Relive Karl Lagerfeld's Life and Legacy Ahead of the 2023 Met Gala

The 2023 Met Gala will celebrate Karl Lagerfeld's impressive decades-long career, but E! News has all of your bases covered if you need to brush up on your history of the legendary Chanel designer.

By Alyssa Morin Sep 30, 2022 8:09 PMTags
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The 2023 Met Gala is honoring the life of a legend.

As soon as the first Monday in May rolls around, celebrities and designers alike will get to showcase their admiration for none other than the late Karl Lagerfeld. The iconic designer, who simultaneously served as the creative director for Chanel and Fendi for decades, died in 2019 at 85 following complications of pancreatic cancer.

While fashion's biggest night is still (many) months away, it's never too early to brush up on the German-born designer's impressive legacy.

Karl, who is credited with revolutionizing the term "fashion designer," first gained recognition after he won a 1955 design competition in the coat category. Following his impressive creation, he was hired to be an assistant for Pierre Balmain. But by 1958, he was dreaming up creations for multiple brands, including Charles Jourdan, Chloé, Krizia and Valentino. He did it all during a time when being a freelance designer was unheard of.

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Undoubtedly, Karl became an icon overnight when he was announced as the creative director for Chanel in 1985. As he famously said, "I am a fashion person and fashion is not only about clothes—it's about all kinds of change."

Come May 1, the Met Gala will celebrate the incredible designs that changed the industry forever.

But before fashion's biggest night kicks off, revisit his many career milestones below.

Artist Beginnings

Karl Lagerfeld was born in 1933 in Germany. At 14, he moved to Paris and studied drawing and history.


In 1955, Lagerfeld began his career by winning the International Wood Association design competition for his sketch of a coat. Then, he was hired as an assistant by Pierre Balmain, who also produced the jacket.

Moving Up

After three years with Balmain, Lagerfeld became the art director of Jean Patou where he created two haute couture collections per year.

New Chapter

Lagerfeld began working with French clothing brand Chloé in 1964.

Forever Fendi

In 1965, Lagerfeld joined Italian fashion house Fendi to design clothing and accessories.  

Becoming an Icon

Lagerfeld was named the creative director of Chanel in 1983, only a decade after Coco Chanel died and only five years after the label's first ready-to-wear collection. He remained with the brand until his death on Feb. 19, 2019.

Making His Mark

Lagerfeld launched his own label that focused on "intellectual sexiness" in 1984.

Expanding Horizons

In 1999, Lagerfeld opened the 7L bookstore in Paris. He later went on to create the EDITIONS 7L publishing house which focused on photography books.

Divine Denim

Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, partnered with Lagerfeld to create a special denim collection. It debuted during Paris Fashion Week in 2002.

Iconic Designs

Lagerfeld also become a costume designer for Callas Forever as well as productions of Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz at Milan's La Scala theatre, Komödie der Verführung by Arthur Schnitzler at the Burgtheater in Vienna and Der Schwierige by Hugo von Hofmannsthal at the Salzburg Festival. He also created outfits for Madonna's Re-Invention tour and Kylie Mingoue's Showgirl tour.

Designing for the Masses

Lagerfeld's collection with H&M was a smash success in 2004. He offered a range of clothing men and women which sold out in only two days.

Beyond Fashion

Outside of fashion, the designer also wrote a diet book, The Karl Lagerfeld Diet, after he lost more than 90 pounds.

Fashion Meets Photography

As a photographer, Lagerfeld produced Visionaire 23: The Emperor's New Clothes, a series of nude pictures of models and celebrities. He also photographed Mariah Carey for her 2005 V Magazine cover.

Creative Innovation

Lagerfeld created an iconic teddy bear for Steiff in 2008. The bear sold for $1,500.

Celebrating an Icon

Lagerfeld was awarded The Couture Council Fashion Visionary Award by the Couture Council of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2010.

Fashion Forward

In 2010, Lagerfeld created two footwear collections for Hogan.

Crystal Perfection

Lagerfeld partnered with Swedish company Orrefors to create a collection of glassware with a minimalistic aesthetic in 2011.

Power Partnership

Lagerfeld joined forces with Macy's to create a capsule collection in 2011.

Honoring a Legend

In 2011, Lagerfeld was given the Gordon Parks Foundation Award for his career achievements in design, photography and filmmaking.

Revolutionary Costume Design

Lagerfeld created costumes for the Brahms-Schöenberg Quartet production at the Opéra Bastille in Paris at the request of choreographer and director Benjamin Millepied.