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Remembering Karl Lagerfeld, fashion designer and style icon


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: A giant of the fashion world passed away today. Karl Lagerfeld helped to shape the modern fashion industry through his work with the most influential designers and his own personal style.

Jeffrey Brown has our remembrance.

It's part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.

Jeffrey Brown: His name was synonymous with luxury fashion for well over half-a-century. The German-born designer spent the bulk of his career at the helm of some of the world's biggest fashion houses.

Karl Lagerfeld: You know, fashion is not needed. There are many other problems in the world which may be more important, so this is not a problem. But it's an industry. And, you know, fashion has to go with time. If fashion doesn't go with time, fashion would be lost.

Jeffrey Brown: Lagerfeld transformed the Italian brand Fendi, becoming its creative director in 1965, and spent 20 years designing for the French label Chloe.

But he's best remembered for being the creative force behind the French fashion house Chanel, taking over in 1983 and working until his death. He took what some then saw as a stodgy label and added all manner of attention-grabbing designs, including reinventing the iconic tweed suits for a younger set, slashing hemlines and adding glitzy accents.

Robin Givhan is fashion critic for The Washington Post.

Robin Givhan: He revived Chanel when he took it over. At that point, the founder had been deceased for almost 10 years, and it was somewhat of a dusty brand.

It certainly lived on in its fragrance Chanel No. 5, but he was one of those first designers who went into a venerable old house and reinvented it, and did so to incredible financial success.

Jeffrey Brown: Lagerfeld was just as well-known for his distinct personal style: his signature ponytail, dark sunglasses, and black fingerless leather gloves.

Today, shoppers outside the Chanel store in Paris today lamented the fashion industry's loss.

Eric Jamin: Karl Lagerfeld represented creation, freedom, an era. What is scary now is that there used to be great artists and inventors. We went through a period when we were reinventing a bit and getting inspired, and now we are starting to lose the people who served as inspirations.

Jeffrey Brown: That singular vision was on full display at his runway shows, making catwalks out of the unlikeliest of places, from the Great Wall of China to a mockup of an airport terminal.

Lagerfeld didn't appear at Chanel's January show in Paris to take his customary bow, setting off rumors he was ill. The fashion house confirmed his death today in Paris. Karl Lagerfeld was 85 years old.

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