Éric Pfrunder, Karl Lagerfeld’s Photography Wingman, Dies at 74

Éric Pfrunder, Karl Lagerfeld’s Photography Wingman, Dies at 74


Éric Pfrunder, one of Karl Lagerfeld’s closest creative associates with his varied photography projects, died Monday in a Paris hospital at age 74 after a long illness, his son Jasper confirmed to WWD.

Services are being scheduled for Friday.

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Pfrunder was Chanel’s director of image for three decades, and remained as artistic director of fashion image for a brief period following Lagerfeld’s death in February 2019.

“A man of conviction and loyalty, a passionate worker, ‘vorarbeiter’ as Karl Lagerfeld affectionately called him, Eric tirelessly devoted his exceptional eye and vision to the excellence of Chanel, generously sharing his knowledge and insights with the image team and more broadly, the fashion division,” Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion, said in a statement shared with WWD. “His contribution to Chanel is immense. We offer our most sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

Lagerfeld frequently said he had three key accomplices at the Chanel fashion house: Pfrunder, Pavlovsky and Virginie Viard, his longtime studio director, who would succeed the designer as creative director.

Indeed, it was Pfrunder who first suggested that Lagerfeld try his hand at photography.

Back in 1987, Lagerfeld expressed frustration with the images done for press kits at Chanel and so Pfrunder, flummoxed, suggested that Lagerfeld do them himself. It wasn’t long before Lagerfeld was shooting fashion spreads for French Vogue, and later campaigns for all the brands he touched, including Chanel, Fendi and the Karl Lagerfeld brands.

Pfrunder worked at Chanel’s fashion division from 1983 until 2019 on image creation. On Tuesday, Pavlovsky described him as “an essential and active part of the creative trio” he formed with Lagerfeld and Viard, thereby “establishing Chanel as the ultimate luxury fashion house.”

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Karl Lagerfeld; Princess Caroline of Hanover and Éric Pfrunder.

Indeed, Pfrunder was forever at Lagerfeld’s elbow as the indefatigable German designer produced countless books, catalogues and advertising campaigns, in addition to couture and ready-to-wear collections.

Outside advertising clients included Dior Homme, Dom Pérignon, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Pirelli, while the duo produced editorial shoots for scores of fashion magazines, including English and American Vogues, Harper’s Bazaar, Paris Match, V Magazine and Numéro.

The studio welcomed a host of models, Hollywood stars and European royalty, and Lagerfeld and Pfrunder would often set up impromptu photo studios at Chanel’s roving fashion events.

Born in Algeria, Pfrunder moved to France at age 13. Like Lagerfeld, he was a self-taught photographer and also ran a communications agency.

A tall, elegant man who shared Lagerfeld’s penchant for sharply tailored jackets, heeled boots and high-collared shirts, which he wore unbuttoned, Pfrunder largely flew under the media radar, and was in his element at the designer’s photo studio behind the 7L bookstore on the Rue de Lille.

Among his projects after leaving Chanel, delayed by illness, were to digitize Lagerfeld’s vast photo archive, and publish a book, his son Jasper said.

Pfrunder is also survived by his wife, Karen, and daughters Tess and Candice.

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