A Look Back at Karl Lagerfeld (PHOTOS)

The legendary designer turns 80 on Tuesday. From his early days in costume to recent appearances on the runway, see pictures of Lagerfeld through the years. 

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AP; Corbis; Getty

He's the king, he's "the kaiser," and to some he may even be like the pope, but however you choose to see him, it's undeniable that Karl Lagerfeld has a hold over the fashion industry. (Even his cat is famous.) The son of a German condensed-milk salesman, Lagerfeld made a name for himself in the fashion world at age 20 when he was hired as Pierre Balmain's assistant. He's since changed his name twice, (his actual name is Karl Lagerfeldt, but he dropped the "t," because without it, his name sounded "more commercial") and designed for brands like Chloé, Fendi, and, of course, Chanel, which he joined in 1983. His designs may be influential, but his own sartorial choices are just as legendary. In honor of Karl's 80th birthday, we've culled some of his best looks through the years. 


Black Beard

In the 1970s, Karl Lagerfeld sported a thick black beard (which at the time was very appropriate), but he's been clean-shaven ever since. 


Belle of the Ball

Lagerfeld, dressed here in a dapper dandy costume, poses with Princess Soraya at the Venetian Ball at the Palace in Paris on October 26, 1978.

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Signature Sunglasses

Lagerfeld wears his signature sunglasses as he fits one of his designs on top model Inès de la Fressange at Chloé's Paris studio on April 11, 1983. We haven't seen his eyes since. 

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Don't Mess

Karl Lagerfeld at his well-accessorized desk in 1985.

Laszlo Veres/Corbis

Model Citizen

Lagerfeld poses with Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, and Cindy Crawford at the showing of Chanel's spring-summer haute couture collection in 1993. At the time Lagerfeld was going through a brief obsession with fans as an accessory.

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Large and In Charge

Karl Lagerfeld's fan-accessory phase in the early 1990s conicided with his somewhat heavy phase. Since he's shed the pounds, he's become known for his outrageous comments about weight. "No one wants to see curvy women up there," he has said about fashion. "You've got fat mothers sitting in front of the television with their bags of chips and saying thin models are ugly. Fashion is about dreams and illusions."

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Karl sends kisses to the audience at the end of his fall 2001–02 haute couture show on July 9, 2001.

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Casual Denim

Lagerfeld goes surprisingly casual with jeans at the Vive la Fête party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York City on June 4, 2002.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Chain Gang

Lagerfeld dangles chains from his belt at the Rose Ball at the Grimaldi Forum on March 19, 2005, in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

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Now defining his signature style, Largerfeld poses in a pinstripe suit with artist Loris Cecchini at the Fendi Party celebrating the Loris Cecchini Empty Walls: Just Doors exhibition at the Palais du Tokyo in Paris in January 2006. 

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty


Are those Ugg boots we see? Lagerfeld is all smiles as he walks the catwalk with one of his models during the Chanel fashion show at the Grand Palais in Paris in January 2006.

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Glove Love

Leather gloves are obviously one of his fashion staples. 

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Shimmering Silver

Lagerfeld attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala in New York on May 5, 2008, wearing a shimmering silver jacket. 

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Blue Valentine

Lagerfeld in a blue velvet blazer to the Hotel Excelsior on May 14, 2009, in Venice.

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Karl Who?

Lagerfeld's friends aren't afraid to boast their high-profile acquaintance as they walk the streets of St-Tropez on the French Riviera in 2009. 

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Going Gray

Lagerfeld whispers to friend Anna Wintour at the FIT Couture Council's annual luncheon at Avery Fisher Hall on September 10, 2010.

Larry Busacca/Getty

Party Prints

To keep up with his bombshell date Blake Lively, Lagerfeld wore a floral-print jacked to the Costume Institute Gala on May 2, 2011, in New York.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Parisian Plaid

Lagerfeld arrives at the Chanel 2012–13 Cruise Collection at Versailles on May 14, 2012, proudly wearing plaid. 

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Bow Down

Lagerfeld takes a bow July 2 in Paris following the presentation of the haute couture Fall/Winter 2013–14 collection he designed for Chanel.