Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld after Chanel's Fall-Winter collection in Paris on March 7, 2017. Photo: AFP/Patrick Kovarik

Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy lives on.

In February, the legendary fashion designer died of cancer after a glittering career. But during his last year in charge of Chanel, the iconic French brand topped more than US$11 billion in sales.

It was a remarkable final bow from the man known as the “Kaiser,” because of his German heritage and his personification of style.

“Fashion is a language that creates itself in clothes to interpret reality,” he was fond of saying.

For Chanel, he was like a breath of fresh air with his trademark approach for classic lines.

But then, the Lagerfeld “touch” was there for all to see.

On Monday, the Paris-based label reported that sales jumped by nearly 10% in 2018.

Growth was fuelled by increased demand from customers in the Asia Pacific region. Sales there hit $4.73 billion, an increase of 20% compared to the same period last year.

Asia is now the most valuable region by revenue for Chanel, eclipsing Europe, where sales reached $4.28 billion, a rise of 7.8%.

Detailed numbers

“These numbers talk and tell you everything you need to know, which is that we have a strong balance sheet, extremely strong sales growth across all regions and product categories, and continue to work extremely well as a private company,” Philippe Blondiaux, the chief financial officer at Chanel, said.

The decision to release detailed numbers by the notoriously secretive owners of the brand, the Wertheimer family, was remarkable in itself.

Indeed, this was only the second time in the company’s 109-year history that an account of the business was published.

Still, rumors persist that a takeover for Chanel is on the horizon even though Blondiaux has categorically denied this.

“The work we are doing and investments we are making are all geared toward maintaining the independence of Chanel for centuries to come,” he said.

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“Would a company preparing itself for a sale invest more than $1 billion in 12 months in sustaining creativity and innovation? Or increase its headcount by 14%? No,” Blondiaux added.

The results were released just before men’s fashion week in Paris, where a special event will honor Lagerfeld in the city’s vast Grand Palais, the scene of some of his greatest catwalk triumphs.

“Karl For Ever” is being organized by Chanel, Fendi and his namesake label Karl Lagerfeld. It will be staged by Robert Carsen, the Canadian-born opera and theater director.

The 90-minute celebration will involve live performances from various celebrities who loved the fashion king’s creations and they will include Pharrell Williams, Tilda Swinton, Helen Mirren and Cara Delevingne.

Part of the tribute will be 56 towering portraits of Lagerfeld.

Favorite character

Swinton will also read an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. She portrayed Orlando, who was the designer’s favorite character in fiction, in Sally Potter’s cult 1992 film.

“I wanted to celebrate him in the fullest way possible,” Carsen said.

Overshadowed by the Lagerfeld tribute was the news that Carol Lim and Humberto Leon will be leaving Kenzo, another major French brand.

The two Asian-Americans have led the label founded by Japanese-born creator Kenzo Takada for the past eight years.

Korean-American Lim and Leon, whose mother was Chinese seamstress, will stage their final show for Kenzo during men’s fashion week.

“[They] revitalized [the label] with a series of bold creative ideas that have reverberated throughout the fashion industry,” Kenzo CEO Sylvie Colin said.

“[They] consistently brought diversity and inclusion to the forefront, using their collections, fashion shows, advertising and special projects to engage and galvanize a new generation of creatives.”

– additional reporting AFP

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