The woman who created the empire that bears her name would be smugly approving that 40 years after her death, she’s still one of the most recognized names in fashion.
It’s a stunning success story for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that she started with nothing, and built her business during a time when women were second class citizens.
Her skill at making extraordinary clothes was eclipsed only by her genius at marketing them. Her clothes are expensive, her keys to success are priceless.
She was tenacious. She was raised in an orphanage, and in her teens pursued a career as a café singer. She sewed to support herself. It was a beginning from which she bootstrapped herself using every available opportunity.
She believed in herself. She was stubborn, cantankerous, and emphatic to a fault. These traits along with her unwavering self-confidence made everyone else to believe in her too. If you want others to believe in you, first you have to believe in yourself. It works both for good and evil if you consider Mother Teresa and Bernie Madoff.
She defined her niche. When she began her fashion career, women were weighed down by elaborate hats that looked like wedding cakes. She recognized the time was ripe for a fashion revolution, and introduced a simple straw boater with a single black ribbon. Then she identified and marketed to the taste-makers.
She exploited opportunities (and connections). These taste-makers became her most loyal patrons. They happened to be the stylish socially connected mistresses of her wealthy lovers and their friends. Every connection is an opportunity if you figure out how to use it.
She continually refined her vision. She was inspired by simplicity. Her clothing was adapted from nuns who raised her, horsemen she rode with, war time sailors, and wealthy lovers. Once you know this, it’s easy to see how purity, restraint, and menswear influenced everything she designed.
She stuck to her mission. Her impeccable adherence to simplicity was revolutionary. She freed women from confining corsets, and gave them clothes in which they could breathe, raise their arms, and walk in without fainting.
All success starts with the motivation to make an idea work. Read more…