Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel fashion icon, has died at 85

/ cbs/AFP

Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel fashion icon, dies

Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld has died at the age of 85, the Chanel fashion house of Paris confirmed to CBS News on Tuesday.

The long-time creative director of the French fashion house, Lagerfeld was admitted to the American Hospital of Paris on Monday, according to local media reports. Lagerfeld did not appear at the end of Chanel's show at Paris Fashion Week in January, sparking concerns about his health.

Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany. He moved to Paris at age 14, where he worked at fashion brands including Chloe, Fendi, and eventually Chanel, earning a reputation as the "unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment," according to Vogue magazine.

Lagerfeld described himself as a "European," hailing the interwar Germany he never knew as a "spiritual homeland" that was destroyed under Nazism.

One of the first American stars to pay tribute to Lagerfeld was Kim Kardashian, who mourned him in a tweet as "a true legend."

We lost a true legend! You were such an inspiration to the world! You shot my first fashion shoot & I was so nervous to work w such an icon! The world is so much chicer because u existed! I’m beyond honored to have had the opportunity to work w u. U are so loved & will be missed pic.twitter.com/0BSXoLDNN7

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 19, 2019

Lagerfeld's young years

Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born in the 1933 in the northern port city Hamburg, the son of a rich industrialist in the food sector.

Chanel's Paris "protest" 13 photos

He lived through the Allied bombings that devastated the city towards the end of World War II, but also learned French and English from a very young age.

"I was brought up as a European, I spoke three languages at age six: English, French and German," he told Gala magazine's German edition in 2014.

After seeing a Dior fashion show in a Hamburg hotel in the early 1950s, young Lagerfeld decided to become a fashion designer and set off for Paris with his mother's words — "there's nothing to do here, Germany is a dead country" — ringing in his ears.

From then on his life would become focused on France, Italy and the United States.

Fashion icon

Chanel paid tribute to the creative force behind its iconic designs in a statement released Tuesday that credited him for having "reinvented the brand's codes created by (founder) Gabrielle Chanel."

The fashion house's CEO, Alain Wertheimer, said: "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. Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an
extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand."

The announcement of his death came just a month after the man known as the "Kaiser" for his dominance of the industry did not appear at his Paris haute couture week show for Chanel, which he had led since 1983.

The prolific German had left many younger creators in the dust well into his 80s, turning out collections season after season for Fendi and his own label, as well as Chanel — the world's richest brand.

But in recent years Lagerfeld had visibly weakened, even if his extraordinary creative stamina showed little sign of flagging on the catwalk.

Friends had always said that the prolific creator would die with a pencil in his hand, and just last week his own fashion line Karl Lagerfeld was still announcing new design collaborations.

But speculation about his health spiralled last month after he missed the first show of his life, with Chanel executives saying that he "was tired this morning".

Italian designer Donatella Versace led the tributes as news of the Kaiser's death broke.

"Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I," she wrote on Instagram, referring to her murdered brother who founded her brand.

First published on February 19, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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