel into the 21st century, apparently effortlessly. But this was not all, he also dedicated himself to Fendi, which lead to success. This can be seen in both his loyalty with the family, by working with Silvia, and in accomplishing a strong identity of the brand throughout the evolution of the business. A clever and witty man, quick and to the point. He always had a positive comment regarding Pucci and his passion for the brand.”
Diego Della Valle, Tod’s chairman and CEO:
“A great artist has passed away, a great man, a great professional in his working life, charismatic and forward-looking. The first time we met, beyond the obvious things, I thought Lagerfeld was a great and refined actor in his everyday life, too. He will certainly be a great example for all the younger designers, who can get excellent teachings by studying his story.”
Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu curator in charge of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:
“There are very few designers who have changed the course of fashion history: Coco Chanel was one of them, and Karl Lagerfeld was another. His great talent was his ability to identify, articulate and frequently anticipate changes in the zeitgeist. Effectively, he invented the language of late 20th — and early 21st- century fashion. His creative genius and quick-fire, epigrammatic wit will be missed enormously.”
“I don’t think there is any designer who didn’t look at what he did and what he said. It has been a great inspiration for all us of, his incredible career. And he was so funny and very intelligent.”
Francesco Risso, creative director Marni:
“I think his extreme kindness is one of the most memorable things about his personality. It’s incredible to think that he basically assisted to the major changes that happened in the fashion system in more than half a century. We are all very sad but today we have to work even harder to pay homage to his outstanding career.”
“To call Karl a designer would be an understatement, he was so much more than that, Karl was fashion itself.”
Anthony Vaccarello, creative director of Saint Laurent:
Vaccarello worked under Lagerfeld at Fendi. “Karl Lagerfeld was — and always will be — an extraordinary man of culture and vibrant creativity, a symbol of strength, passion and a true icon for the world of fashion and its history.”