Death took a toll on our industry in 2019, the designers we lost were separated in age by four decades. Sophia Kokosalaki was 47; Karl Lagerfeld 85. Goodbyes were said to other fashion figures, as well, including Gloria Vanderbilt and Marina Schiano, who set the styles of their times, and to Peter Lindbergh who documented the changing faces and silhouettes of our era. Here, we remember them all.
Joe Casey-Hayford, British Menswear Designer, 62
“Sad news from London that one of the city’s most pioneering menswear designers—and much more else besides—has passed away at the age of 62. Softly spoken, apparently shy, but slyly arch and keenly witty once he warmed up, Casely-Hayford always made light of the challenges he undoubtedly faced as a young black man—and young black designer—growing up in Britain during the 1970s and ’80s.”
Babs Simpson, Former Vogue Editor, 105
“In studio sittings, Simpson would work on her needlework (‘otherwise you’d go crazy with boredom’), while quietly controlling the action. ‘I wanted things to look very sharp and sexy but not obvious,’ she would recall. At the time, Simpson often had a pet bird nestling in her hair….”
Lee Radziwill, Society Fixture, 85
Lee Radziwill, “the younger sister of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis… had been an actress, author, interior designer, PR executive, and tabloid fixation throughout her life—one who palled around with the likes of Truman Capote and Rudolf Nureyev, Peter Beard and Andy Warhol, and even went on tour with The Rolling Stones—though throughout, her particular restrained sense of style was paramount: Hamish Bowles described her in the August 2003 as “the chic, sleek wraith whose fabled wide-eyed prettiness and brisk elegance has defined dynamic American style for decades—and still turns heads.”
Karl Lagerfeld, Prolific Designer and Artist, 85
“I’ve worn Karl’s beautiful clothes during the most important, emotional moments of my life: at my wedding, at my children’s weddings, when I received a damehood from the queen, at Franca Sozzani’s memorial service. Partly it was because of how much I loved his designs, how well they expressed who I was and what I hoped to be. But partly it was because of Karl. Putting on his exquisite dresses or perfect suits made me feel close to him, and secure in crucial moments in the comfort of a friend. What helps me now is knowing I’ll still find him there when he’s gone.” Read more of Anna Wintour’s tribute to her friend here.
Patrick McCarthy, Fairchild Chairman and Editor, 67
Though McCarthy’s deadpan expression revealed little, his work speaks volumes about his capacity to toil, his determination, and also his wiliness. … “I spent five years [in Paris] begging, borrowing, and, only occasionally, stealing.
Cara Croninger, Artwear Jewelry Maker, 80
Raised on a farm in rural Michigan, Croninger liked making things with her hands. After a brief stint as a waitress in New York—she was fired and decided then and there never to punch a clock for anybody again—Croninger started working in leather, crafting obi belts and fringed and painted pouch bags that she sold on the street. A chance meeting with an artist who worked with plastics turned her on to the materials that she would use for the rest of her life: polyester resin and acrylic. Her work managed to look both ancient and futuristic at once.
Gloria Vanderbilt, Designer, Philanthropist, Socialite, 95
Like the true New Yorker she was, Gloria Vanderbilt could say: “I did it my way.” This was a feat truly remarkable considering her heritage—Vanderbilt was born into one of America’s most-storied families—and the upheaval of her early life. After her father’s death in 1926, her custody and control of her trust fund were decided by the court in the “trial of the century.” But following convention was never of interest to Gloria. She was “a spirited and decisive fashion personality,” and clotheshorse.
Isabel Toledo, Designer, 58
Isabel Toledo quickly made a name for herself in fashion circles with her focus on craft. A “designer’s designer,” she rejected themes and far-flung inspirations; instead she let fabric and material guide her, draping in ingenious, elegant ways. “I really love the technique of sewing more than anything else…the seamstress is the one who knows fashion from the inside,” she said in a 1989 interview. “That’s the art form really, not fashion design, but the technique of how it’s done.”
Peter Lindbergh, Photographer and Filmmaker, 74
“How devastating to learn that we have lost Peter, a generous, lovely bear of a man, who as much as any photographer, defined how we see fashion in our modern era,“ Anna Wintour said. “His shoots for Vogue, many with Grace Coddington at his side, are among the most iconic that the magazine has ever produced. What I loved most about his work was how empowering it was, how he believed in evoking strength and self-assuredness in women, and capturing their natural beauty without adornment. There was no one quite like him, and he will be dearly missed.”
Marina Schiano, Fashion Figure, 77
“Marina will forever be linked with Yves Saint Laurent as she was the personification of his modern woman; fiercely independent, a bold businesswoman within a man’s world, and profoundly chic,” says Madison Cox, president of Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent Paris, in a statement. “She moved with élan within the highest levels of the corporate fashion world, only to one day leave it all behind and live simply in Brazil. That in itself takes a courage and intelligence that typified Marina.”
Sophia Kokosalaki, Designer, 47
“Sophia Kokosalaki was…at the leading edge of a different London generation. She was the first designer to emerge from Central Saint Martins who fused a European heritage—classical drapery, Hellenic folk craft—with a minimalist sense of how that could be worn on the street or in a club. In the beginning, her collections were very much in step with Helmut Lang and Nicolas Ghesquière’s early work at Balenciaga while also marching to her own music, the industrial beat of Kraftwerk and Joy Division. Her determination to start up on her own sparked firecrackers of ambition in younger minds. “Watching what Sophia did was mind-blowing to me as a student,” says Kim Jones. “That incredible, elegant warrior-woman thing she did.”
Josephus Thimister, Designer, 57
“The designer Josephus Melchior Thimister, who died at the age of 57 following a long battle with depression, used his subtle talent to define the artful minimalism of ’90s fashion but struggled to find a place in the years that followed. In Vogue’s July 2000 issue, Thimister was heralded as one of 10 members of “The New Guard” alongside such peers as Nicolas Ghesquière, Hedi Slimane, Viktor & Rolf, and Junya Watanabe. “Thimister’s signature look,” wrote Sally Singer, “honed in his couture and ready-to-wear creations, is one of luxurious imperfection, of a grandeur distressed to a wicked grooviness.”
Emanuel Ungaro, Designer, 86
“Despite his commitment to old-fashioned elegance, Emanuel Ungaro had a real feeling for the times in which he lived. When he opened his couture house, in 1965, he refused to show evening dresses, announcing: ‘They are not my style. I am a man of this age and I will design for women of this age.’ ”