Three Life And Business Lessons From The Late Karl Lagerfeld

"When people want to be liked for what they did, they should stop.” This and other life and business lessons from the late Karl Lagerfeld.

One of the world’s most iconic fashion designers, Karl Lagerfeld died Tuesday in Paris. He was 85. “I am very much down to Earth. Just not this earth,” Lagerfeld once quipped. A statement that embodied a perspective which led the designer to make an indelible impact on the fashion world.

Lagerfeld created collections simultaneously for the well-known houses of Chanel and Fendi, in addition to his signature label, at a swiftness without rival in the fashion industry. Over the years, he became a “cult figure in the fashion world and a veritable pop icon,” Philip Utz recalls in Numero magazine.

Here’s a look at three life and business lessons any entrepreneur can learn from Lagerfeld’s’ seven-decade career as “fashion’s ultimate free agent”:


1. Let your passions deeply inform your life and work

In his personal life, Lagerfeld was “surrounded everywhere by books, the result of a mania for print and paper that he says, ‘started the day I could read and got worse and worse,'” in an interview with Art Review. At one point in time, the German designer estimated “his personal library to… number some 300,000 volumes, most of which are books on art and photography.”

“I think that it’s very important to be totally informed, to absorb literally everything that is interesting that is going on in the art world of today and the past,” he stated.

Source: The House of KARL LAGERFELD

Lagerfeld, like many successful creatives, found it necessary to invest where it often counts most––the mind.

When you invest in your mind, arguably the best investment you can make, you become more knowledgeable, well-rounded, and thoughtful about life and your work. As a result, your passions, purpose, the world at large and your place in it begin to take shape.

Whether you download the latest audiobook, add to your art collection, spend time outdoors, attend local events, invest time mentoring others, or travel the world––make room for your gifts and they will make room for you in the world.


2. Creativity doesn’t need outside approval

As entrepreneurs, we rarely build ideas to satisfy a need to be liked for doing it. If you want to build things that last, the need for approval has to take a back seat. Better yet, throw it out the window.

“When people want to be liked for what they did, they should stop.”Karl Lagerfeld

When you seek approval from others to create it is like handing over the steering wheel to a back seat passenger. Sure they might steer for a while, but a full-stop or havoc in your wake is bound to ensue. Lagerfeld, like many creatives and successful people, understood this. If you’re doing what you do for likes, you’re playing the wrong game.

Entrepreneurs shouldn’t underestimate the importance of self-awareness. When you lose awareness of what’s important to you, what drives you, and what adds to your overall fulfillment, you look elsewhere–in all the wrong places.

Instead, ask yourself:

  • What do I value?
  • What do I believe?
  • How does it impact my worldview?
  • How does this reflect where I spend my time?
  • How does this impact what I decide to create?

As a result, listening to what you truly want for your life will prompt you to align your actions with your values, your principles, and your goals. When you live aligned with what you value, life and business become much more effortless.

When you stop seeking approval from others, you thrive. Your ideas take on a new life and freedom that was once choked out by anxious fears and self-doubt. Try it. It’s liberating. And you certainly don’t need my approval.


3. Reinvent yourself and keep moving

Reinvention is often associated with imaginative forward-thinking and motion. For Lagerfeld, they were one in the same.

“As far as I’m concerned, I am obliged to constantly reinvent myself by going from one house to the next, which is what also allows me to see what’s happening next door. I’m constantly moving, which stops me from navel-gazing all day and becoming fossilized. Which suits me just fine, because otherwise, I get bored,” Lagerfeld said.

Source: The House of KARL LAGERFELD

For entrepreneurs that find themselves feeling stuck, bored or lacking the passion that once fueled them – renewal is often one reinvention, one project, or one next right move ahead. Don’t miss your future.

“I like to reinvent myself — it’s part of my job.”Karl Lagerfeld

In reality, “Change can be difficult, uncomfortable, and frightening. But sooner or later, most of us will have to reinvent ourselves (or risk getting left behind),” according to Paul G. Krasnow, author of The Success Code: A Guide for Achieving Your Personal Best in Business and Life.

The legendary designer built a career committed to change and reinvention despite the difficulties. “I am never happy with myself. I have to give myself a kick up the behind to go forward…”

“We all know that change is not the most comfortable part of our lives,” according to Krasnow. “But know that the process of transformation is a gratifying experience, providing you find the courage to do it. You can adapt. You can take a new path in your life. And you will undoubtedly be better for it in the long run.”

Reinvention is a daunting decision, but a quality one nonetheless. It may take a swift kick to move forward, although once you do, it becomes a way of life and business.

As a result, you’ll create and live with more intention. Something we all should strive for.


“He was one of the most influential and celebrated designers of the 21st century and an iconic, universal symbol of style. Driven by a phenomenal sense of creativity, Karl was passionate, powerful and intensely curious. He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as one of the greatest designers of our time, and there are no words to express how much he will be missed.” –– The House of KARL LAGERFELD


© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.


In this article