When Karl Lagerfeld passed away on Tuesday in Paris, it wasn't exactly a surprise — the 85-year-old designer's health had been failing for awhile — but it still sent shockwaves through the fashion world. An industry titan whose popularity and cultural relevancy far outlasted that of most of his contemporaries, Lagerfeld was the ultimate embodiment of what comes to mind when we think of a fashion designer for longer than many of us can remember.
At the helm of Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous label, Lagerfeld captured imaginations with his relentless creative output for nearly four decades. If his sometimes offensive comments along the way upset people, he didn't seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to relish in it.
In the hours since his passing, seasoned fashion journalists, magazine editors and Lagerfeld's personal friends have all offered their tributes to the controversial and utterly inimitable designer. Read on for some of the most memorable takes from our favorite commentators.
"Although he had never built a major fashion house in his own name, like Saint Laurent or Armani, he had nonetheless built a house for the people who loved his creative spirit and his incredible human warmth... Part of his genius was how he wove all the elements of his life into his work and his conversation, particularly at Chanel, without ever seeming to go backward." —Karl Lagerfeld Did the Work by Cathy Horyn
"Karl could be brilliant, he could be out-of-touch, but he could never be the worst sin in fashion: boring." —Mickey Boardman Remembers Karl Lagerfeld by Mickey Boardman
"His ready-to-wear shows were a torrent of ideas. Season after season, he would flood the runway with some 80 individual models, each wearing ensembles that were sometimes spectacularly appealing and at other times spectacularly not. He seemed equally at peace with both. The important thing was the constant striving toward something new and invigorating. Fashion, for him, was a constant evolution, an endless series of tweaks. He aimed for the best, but sometimes the only way to get there was through rocky and jarring terrain. If there was fear, it was of obsolescence." —Karl Lagerfeld Didn't Have a Signature Design — But He Invented a New Kind of Designer by Robin Givhan
"Karl was extravagant, generous, and very, very kind to his friends, until he had a rupture; then he would simply delete one from his life, cutting all lines of communication with no explanation. His kindness manifested itself in various ways, from loans of his 18th-century furniture to gifts of Fabergé diamonds." —André Leon Talley Remembers Karl Lagerfeld by André Leon Talley
"He had no interest in being politically correct. At least when he was upsetting people, they weren't bored. It's a strange thing to say, in the context of the multiple collections, the insane productivity, the omnivorous curiosity, the endlessly erudite references, the acres of satin and chiffon made glorious over the years, but one of the most extraordinary things about Mr. Lagerfeld may have been that he never apologized." —The Last Designer by Vanessa Friedman
"It really matters when you can pass things on. That's what Karl was always doing... for the whole industry in the prodigious legacy he leaves behind. It goes without saying there'll never be anyone else like him. Sometimes it felt like he would live forever. Maybe he still will. That would be the kind of twist I think he'd enjoy." —In Memory of Karl Lagerfeld by Tim Blanks
"Karl was so much more than our greatest and most prolific designer — his creative genius was breathtaking and to be his friend was an exceptional gift. Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind." —Anna Wintour Remembers Karl Lagerfeld by Anna Wintour
"As a subject, he was a journalist's dream — unguarded, hilarious, controversial, bold, and, well, occasionally obscene. It's true he often went too far with his satiric comments about celebrities' weight or appearances, or in recent years by making potentially offensive remarks about immigrants in Germany. But more often than not, he spoke freely and without serious repercussions because of his unique position as fashion's ultimate designer for hire." —My Unguarded Conversations with Karl Lagerfeld by Eric Wilson