For much of his early career, Karl Lagerfeld was a fashion mercenary. After placing second to Yves Saint Laurent in a dress-design competition at age 17, he freelanced for the world's top fashion houses, including Krizia, Valentino, Chloe, Repetto, Curiel and Fendi. In 1983 he took on his greatest assignment: restoring the House of Chanel to its former glory 12 years after Coco's death. Initially he did so by treating it with irreverence, adding chains and strips of leather to Chanel's classic suit, and later by delivering dazzling and over-the-top couture. Along the way he expanded its iconic perfume business, moved into watches and helped transform Chanel into one of the world's most profitable luxury brands, with revenues estimated to exceed $4 billion a year. Lagerfeld who also oversees Fendi and his own eponymous label has a habit of throwing away his sketches and photographs. "I am supposed to do. I'm not supposed to remember," he said in 2007. Given the boldness of his designs, the fashion world remembers for him.
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