Karl Lagerfeld is widely regarded as one of the most iconic people in the fashion industry.
He was born Karl Otto Lagerfeldt in 1933 to a businessman and a lingerie saleswoman in Hamburg, Germany.
He has reportedly claimed to have been born in 1935.
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."
When Lagerfeld was a child, his parents moved the family to a northern rural part of Germany to avoid the rising tide of Nazism.
Lagerfeld possessed an interest in fashion at an early age, and his parents were largely supportive of his dream.
He ultimately secured his parents' permission to move to Paris at the age of 14.
At the age of 21, he took first prize in a fashion contest for designing the best coat.
Lagerfeld befriended fellow up-and-coming designer and contest winner Yves Saint Laurent.
His career took off when he landed a junior assistant position with Pierre Balmain in 1955 ...
... and then a designing gig with Jean Patou.
He worked with Patou for five years before temporarily trading a career in couture for one in ready-to-wear.
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.
A job at Fendi followed soon after — the company brought him in to revamp its "boring" brand while he was still working at Chloé.
Through his approach of shaving, coloring, 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.
In 1982, Lagerfeld said goodbye to Chloé and — in 1983 — hello to the house of Chanel.
His first show with the house was in 1984.
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.
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."
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.
"[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."
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 unraveling wool, laced with color, at the skirt and cuffs."
In 1984 he launched his own eponymous label around the motif of "intellectual sexiness."
In 2005, Lagerfeld sold the brand to the Tommy Hilfiger Group, but continued as chief creative director.
The first brick-and-mortar shop for the brand opened in Doha, Qatar, in 2015.
The designer's namesake brand exudes an "effortless, rock-chic" vibe — somewhat different from the other labels he designed for.
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.
Despite his reputation, Lagerfeld wasn't opposed to working with brands considered to be out of the realm of luxury or high fashion.
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.
And in 2011 he designed a capsule collection for Macy's.
Also in 2011, Lagerfeld designed a glassware line for Orrefors.
And, he posed for Playboy in 1987.
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.
According to The Times, people who knew him said he did the same with some personal relationships.
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."
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.
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!"
He was also critical of his own weight at times.
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.
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."
His history of working with fur has also placed him at the center of some animal-rights controversy.
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.
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.
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.
He was reportedly known for shopping at flea markets where he'd buy old wedding dresses, deconstruct them, and then reimagine them completely.
He cultivated a specific persona for himself that became iconic. His dark glasses and ponytail, in particular, date back to the late '70s.
"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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
His death sparked tributes from fashion icons around the world.
"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.
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."
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."