Karl Lagerfeld’s Iconic Fashion Career: A Timeline – WWD

This article was originally published on February 19, 2019.

Throughout a career that spanned more than 60 years, designer Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away on February 19, 2019 at the age of 85, was one of the most recognizable figures in the fashion industry, and beyond. Here, a chronology of crucial moments.


• Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany. (The designer has always been cautious about his birth date, which could be 1938.)


• After winning an award in the coat category at the International Wool Secretariat, Lagerfeld was hired as assistant to Pierre Balmain, a position he held until 1958.


• The designer joins Jean Patou, where he designs 10 couture collections during his five-year tenure.

Karl Lagerfeld shows his Spring 1973 ready-to-wear line for Chloe.

Karl Lagerfeld shows his spring 1973 ready-to-wear line for Chloé.

Reginald Grey/WWD


• Moves to Chloé, first of two stints at the designer label. Lagerfeld works alongside other designers brought in by founder Gaby Aghion, such as Graziella Fontana, Tan Giudicelli and Michèle Rosier.
• Lagerfeld begins working as a freelancer at Tiziani, the Italian high fashion brand created by the American designer Evan Richards, with one of his most famous clients being the actress Elizabeth Taylor. Lagerfeld worked for the brand until 1969.


• Lagerfeld joins Fendi as head designer for its ready-to-wear and fur collections.


• After three years working alongside other Chloé designers, Lagerfeld assumes sole creative control of the brand.


• WWD says Karl Lagerfeld is Paris’ most original rtw designer after unveiling an Art Deco-inspired collection for Chloé.

Chloe Spring 1974 Prêt-à-porter Collection Early Preview with Karl LagerfeldChloe Collection - October 17, 1973

A look from Chloé’s spring 1974 collection premiered with Karl Lagerfeld.
Chloe Collection – October 17, 1973

Fairchild/REX/Shutterstock archive


• Showing 200 looks, Lagerfeld’s Chloé show is said to have “set a new direction for the fashion world” in the way she styled separates. Some looks included baggy cardigans layered over V-neck pullovers and blouses with ruffled collars and sleeves.
• Lagerfeld is about to launch his first perfume under Chloé. She partners with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to create a separate company, called Parfums Lagerfeld.


• Although Lagerfeld became known at Chanel for his elaborate fashion show setups, he actually began the practice during his time at Chloé, most notably for his “Fellini’s Casanova” show.

Lagerfeld German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld is applauded by his models following the presentation of Chanel's autumn and winter haute couture collection in Paris, FranceFRANCE FASHION CHANEL, PARIS, France

Karl Lagerfeld is applauded after his first Chanel show in 1983.

Jacques Langevin/AP/REX/Shutterstock


• With the end of his contract, Lagerfeld leaves his role as creative director of Chloé. He signs as the new couturier of Chanel.


• Lagerfeld launches his namesake label, Karl Lagerfeld.


• Aside from his fashion models, Lagerfeld is best known for shooting his campaigns for Fendi and Chanel. He also does editorial photography for magazines, such as V Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and the German and Russian versions of Vogue.


• In collaboration with Steilmann, Europe’s largest clothing group, Lagerfeld creates KL by Karl Lagerfeld, a more affordable line than his namesake brand rtw.

Chloe RTW Fall 1993

Chloe RTW Fall 1993

Michael Bionde/WWD


• Lagerfeld joins Chloé for the second time designing for the brand. He creates memorable ad campaigns with model Linda Evangelista.
• Dunhill Holdings PLC acquires the Karl Lagerfeld brand for £16 million, or $28.9 million.


• Lagerfeld leaves Chloé. Stella McCartney succeeds him.
• Designer buys back his eponymous brand from Dunhill Holdings PLC.


• Because of his love of books, photography and art, Lagerfeld opens a bookstore, called 7L, in Paris. The store offers a huge assortment of books on fashion, architecture, and photography, among other topics.

A woman takes the latest piece of clothing on a hanger for a closer look As the new Karl Lagerfeld collection was launched at an H&m store in Berlin, Germany on Friday November 12, 2004, the collection which was available nationwide is sold out almost immediately Lagerfeld had designed 30 low cost clothing for H&m Germany BerlinGermany Fashion Lagerfeld - Nov 2004

The scene of the launch of the H&M collection with Karl Lagerfeld.

Daniel Karmann/EPA/REX/Shutterstock


• In his first foray into the mass market, Lagerfeld collaborates with H&M to create a collection of women’s and men’s clothing. The collection sells out immediately after launch.
• Tommy Hilfiger Corp. acquires the Karl Lagerfeld brand. The parent company plans to grow the brand internationally and add more products, such as apparel and accessories categories.


• Tommy Hilfiger Corp. closes down Lagerfeld’s contemporary label, bringing attention back to the designer’s rtw collection.
• With his parent company, Lagerfeld launches K Karl Lagerfeld, the designer’s first denim line.


• Coty Inc. partners with Lagerfeld to create a line of three signature fragrances called Kapsule.


• “A Lone King”, a documentary on Lagerfeld’s life, is released in France.

Look from the Karl Lagerfeld Fall 2017 collection.

Look from the Karl Lagerfeld Fall 2017 collection.



• Lagerfeld receives the Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award from the Fashion Institute of Technology, a special recognition created for him.
• With Phillips-Van Heusen’s acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., Apax Partners, the private equity firm that formerly owned Hilfiger, remains the owner of the designer’s namesake brand.


• Lagerfeld collaborates with Carine Roitfeld on a traveling exhibition entitled “The Little Black Jacket” based on photographs taken by the designer of his favorite muses wearing the famous Chanel jacket.
• Known for using the brand’s makeup for his fashion sketches, Lagerfeld collaborates with Shu Uemura on a collection of colorful holiday cosmetics.

Keira Knightley and Karl LagerfeldChanel show, Spring Summer 2011, Paris Fashion Week, Paris, France - October 05 2010

Keira Knightley and Karl Lagerfeld at the Chanel Spring Summer 2011 show.



• Lagerfeld chooses Keira Knightley for the role of Gabrielle Chanel in a short film entitled “Once upon a time…” set in 1913.


• The designer returns to playing with fragrances, this time creating a line of men’s and women’s fragrances under Interparfums. Industry sources estimate the brand will make $70 million in its first year.


• Lagerfeld creates his first “haute fourrure” show for Fendi, bringing fur to the couture runways. This makes Lagerfeld the only designer to have two couture shows in one week.
• For his eponymous brand, Lagerfeld unveils his first children’s collection, which includes 140 pieces.
• The British Fashion Council honors Lagerfeld with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards.
• Lagerfeld adds newspaper editor to his long list of job titles. The designer launches ‘The Karl Daily’ which is a satirical take on his sketches and photographs and showcases his brand’s latest collection. About 150,000 copies are distributed in Europe and Japan.

Lily-Rose Depp, Karl Lagerfeld2nd Annual WWD Honors, Arrivals, New York, USA - October 24, 2017

Lily-Rose Depp and Karl Lagerfeld at the 2nd Annual WWD Honors.

Clint Spaulding/WWD/REX/Blinds


• Lagerfeld receives the WWD John B. Fairchild Honor.
• The designer receives the highest award in Paris: at the Chanel couture show, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo presents Lagerfeld with the Grand Vermeil medal.


• Lagerfeld brings his eponymous brand to SoHo with its first flagship.
• The designer collaborates with model Kaia Gerber on a capsule collection for the brand, which includes rtw, accessories, shoes and jewelry ranging from $35 to $1,045.
• Lagerfeld creates a line of color cosmetics for his eponymous brand in collaboration with the Australian beauty company ModelCo. The products include a box with a colored bust of Lagerfeld.


• For the first time in his 54 years at Fendi, Lagerfeld designs a masculine look for the brand’s show.

Read more about Karl Lagerfeld:

Karl Lagerfeld dies in Paris

The 11 best Karl Lagerfeld quotes of all time

Chanel pays tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, appoints Virginie Viard as successor

Watch: Karl Lagerfeld and Kaia Gerber Talk Fashion:

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