Famed fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld has died at 85. Peek inside his life and career and see how he became worth an estimated $200 million.

  • Karl Lagerfeld died in Paris on Tuesday. He was 85 years old.
  • Known as the longtime creative director for Chanel and Fendi, and an icon in the fashion industry, Lagerfeld also led an eponymous fashion label.
  • At the time of his death, he worked on the three brands and had an estimated net worth of $US200 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
  • Paolo Righi, CEO of the Karl Lagerfeld label, said in a statement: “He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time.”
  • Lagerfeld had friendships with Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, designer Donatella Versace, and artist Andy Warhol, among many, many others.
  • Born in Germany, Lagerfeld’s career began when he took an assistant position with Pierre Balmain in 1995. Take a look at what his life and career were like right up until his death.

Karl Lagerfeld is widely regarded as one of the most iconic people in the fashion industry.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times

He was born Karl Otto Lagerfeldt in 1933 to a businessman and a lingerie saleswoman in Hamburg, Germany.

Source: Morningstar, Biography

He has reportedly claimed to have been born in 1935.

John van Hasselt – Corbis/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Morningstar, NPR

For years, the designer would play coy about his true age. His assistant told the Associated Press in 2019 that he preferred “to scramble the tracks on his year of birth — that’s part of the character.”

Source: Premium, Associated Press, NPR

When Lagerfeld was a child, his parents moved the family to a northern rural part of Germany to avoid the rising tide of Nazism.

Source: Biography

Lagerfeld possessed an interest in fashion at an early age, and his parents were largely supportive of his dream.

Source: Biography

He ultimately secured his parents’ permission to move to Paris at the age of 14.

Source: Biography

At the age of 21, he took first prize in a fashion contest for designing the best coat.

Keystone/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: Biography, Harper’s Bazaar

Lagerfeld befriended fellow up-and-coming designer and contest winner Yves Saint Laurent.

Kevin Smith/Business Insider

Source: Biography

His career took off when he landed a junior assistant position with Pierre Balmain in 1955 …

Reg Lancaster/Stringer/Getty ImagesPictured above is French designer Pierre Balmain.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar

… and then a designing gig with Jean Patou.

Keystone-France/Contributor/Getty ImagesPictured above is a young Karl Lagerfeld working for Jean Patou in 1958.

Source: Biography,Harper’s Bazaar

He worked with Patou for five years before temporarily trading a career in couture for one in ready-to-wear.

Pierre Guillaud/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Biography, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times

He bounced around transforming labels all over the industry through freelance jobs. Chloé was one that stuck in 1964 — he was there for more than 10 years.

Pierre Vauthey/Contributor/Getty ImagesPictured above is Lagerfeld working with his designs at the Chloé studio in Paris.

Source: Biography, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times

A job at Fendi followed soon after — the company brought him in to revamp its “boring” brand while he was still working at Chloé.

Vittoriano Rastelli/Contributor/Getty ImagesPictured above is Lagerfeld with the five Fendi sisters. From left to right: In the front row is Carla, Karl, and Alda. In the second row is Franca, Anna, and Paola.

Source: The New York Times

Through his approach of shaving, colouring, and transforming furs, he introduced the concept of “Fun Fur” — which is reportedly where the iconic double-F Fendi logo got its start — to high fashion.

Venturelli/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

In 1982, Lagerfeld said goodbye to Chloé and — in 1983 — hello to the house of Chanel.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times

His first show with the house was in 1984.

Angela Weiss/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Harper’s Bazaar

He can be credited with the revival of the iconic fashion house started by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel when he reimagined its ready-to-wear line in the early ’80s.

Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Biography

He was warned against joining the house and reportedly told The New York Times, “Everybody said, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s dead, it will never come back.’ But by then I thought it was a challenge.”

Source: Business of Fashion

Lagerfeld took that challenge and ran with it. He is most known for amplifying the original design concepts put forth by Coco Chanel, adding his own flair and twists reflecting the changing times.

Source: Business of Fashion, NPR

“[Chanel was] a sleeping beauty. Not even a beautiful one. She snored,” he said in the 2007 documentary “Lagerfeld Confidential.” “So I was to revive a dead woman.”

Source: CNN

NPR’s Susan Stamberg once described Chanel and the Karl Lagerfeld effect in 2005. She talked about the classic and timeless appeal of the original house, adding “The real Lagerfeld part: the illusion of unravelling wool, laced with colour, at the skirt and cuffs.”

Source: NPR

In 1984 he launched his own eponymous label around the motif of “intellectual sexiness.”

Christian Vierig/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Biography

In 2005, Lagerfeld sold the brand to the Tommy Hilfiger Group, but continued as chief creative director.

Pool Arnal/Garcia/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Business of Fashion

The first brick-and-mortar shop for the brand opened in Doha, Qatar, in 2015.

John Phillips/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: Biography

The designer’s namesake brand exudes an “effortless, rock-chic” vibe — somewhat different from the other labels he designed for.

Donato Sardella/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Karl Lagerfeld the brand

In 2018 he launched a line in collaboration with model Kaia Gerber. It’s been described as a mash-up of the two icons: part Malibu and part Paris.

Francois Durand/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: Harper’s BAZAAR

Despite his reputation, Lagerfeld wasn’t opposed to working with brands considered to be out of the realm of luxury or high fashion.

Source: Biography

In 2004 he collaborated with H&M, which set the stage for future fast-fashion collaborations with brands and designers like Stella McCartney, Comme des Garcons, Versace, Maison Martin Margiela, and most recently, Jeremy Scott’s Moschino.

Source: CNN, NPR, W Magazine

And in 2011 he designed a capsule collection for Macy’s.

Yelp/Carroll N.

Source: Fashionista, Biography

Also in 2011, Lagerfeld designed a glassware line for Orrefors.

Source: Architectural Digest

And, he posed for Playboy in 1987.

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Source: Harper’s BAZAAR

Throughout it all, he was known as both a collector and an auctioneer — he’d gather up things like furniture, books, and real estate for their connection to the aesthetic of their time, and then auction them off in a seemingly emotionally disconnected way.

Source: The New York Times

According to The Times, people who knew him said he did the same with some personal relationships.

Source: The New York Times

His spending habits landed him the label of a “squanderer.” To that he said: “If you throw money out of the window throw it out with joy. Don’t say: ‘One shouldn’t do that’ — that is bourgeois.”

Source: NPR,


He also found himself at the center of controversy when it came to the way he spoke. He voiced views on people’s appearance, models, and the #MeToo movement.

Source: NPR, Model Alliance,Numéro

He also reportedly took a dig at Heidi Klum in 2009 when he said, “Heidi is no runway model. She is simply too heavy and has too big a bust. And she always grins so stupidly. That is not avant-garde — that is commercial!”

Source: Fashionista

He was also critical of his own weight at times.

Source: The Telegraph

Around the early 2000s he wanted to wear suits by Hedi Slimane — which had a slim fit — so he lost 92 pounds in a year.

Source: The Telegraph, The New Yorker

In fact, he ended up writing a book about his diet titled “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet.” In the book he talked about his love for Diet Coke and toast, calling toast “the height of luxury” and “the most delicious thing in the world.”

BERTRAND LANGLOIS/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: INSIDER, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar

His history of working with fur has also placed him at the center of some animal-rights controversy.

Source: The New York Times, PEOPLE

PETA referred to the designer as its “nemesis” in a tweet that was meant to announce the “end of an era” that celebrated fur in fashion, and to send condolences to his family after his passing.

Source: PETA UK Twitter

His career extended into the entertainment industry as well — he served as a costume designer, director, actor, and even writer in a number of films.

Source: IMDB

In the world of fashion, Lagerfeld was known for his timely taste and of-the-moment designs. But he also appreciated and paid homage to trends and styles of the past.

Source: Biography

He was reportedly known for shopping at flea markets where he’d buy old wedding dresses, deconstruct them, and then reimagine them completely.

Keystone-France/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Biography

He cultivated a specific persona for himself that became iconic. His dark glasses and ponytail, in particular, date back to the late ’70s.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue

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

Source: Vogue

In terms of his personal life, Lagerfeld had a 18-year relationship with Jacques de Bascher. De Bascher died from complications from AIDS in 1989.

Source: The Mirror

The fashion designer is survived by his Instagram-famous cat, Choupette. In 2013, Lagerfeld told CNN, “There is no marriage, yet, for human beings and animals … I never thought I would fall in love like this with a cat.”

Source: CNN

He has said Choupette is the more famous of the two of them: “She has become the most famous cat in the world. I even get propositioned by pet food companies and things like that, but it’s out of the question. I’m commercial. She’s not. She’s spoiled to death. Obviously.”

Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

Source: Vogue

He said the Birman breed cat, who has 156,000 followers on Instagram, would be one of the heirs to his fortune, adding, “Don’t worry, there is enough for everyone.”

Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

Source: INSIDER, Choupette LagerfeldInstagram

His death sparked tributes from fashion icons around the world.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar

“Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of Chanel’s success throughout the world,” Chanel CEO Alain Wertheimer said in a statement to CNN.

John van Hasselt – Corbis/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: CNN

Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of Fendi owner LVMH said in a statement: “With the passing of Karl Lagerfeld we have lost a creative genius who helped to make Paris the fashion capital of the world and Fendi one of the most innovative Italian houses … We owe him a great deal: his taste and talent were the most exceptional I have ever known.”

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/Contributor/Getty ImagesBernard Arnault not pictured here.

Source: NPR

Donatella Versace wrote in an Instagram caption: “Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I. We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration. We were always learning from you.”

Patrick McMullan/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Donatella Versace Instagram

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