Five Business Lessons From the House of Chanel

1. Innovation Needs Vision

Coco Chanel brought a new vision of fashion to women. With its boyish qualities, simplicity and clean lines, she forever revolutionized the industry. Can the top 20 executives in your company describe a vision of the company in their own words – without reading from one of those meaningless corporate vision statements?

2 . “Always to remove, and to pluck, never to add”

If there is one key lesson every marketer or designer can learn from Coco Chanel it’s adopting the art of less in a ‘strategic’ fashion that adds to the core by reducing. What five features can you take out of one product to make it simpler and better?

3 . Strive to be an Icon in Your Industry

The opportunity space for tier three and tier four companies are shrinking. It takes an iconic brand to sustain market share and growth. What are you doing that is helping to build the iconic status of your company?

4 . No Successful Innovation or Good Strategy Comes Without Risk

Whenever there is a risk free strategy it’s not a strategy, it’s operations. Chanel made elegant women’s dresses out of the same material used to make men’s underwear, and at a time when women weren’t even supposed to be thinking about men’s underwear. She cut her hair and wore loose clothing when society told her she should wear long hair and tight corsets. She was willing to take the risks she needed to in order to reach the top. What are the top three risks that your company is ready to make to tap into big innovation opportunities?

5 . Inspiration is Everywhere Except Market Research

Coco once attended a masquerade ball dressed as someone from a Watteau painting. The compliments she received from her outfit prompted her to turn it into a woman’s suit. Everything from paintings to men’s clothing to architectural shapes to simple flowers served as her inspiration and somehow came to life in her creations. By looking to the ordinary in order to get ideas, she created the extraordinary. How often do you seek inspiration beyond your familiar safety net?

This article originally appeared in MISC Winter 2013, The Style Issue.

the author

Idris Mootee

Idris Mootee is the publisher and editor-in-chief of MISC and CEO of Idea Couture. See his full bio here.