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Fashion world mourns death of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld

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The fashion world is mourning the death of legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld, the man who ruled over the industry for half a century.

Chanel, the iconic French fashion house Lagerfeld led for nearly four decades, confirmed his passing at the age of 85, prompting an unprecedented outpouring of emotion from designers and celebrities.

Speculation about the state of health of the man they called the "Kaiser" had been rife since he missed Chanel's Paris haute couture week show last month, for the first time ever, with the world's richest brand saying he "was tired".

Karl Lagerfeld walks the runway after the Chanel show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2019 in October last year.
Karl Lagerfeld walks the runway after the Chanel show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2019 in October last year.
Getty Images

Lagerfeld left many younger creators in the dust well into his 80s, turning out collections season after season for Fendi and his own label, as well as Chanel.

With his powdered white pony tail, black sunglasses and starched high-collared white shirts, Lagerfeld was as recognisable as his celebrity clients. 

Creative stamina

In recent years the prolific German had visibly weakened, even if his extraordinary creative stamina showed little sign of flagging on the catwalk for the three brands he led.

Friends had always said that the creator would die with a pencil in his hand, and just last week his own fashion line Karl Lagerfeld was still announcing new design collaborations.

Chanel said the reins of the $12.7-billion empire had been handed to Lagerfeld's right-hand woman, his head of studio Virginie Viard.

The designer invited Viard on to the podium with him at the end of two Chanel shows last year to acknowledge how much he relied on a woman he called "my right and left hand" to transform his sketches into glittering reality.

In a statement on Tuesday, Chanel said Lagerfeld was "an extraordinary creative individual... a prolific creative mind with endless imagination".

The designer was not afraid of breaking the mould within often-pompous couture circles. He teamed up with high street brand H&M in 2004 for limited edition collections, a move that raised eyebrows and was then quickly copied by others.

Incredible talent

Italian designer Donatella Versace led the tributes among fashion's leading players as news of Lagerfeld's death broke. 

"Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I," she wrote on Instagram, referring to her murdered brother who founded her brand.

"We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We were always learning from you."

Bernard Arnault, the most powerful man in fashion and owner of the luxury giant LVMH, said he was "infinitely saddened" by the loss of a "very dear friend" and a "creative genius".

"Fashion and culture have lost a major inspiration. He contributed to making Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative of Italian brands," the billionaire said.

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