Why do you need to know who Karl Lagerfeld was?

Karl Lagerfeld

The answer is – you do not. There are so many famous and successful people in the world, you cannot know all of them. Moreover, Karl Lagerfeld died three years ago in February 2019 aged 85. So, why on earth would you be interested in this “fashion dinosaur”?

The real trigger of this subject was my recent conversation with one of my best friends who honestly asked me who Karl Lagerfeld was. I could not believe she did not know him and confidently sent her a picture of him on WhatsUp in the full confidence that she would recognise him. Still no recognition, even worse – she found his image quite scary.

So where is the middle ground between these two opposite views – my admiration of Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy and my friend’s unawareness and even a little resistance to learn more about him. The happy-medium for me is the belief that the creative people who have influenced the world in some way can give us daily inspiration and motivation. We may discover something of us in them or we may want to try to adopt some of their ideas or practices. Curiosity can lead to miracles.

Karl Lagerfeld and success

Karl Lagerfeld was a creative director of the fashion house Chanel for more than 35 years – from 1983 till his death in 2019. The Chanel label is unique. It is a symbol of France, of French style, vitality and elegance. It was established by Coco Chanel in 1910 when she opened her first shop in Paris selling hats. Coco Chanel revolutionised women’s fashion by giving women freedom to wear what they wanted. Probably you have heard of the perfume Chanel No5, the skirt-suits, the little black dress, black-toe-capped ballerina flats and introducing pants to women’s outfits – all these were inventions of Coco Chanel.

However, when Chanel recruited Karl Lagerfeld as a creative director in the early 80s it was very far from its days of glory. Coco Chanel died a decade before and the label had lost its charm and sexy allure. It was thought as “a nearly dead brand”. Karl Lagerfeld recounted in his witty way: “When I took on Chanel, it was a sleeping beauty. Not even a beautiful one. She snored. So I was to revive a dead woman”.

He not only resuscitated Chanel but recreated its image of a highly recognisable brand but a younger and happier brand with modern aura. Karl Lagerfeld’s tenure in Chanel was the longest and the most successful in the history of the fashion house. Chanel earned much more money during Karl Lagerfeld’s reign than under Coco Chanel’s leadership.

How did he do that? He never invented any new style like his colleagues in Dior. He was not a Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk of the fashion industry. Here is my explanation of his success and my inspiration:

1. Courage to disturb the status-quo

When Karl Lagerfeld took on Chanel, there was so much admiration of the heritage of Chanel that the brand had become stuck in the past. Only mature ladies were seeking to buy skirt-suits. Karl Lagerfeld was appreciative of the Coco Chanel’s legacy but at the same time “irreverent”. He took on the challenge to “turn Coco Chanel in her grave” in order to rejuvenate her brand. He cleaned the cobwebs off the fashion house and transformed it into the symbol of elegance and class in the modern world. In his own worlds “ Chanel is an institution and you have to treat an institution like a whore – and then you get something out of her”.

I have learnt from Karl Lagerfeld that if my projects and ideas challenge some of the established views not to be afraid to find a way to implement or achieve them.

2. “Reinvent new combinations of what you already own. Be creative”

As I mentioned above Karl Lagerfeld did not invent anything new but his great talent was in creating something by regenerating, remodelling what already existed. He said: “For me, Chanel is like music. There are certain notes and you have to make another tune with them”. He mixed up the prominent Chanel ribbons, pearls, suits and bows in his new, creative way. For example, in the 80s he used the logo of the fashion house CC to create the famous CC interlocked monogram that we all are familiar with.

For him modern was “everyone to wear what they want and mix it in their own way”. He was probably the first fashion designer to create a branded fashion line for millennials. In 2004 he collaborated with H&M and produced a collection of 30 pieces that was immediately sold out. Karl represented creativity – tradition and challenge. His fashion style involved regularly updating his fashion laptop – with a newer and better version. His credo was if you are in fashion you have to be up to date with what is going in the world.
I like watching the livestreams and videos of Trinny Woodall. In her unique style she teaches her audience how to use/combine the existing clothes in their wardrobe to create a modern, updated outfit. Inspiration and excitement can come from a new way of using or mixing things.

3. Magic follows hard work

Karl Lagerfeld continued working into his 80s, designing an average of 14 collections per year. He said: ”I like the idea of craziness with discipline”. The success of Karl Lagerfeld was not a good luck or a stroke of fate. It was underpinned by hard work. He worked diligently for his success. Karl Lagerfeld was a creative director of Chanel and the Italian brand Fendi, he worked with Diesel, Chloe, Valentino, H&M and Tommy Hilfiger. He was a skilled photographer and caricaturist. He wrote books and was the owner of a bookshop, Studio 7L. He was a costume designer for opera, theatre, ballet, including the La Scala in Milano and the Monte Carlo Ballet. In 1984 he established his own brand Karl Lagerfeld which was described as “intellectual sexiness”.

If you want to have something from his eponymous brand why not try his eau de perfume, “Flour de Murier”. It is a great example of the “intellectually sexy scent” and interestingly, my friend who has never heard of Karl Lagerfeld loves the perfume.

4. Be aware of your main purpose – why you do what you do

During Karl Lagerfeld’s era many fashion designers preferred to be seen as artists as that helped to increase their sense of importance. The emblematic fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld responded: “They are there to sell handbags and their contracts would be torn up if sales failed to satisfy the shareholders. Luxury is first and foremost a business.” And further : ”I am very much down to earth.”

For me, Karl Lagerfeld confirmed one of the main requisites for success – clear knowledge of the purpose of your actions. If you go to a job interview – know your purpose, know why you are there – to get the job, to gain an experience, to learn more about the company, etc, and act in line with your purpose. If you organise a meeting – be clear about what you want to achieve at the end of the meeting. If you give a presentation – what message do you want to convey to your audience. It still surprises me how many people execute important actions without any idea or a very vague idea of what they want to get from them. As Karl Lagerfeld used to say: “I only go to places if I have a professional reason. I am not a tourist.”


Laughter is free medicine

Picture of Charlie Chaplin

This post continues the theme of the “happy”chemical serotonin and is focused on non pharmaceutical methods to increase the level of serotonin in the body.

The human body is very capable of regulating itself and achieving and maintaining a healthy chemical balance. So, if you do not feel the symptoms of depression and anxiety and your mood is good, carry on with what you are doing – you are great. However, after two years of the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and the current increases in the cost of living, the pursuit of happiness is a factor which protects against mental and physical health problems. It focusses our attention on what we should do to ensure good mood and positive emotions in our daily lives. Remember, several studies have reported that low mood is linked to a low level of serotonin and positive mood is associated with higher serotonin in the body.

There are 4 widely accepted protocols to elevate the amount of serotonin in the body. These measures are simple and available for everyone. I have adopted these protocols and continue using them in my daily life but I tailored them to myself. So, nothing is written in stone and a flexible approach is probably better – just try and implement the ones that suit you. Exactly, as the astrologists on the YouTube channels say: “ The reading is general, take what resonates to you and leave the rest.”

Firstly, there is a theory that the connection between serotonin and happiness is two-fold. On the one hand, the higher level of serotonin may cause positive moods and happiness, on the other hand, positive minds may help the level of serotonin to grow. Following from that, self-induced changes in the mood can impact on the amount of serotonin in the body. There are many possibilities for this but personally I would suggest to practice meditation.

Many people will say immediately: “Oh, I tried that, it is not for me!” Yes, maybe you are right – meditation is not for you. However, there are some common reasons why people do not like meditation:

  • a popular image of meditation is a person in the lotus pose with hands on knees and closed eyes. For many people that is an awkward and difficult position that will never lead to calmness and positivity but will cause pain.
  • many people do not know how to meditate or if they know they are not sure they do it right
  • meditation takes time
  • there are different styles of meditation
  • people can become addicted to stress and adrenaline and do not want/or are not able to slow down.
  • some meditation classes are very expensive
  • stories about sexual abuse from meditation gurus.

If your reason for not practicing meditation is one of the aforementioned perhaps you will give it another go. I started practicing meditation after conducting my own research. I adopted a style that is suitable for me. The result – meditation is an irreplaceable part of my daily routine. I intend to write several posts on the subject of meditation and may be you can find something useful.

Secondly, sunlight! We all know that the lack of sun and bright light is the cause of seasonal depression. Interestingly, the science has discovered that people who died during summer months have higher serotonin in their bodies than people who died during winter. Exposure to sun is vital and very importantly – free. The only condition is to remove your sunglasses and enjoy the direct sunlight (if no health conditions). Of course, you may not look like a Hollywood or French actress/actor but your mood will improve. I also have heard about opening Light Cafes in Scandinavia and the good news is that they have arrived in the UK, so I will do my research and give you more information. Buying a bright light lamp is another option but buying one of them is currently not an appealing idea for me.

Thirdly, exercises! Yes, sounds so boring, exercises seem to be the panacea for improving everything. In our particular matter of serotonin we are talking about aerobic exercises (aerobic means “with oxygen”), like swimming, walking, cycling and running. The level of physical challenge must be familiar not overwhelming. Importantly, the occurrence of better mood during and after exercise is a result of the exercise itself – we are not talking about the sense of accomplishment. I have been an amateur runner, swimmer and keen walker all my life but I do not like cycling. I am a strong believer that if you find “your sport”, the exercises that suit your body and personality, you have won half the battle.

Lastly and trivially, – diet. The body makes serotonin from the essential amino acid, tryptophan. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower levels of serotonin. Tryptophan is an ingredient of most proteins. The body cannot produce it – we get it from food such as salmon, eggs, spinach, nuts and seeds, meat, cheese and yoghurt. It is controversial whether eating often and large amounts of this food will increase the level of serotonin. That is because there is a competition between the amino acids to be transported to the brain and tryptophan is not at the front of the queue. Quite the opposite – it is the last. Therefore, the widespread perception that eating turkey and bananas will improve the mood is just false. However, it does not mean that bananas or turkey are worthless. For example, bananas are rich in vitamin B6 which our bodies use to produce serotonin. So, if your diet lacks vitamin B6, dietary changes will definitely help to increase the level of serotonin.

In a nutshell – the key for increasing your level of serotonin is to give yourself time and to try different protocols. Choose one or more that suit your body type and your temperament. The smile on your face will tell you that you are on the right path.

Happiness is available

Everyone wants to be happy or at least I have never met anyone who does not want happiness in their lives.

We all know people who just look at the glass and instinctively feel the glass is full. We also read that Scandinavians are always rated the happiest people in the world in the happiness reports. The question is if happiness is something we all desire why some people thrive with happiness than others are not naturally “happy -go-lucky”? Do we need to blame ourselves for not knowing how to be happy or for not trying hard enough to achieve happiness? In 21st century, afterwards Covid pandemic can we just simply learn the trade of happiness?

As everything in life, happiness is not a simple category of emotion. The science has discovered that happiness is determined by different factors – internal (originating within the organism) and external factors ( outside the organism). One of the internal sub- predictors of happiness are the biological factors.

Scientific studies of twins suggested that genetic factors are causes of 35-50 percents of happiness. Genetic factors are out of our control, they are inherited from our parents. The good news is that with advance of the generic research it will be possible to predict when people are susceptible to depression.

In addition, the brain chemicals influence our usual emotional style. One of the most important body chemical (and also transmitter) is serotonin. Research showed that 95% of serotonin is produced in the lining of the guts and 5% – in the brain. The serotonin in the brain acts also as a transmitter (messenger that carries signals between brain nerve cells (neurones)). Serotonin is responsible for our happiness, satisfaction and optimism.

Science still does not know how the serotonin works and what is the right level of serotonin. It is accepted that the level of serotonin in the body varies between people. There is no clear test for diagnosing the serotonin shortage. Diagnoses are based on the manifestation of symptoms. Some of the symptoms are fatigue despite sufficient rest, lack of sleep, loss of appetite or craving for carbohydrates, headaches.

A controversial theory is that if the levels of serotonin are low, the person is susceptible to low mood and depression. And the opposite – if the level of the serotonin in the body increases, the person experiences positive emotions. The serotonin deficiency happens when the body does not produce enough serotonin or it does not use serotonin efficiently.

More scientific studies are needed on the mechanism of serotonin and to determine whether there is a link (if any) between serotonin and depression and anxiety.

I came across to the serotonin business one year ago after the death of my mum. The constant source of unconditional love and strength in my life disappeared and I was diagnosed with moderate depression for the first time in my life. Science need more research regarding serotonin but I conducted my research which included reading books, articles and blogs, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube videos – in one word educating myself and applying all the knowledge I acquired to my daily life to fight depression. My personal experience proved some simple measures we can take to defeat depression and be happy.

If you are experience any of the symptoms that potentially relate to low levels of serotonin do not struggle in silence. There is plenty of information available about the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Help is also there and it is up to you to reach for it.

I am from the generation that was thought to be strong and endure difficult times without complaining or asking for help, especially about emotional matters. Asking for help I was told was a sign of weakness and weakness is not a feature to possess. Therefore, I have a great admiration for the millennials and generation Z, people like Naomi Osaka, who make their mental health their priority. Lady Gaga says “ I take medication every day for mental illness and depression and don’t feel bad about it.”

So, ring your doctor! You do not need appointment in person. I phoned my doctor in the middle of the lockdown, when surgeries were closed for appointments and I received excellent service and advice. If your GP diagnoses you with low level of serotonin they can prescribe you drugs as Sertaline. Sertaline comes in two strengths – 50mg and 100mg. I was prescribed Sertaline 50mg – half or one tablet per day. I reacted very well to the drug and felt the positive effect immediately.

But the modern medicine does not stop here, help is not limited to drugs. My GP referred me to the NHS service Steps 2 Wellbeing. The service accepts online self-referrals by using a secure online referral form. You do not need to wait for a GP appointment. The service is open to all adults registered with Dorset and Southampton City GP practices. After filling in the form you receive a timely response from the service and have a phone interview with one of the therapists. Depending on the outcome of the interview you are offered different tailored therapies (Level 2 and Level 3 including a mindfulness course). I attended both levels and all therapies were in groups and via Zoom (Thank you Internet).

I committed fully to the treatments. I took regularly my pills – usually only half of the tablet, I attended every session of the therapies and tried every method suggested. Everything that was relevant to me I implemented in my daily life plus some methods I discovered by myself. The result – I am a very happy and content person. If I can do it, everyone can do it.

There are also non-pharmaceutical paths that can be taken to increase the level of serotonin:
1. Meditation
2. Natural light
3. Exercise
4. Diet

There is also the street of supplements.
In my next blog I will go through them.