Karl Lagerfeld, the legendary the creative director, fashion designer, photographer, and artist, died yesterday at the age of 85. Lagerfeld was the creative director of Chanel since 1983, a tenure virtually unmatched in fashion houses. He also was the creative director of fur and ready-to-wear at Fendi, and had his own fashion label. A voracious reader and book collector, he owned a book store and had a publishing imprint. As well, he was a caricaturist, photographer, directed films, and designed homes.
Even if you don’t follow the world of high fashion, you’ve likely felt the impact of Lagerfeld’s work. His work at Chanel and Fendi created trends that trickled down to the mass market in fashion. And in his other creative endeavors — from fashion shows to photography to caricatures to book publishing — we find inspiration and lessons on creativity and productivity.
When Lagerfeld took the helm at Chanel in the 1980s, it was considered a “near-dead brand,” having fallen from stature in the decade following the death of Coco Chanel. Lagerfeld brought the company back to life, helping it regain its status at the top of the fashion pyramid.
Lagerfeld produced at an astounding pace and volume. He created 6 fashion lines a year for Chanel alone, produced legendary fashion shows, and developed a career as a commercial photographer, which allowed him to shoot his own advertising campaigns.
For any creative person who is sick and tired of hearing exhortations to “pick a lane” and “choose one thing,” Lagerfeld is an inspiration and a role model.
Like many creative entrepreneurs and artists, one of Lagerfeld’s secrets was that he embraced change. “What I love best in life is new starts,” he once said.
This legendary creative force and visionary leader offered both inspiration and wisdom.
Here are some of my favorites:
Clear thinking at the wrong moment can stifle creativity. — Karl Lagerfeld
Absurdity and anti—absurdity are the two poles of creative energy. — Karl Lagerfeld
Reinvent new combinations of what you already own. Improvise. Become more creative. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Evolution is the secret for the next step. — Karl Lagerfeld
Fashion does not have to prove that it is serious. It is the proof that intelligent frivolity can be something creative and positive. — Karl Lagerfeld
Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you. — Karl Lagerfeld
People who do a job that claims to be creative have to be alone to recharge their batteries. You can’t live 24 hours a day in the spotlight and remain creative. For people like me, solitude is a victory. — Karl Lagerfeld
What I love best in life is new starts. — Karl Lagerfeld
Change is the healthiest way to survive. — Karl Lagerfeld
I like to reinvent myself — it’s part of my job. — Karl Lagerfeld
Evolution is the secret for the next step. — Karl Lagerfeld
I am a fashion person, and fashion is not only about clothes – it’s about all kinds of change. — Karl Lagerfeld
Keep the best, forget the rest. — Karl Lagerfeld
When things become too popular they are fading away for something else. — Karl Lagerfeld
On Seeking Approval
Don’t look to the approval of others for your mental stability. — Karl Lagerfeld
When people want to be liked for what they did, they should stop. — Karl Lagerfeld
On Making the Most of Life
It’s up to you to make every day as perfect as possible – it’s a question of will and discipline. — Karl Lagerfeld
When people talk about the good old days, I say to people, ‘It’s not the days that are old, it’s you that’s old.’ I hate the good old days. What is important is that today is good. — Karl Lagerfeld
Youthfulness is about how you live, not when you were born. — Karl Lagerfeld
On Valuing Yourself
People who say that yesterday was better than today are ultimately devaluing their own existence. — Karl Lagerfeld
Guilty feelings about clothes are totally unnecessary. A lot of people earn their living by making clothes, so you should never feel bad. — Karl Lagerfeld
Be proud of yourself. — Karl Lagerfeld
On Knowing Yourself
Personality begins where comparison ends. — Karl Lagerfeld
I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth. — Karl Lagerfeld
I don’t know what normal means anyway. — Karl Lagerfeld
Beauty with character ages better than perfection. — Karl Lagerfeld
I don’t like standard beauty – there is no beauty without strangeness. — Karl Lagerfeld
A respectable appearance is sufficient to make people more interested in your soul. — Karl Lagerfeld
On Trusting Yourself
I don’t do anything out of duty and I have absolutely no sense of what it means. — Karl Lagerfeld
When I did H&M everyone said don’t do it and it worked. When I took over Chanel everyone said to me don’t do it, it’s dead, it doesn’t work, it worked. So I better not listen to people and follow my instincts. — Karl Lagerfeld
I’m not a marketing person. I don’t ask myself questions. I go by instinct. — Karl Lagerfeld