WeTransfer believes creative thinking has the power to change the world. So every year, we pay tribute to the creative minds we've lost whose lives and work changed the way we think, the way we see and the way we understand.
Anyone from the team can nominate a figure we should pay tribute to, and our supertalented community of artists do the rest.
Karl Lagerfeld by Kenzi Inouye
Not many people change the fashion world, but Karl Lagerfeld certainly did (he also gave us the confidence to wear sunglasses inside, all day, every day).
After freelancing for Chloé and Valentino in his early career, in 1967 he was hired by Fendi, then in 1983 he became the creative director of Chanel and he built his own clothing brand too, shaping how we dress for more than 50 years.
His legacy is certainly complicated by his outdated views about plus-size models and the #MeToo movement, and we shouldn’t shy away from remembering him as a flawed but hugely influential creative.
As Harriet Hall, lifestyle editor of The Independent, said, “Karl Lagerfeld sensed the socio-political mood and translated this into high fashion that celebrated women in a continuation of Coco Chanel's own work, but that's not to say we should forget his contrarian comments... and paint him as a perfect genius.”
Kenzi Inouye pays tribute to Karl Lagerfeld.
Professor Stephen Hawking by Laszlito Kovacs
When it comes to changing the way we see the world, few people had more impact than Professor Stephen Hawking. The theoretical physicist, cosmologist and writer grappled with the biggest questions we ask of the universe, but was able to translate his thinking into bestselling books enjoyed by millions of people.
Our creative director Laszlito Kovacs created our tribute to one of the best minds of his generattion.
Aretha Franklin by Shyama Golden
Aretha Franklin was so much more than a musician. The Queen of Soul used her talent and the standing it secured to fight for what she believed in. But at the depth of everything was her extraordinary, superhuman skill.
Billy Preston put it perfectly in this excellent New Yorker profile. "I don’t care what they say about Aretha. She can be hiding out in her house in Detroit for years. She can go decades without taking a plane or flying off to Europe. She can cancel half her gigs and infuriate every producer and promoter in the country.
"She can sing all kinds of jive-ass songs that are beneath her. She can go into her diva act and turn off the world. But on any given night, when that lady sits down at the piano and gets her body and soul all over some righteous song, she’ll scare the shit out of you. And you’ll know—you’ll swear—that she’s still the best fuckin’ singer this fucked-up country has ever produced.”
Artist Shyama Golden created this wonderful portrait of the young Aretha, and captured the inner spark that captivated the world down the decades.
Sridevi by Priyanka Paul
With a career spanning five decades, having played her first film role at just four, Sridevi was the female face of Indian cinema. In an industry that was – and to a great extent still is – male-dominated, Sridevi smashed through the glass ceiling to reach the stage where entire films were written solely for her.
Her versatility has been lauded, as she captivated audiences with roles varying from comedy to heartbreak, from drama to dance, and she had a monumental impact on aspiring young artists.
Fellow Indian actress Priyanka Chopra summed up her significance poignantly in her heartfelt tribute. “Everyone wanted her and wanted to be like her. She could be childlike, grown up, funny, serious, beguiling, sexy—she was the ultimate actor. She was my childhood, and one of the big reasons I became an actor”.
In this illustration, Priyanka Paul captures the many faces of an actress who enchanted a nation for nearly half a century.
Mac Miller by Richard A Chance
Mac Miller released his first mixtape at 15, and his first album just four years later. This early work showed only glimpses of his true ability, and by the time he released his fifth and final album at 26, he’d rapidly matured as an artist. He’d become more introspective and honest as he went along, wearing his emotion on his sleeve with lyrics unpicking his struggles with addiction, depression and being in the public eye.
After his death, the internet was flooded with passionate, moving eulogies, but the one that stands out is Doreen St. Félix’s piece for The New Yorker which focuses on his overt human kindness.
“He was known to secretly foot bills, to grant interview requests to cub reporters with fake press passes, and to generally crowd those around him with genuine concern and friendliness,” she writes. “It is a tragedy that Miller won’t get to keep growing.”
Richard A Chance’s illustration captures Mac like a prince, a fitting tribute to a rapper who was part of the 21st Century’s hip-hop royalty.
Stan Lee by Brian Elstak
Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk. Such extraordinary characters must have been born in an extraordinary mind, and Stan Lee never did things by the book.
He started from the bottom as an assistant at Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics), but his talent shone through. Two years later, aged just 18, he was made interim editor-in-chief, and would hold the position down until he became a publisher 30 years later.
He continued this habit of breaking the mould when he was asked by then publisher Martin Goodman to come up with a new team of superheroes. Up to that point, heroes were written as perfect, idealistic characters. The ones created and co-created by Stan Lee were imperfect.
The Fantastic Four, for example, argued amongst themselves and held grudges, and chose anonymity over fame. Stan Lee made superheroes sad and angry. He gave them a complicated past, and he gave them flaws. He brought them closer to humanity.
Jim Steranko, renowned comic book writer and artist, put Lee’s contribution to the industry into his own sincere words. "Stan added a DYNAMIC THIRD DIMENSION to standard two-dimension characters—and blazed a precedent-smashing path into other mediums like no one had done before him.”
The number of cameo appearances he made in Marvel films underlines just how keen everyone was to have him involved in any way. It was always surreal to see him pop up as a postman, a security guard, a hapless civilian, as he was a man who was so far from the everyday himself. It’s not these bit-part roles that will keep his legacy alive though, but the complex and layered characters he created in the Marvel Universe.
Here, Marvel superfan Brian Elstak captures Stan's iconic features.
Kate Spade by Jessica Rose Bird
When Kate Spade left women’s magazine Mademoiselle in 1991, she saw that there was a need for handbags that were both functional and stylish. And so, Kate Spade New York was born.
Kate’s iconic designs allowed younger women and teenagers to feel fashionable for well below a handbag’s normal asking price. The bags are colorful and bold yet sleek and elegant, meaning they are louder and more expressive than the typical bags by Burberry and the like, yet still manage to look mature. Actress Olivia Munn commented on this feeling of maturity, writing that “it’s funny how a purse can instantly make you feel like an adult.”
Actress Bryce Howard, who has previously modelled for the Kate Spade brand, made this heartfelt tribute to the designer’s impact. “From quirky prints to ladylike cuts and everything in between, she designed with playful sophistication for every woman and girl. She made fashion fun and empowering and full of personality.”
Here, Jessica Rose Bird captures Kate Spade.