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‘If you can learn to write, you can learn to sketch’: Lagerfeld’s legacy of pragmatism and creativity

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli

Karl Lagerfeld, fashion designer and creative director of the House of Chanel – among other luxury brands – died in Paris on Tuesday.


Girish and Jaidev Reddy Professor of the Practice

Mukti Khaire

Girish and Jaidev Reddy Professor of the Practice

Mukti Khaire, studies the business of creative industries, including fashion at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business and Cornell Tech. Her book “Culture and Commerce: The Value of Entrepreneurship in Creative Industries” details the ways artistic worth is converted to economic value. Khaire, who interviewed Karl Lagerfeld as background for a case study titled: “Coco Chanel: Creating Fashion for the Modern Woman,” says Lagerfeld was wildly creative but also understood business.

Khaire says:

“‘If you can learn to write, you can learn to sketch’ said Karl Lagerfeld to me in response to my admitting I couldn’t draw to save my life, when I interviewed him for a teaching case on the Chanel. I laughed it off then, but have thought of his assertion many times since and especially today, when I read of his passing.

“While the statement can be glibly classified as ‘one of those things very talented people say,’ I have now come to see it as emblematic of Lagerfeld’s unique mix of pragmatism (alluding to an everyday thing like handwriting) and creativity. This attitude was what made him successful in his career - while being wildly creative (the word ‘iconoclastic’ was often used to describe him) he singularly understood the business of fashion, never lost sight of the fact that his designs had to appeal to the women who bought them, and this, ironically gave him immense creative freedom within the House of Chanel.”


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