Karl Lagerfeld, the most prolific designer of the 20th and 21st centuries and a man whose career formed the prototype of the modern luxury fashion industry, died on Tuesday in Paris. He was 85.
His death was announced on Tuesday by Chanel.
“More than anyone I know, he represents the soul of fashion: restless, forward-looking and voraciously attentive to our changing culture,” Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue, said of Mr. Lagerfeld when presenting him with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards in 2015.
Creative director of Chanel since 1983 and Fendi since 1965, and founder of his own line, Mr. Lagerfeld was the definition of a fashion polyglot, able to speak the language of many different brands at the same time (not to mention many languages themselves: he read in English, French, German and Italian).
In his 80s, when most of his peers were retiring to their yachts or country estates, he was designing an average of 14 new collections a year ranging from couture to the high street, and not counting collaborations and special projects. His signature combinations of “high fashion and high camp” attracted Rihanna; Princess Caroline of Monaco; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and Julianne Moore.
“Ideas come to you when you work,” he said backstage before a Fendi show at age 83. As a result, Mr. Lagerfeld never stopped creating. He was also a photographer, whose work was exhibited at the Pinacothèque de Paris; a publisher, having founded his own imprint for Steidl, Edition 7L; and the author of a popular 2002 diet book, “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” about how he had lost 92 pounds.
His greatest calling, however, was as the orchestrator of his own myth.