Last month, Christie’s held the “Sale of the Century” auction in Paris of the art and furniture owned by world-renowned fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who died in June 2008 at the age of 71. Christie’s spent $1.2 million to host the auction at the famed Grand Palais near the Champs-Elysees, which drew over 30,000 visitors to the preview exhibition. The auction itself spread over three days and raised a record-breaking $484 million — even in the face of the global economic crisis. Saint Laurent’s lifelong partner, Pierre Berge, said that most of the profits from the auction would be donated to HIV/AIDS research.
The overwhelming interest in last month’s auction underscores the impact of Saint Laurent in the art and design world over the last five decades. Born in Algeria in 1936, Saint Laurent maintained a home in Morocco. At his request, Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered near his Marrakech villa in the Majorelle botantical garden, which he frequently visited to find influence. His influence also came from the streets of major international cities. For example, he was known for “bringing the Parisian beatnik style to couture runways and adapting peacoats he found in Army-Navy stores in New York” into fashionable women’s jackets, according to the New York Times.
Corporate executives and managers could learn from the man who built the House of YSL. To succeed in business, you must change as rapidly as the markets and interests of customers change. Today’s haute couture can be tomorrow’s bargain-bin special. Same goes with your products and services, and how you do business.
Seek inspiration in both likely and unlikely places. Embrace the principle that the look and feel of a product is as important as its function. Leverage the latest Web 2.0 tools that your customers and clients are using. And those who are fortunate enough to have laurels, shouldn’t rest on them, not if your business is interested in being around tomorrow.