Karl Lagerfeld’s most powerful quotes on love, life and fashion

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Kayleigh Dray
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“There is no secret to life,” Karl Lagerfeld once said. “The only secret is work. Get your act together, and also, perhaps, have a decent life. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t take drugs. All that helps.”

Karl Lagerfeld, an indisputable fashion icon and creative director at Chanel, has passed away after a period of ill health.

“It is with deep sadness that the House of Chanel announces the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the Creative Director for the Chanel Fashion House since 1983,” read the fashion house’s official statement.

“An extraordinary creative individual, Karl Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the Chanel jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewellery. Regarding Gabrielle Chanel, he said, ‘My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done. The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.’

“A prolific creative mind with endless imagination, Karl Lagerfeld explored many artistic horizons, including photography and short films. The House of CHANEL benefitted from his talent for all the branding campaigns related to Fashion since 1987. Finally, one cannot refer to Karl Lagerfeld without mentioning his innate sense of repartee and self-mockery.”

Alain Wertheimer, CEO of Chanel , has said: “Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of Chanel’s success throughout the world. Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand.”

Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion at Chanel, added: “Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Karl Lagerfeld left his mark on the legend of Gabrielle Chanel and the history of the House of CHANEL. He steadfastly promoted the talent and expertise of CHANEL’s ateliers and Métiers d’Art, allowing this exceptional know-how to shine throughout the world. The greatest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow the path he traced by – to quote Karl – ‘continuing to embrace the present and invent the future’.”

The House of Chanel has confirmed that Virginie Viard, Director of Chanel’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, has been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.

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In January, Lagerfeld missed Chanel’s haute couture show in Paris, fuelling speculation about his health, as it was the first time that the fashion house’s artistic director had failed to take a bow at the end of one of his catwalk shows.

In a statement read out after he missed the second show, it said: “Mr Lagerfeld, artistic director of Chanel, who was feeling tired, asked Virginie Viard, director of the creative studio of the house, to represent him.”

Lagerfeld, who began his career as an assistant to Pierre Balmain in 1955, is arguably one of the world’s most famous fashion creatives. He joined Chanel in 1983 and, in his first season, he was reported to be “working 16 hours a day and delighted to do it”. It was a successful relationship: indeed, Lagerfeld spent a record-breaking 36 years at the house, and it was he who, in the Eighties, integrated the interlocked “CC” monograph of Coco Chanel into a style pattern for the House of Chanel.

Here, we remember some of the award-winning designer’s most profound and iconic quotes on love, life and, above all else, fashion.

On change:

“Change is the healthiest way to survive”

On living in the moment:

“People who say that yesterday was better than today are ultimately devaluing their own existence.”

On reading:

“Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of an overdose. I am the happy victim of books.”

On the classic LBD:

“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.”

On expensive tastes:

“Never use the word ‘cheap’. Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.”

On solitude:

“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.”

On trusting his instincts:

 “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.”

On perfection:

“It’s up to you to make every day as perfect as possible – it’s a question of will and discipline.”

On his work ethic:

“I do my job like I breathe — so if I can’t breathe I’m in trouble.”

On self-sacrifice:

“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.” 

On his ‘boring’ life:

“I am very boring but it has allowed me to survive better than other people. If you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, and you don’t do drugs, and you’re not missing it and never even wanted it, and you sleep for seven hours. I tell you, life is quite pleasant.”

On self-love:

“Don’t look to the approval of others for your mental stability”

On fame:

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

On shopping:

“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.”

On elegance:

“Elegance is an attitude.”

On youth:

“Youthfulness is about how you live, not when you were born.”

On the prospect of retirement:

“Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die and it’ll be all finished.”

On forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is too easy. I can forget by indifference, but not forgive. I prefer revenge.”

On fashion:

“Fashion is a language that creates itself in clothes to interpret reality… it does not have to prove that it is serious. It is the proof that intelligent frivolity can be something creative and positive… [because], like poetry, fashion does not state anything. It merely suggests.”

Image: Dominique Charriau/WireImage/Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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