Investment lessons from the life of Christian Dior

I recently came across a collection of Dior’s early work, published by Alexandra Palmer. It’s somewhat of a bibliography of Dior’s work and journey to become one of the most recognised name in global fashion. My focus wasn’t exactly the fashion side of things, but the process and the person behind the brand.

I find it fascinating to study people throughout history because most of aspire to achieve today and, in some way, already been achieved by someone else. One of my favorite biblical proverbs comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes, saying “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun…”

Successful investing is about defining your goals and building a sustainable plan to achieve those goals, while maintaining balance in your life. It takes many years to understand what you want, then more to figure out how to get it and throughout the process, you need to make sure its all worthwhile.

The best life hack I can pass on is this: If you want to achieve your goals, find someone who has achieved something similar and study how they did it.

I wasn’t searching for Dior, but in some serendipitous way, I found it and dissected the early years and the thought process behind his success.

Dior’s formula for success

The first surprise what the process Christian Dior went through before becoming a global giant brand. There is of course the usual story of a well to do boy who goes against his parent’s wishes and backs his passion and vision to do something artistic. No surprise here, instead the surprise is how long it took Dior to get into the fashion business.

He started off sketching designs and selling them to others who would create garments in Paris. He didn’t get into creating his own clothes until his late 30’s. The early years were practice for greatness which would come later. While he was sketching, he took a lot of inspiration from his own art gallery, museums and ancient antiquity to eventually choreograph his own label.

History is a source of wisdom for achieving what you want. When Dior launched his “New Look” design, it was revolutionary and disruptive to the post-war world. Especially in Paris and among peers. Brilliance usually starts are something unknown and frightening before it becomes mainstream.

The second surprise was the lengths to which the garment trade was regulated across different countries. Dior had solid backing from Marcel Boussac, a textile magnate known as the “Cotton King” and the richest man in Paris. He wasn’t struggling.

But it took a lot of hustle and patience to get the brand into international stores, into international clients and maneuvering across borders to bypass the maze which was textile customs.

The third surprise was the level of perfection and obsession for detail. Exhibitions, models, fabric, threads, seam-lines, structure, underpinning. Every single detail mattered. His justification being “If you’re going to do something, do it with passion”

Start investing with passion

We don’t usually associate passion with investing. For many, its a tedious task, a necessity rather than an experience. But if we’re going to invest to achieve our goals, doing it with passion makes it much more significant and worthwhile.

One of the things I’m often saying to early or young investors is stick to what you understand and stay away from things that don’t make sense to you. I’ll go one step further and say find things you are passionate about and build them into your investment plan.

In 2014 decided to leave the stock market despite having built a successful 10 year career and notable profile, connections and career opportunity. I recognised my passion for real estate was growing and my desire to work in the markets, as exciting as it may seem to outsiders, was waning.

The 2009 market crash turned me off electronic trader and it was around the same time that my wife and I started investing together in real estate. So in 2015, I decided to build a real estate investment business and back my passion. It has been a fruitful investment journey ever since.

I believe everybody has some type of passion or thing that they love. Art, sport, fashion, health, languages…. Whatever you love doing will end up being the thing you are most likely to spend time understanding and therefore should be the best area to focus your investment attention.

If you’re into fashion and luxury goods, spend time researching the biggest luxury brands around the world. It doesn’t make them great investments. But when you combine investment principals (which I write about here weekly) with your passion areas, investing becomes less of a task and more of an exciting experience.

It’s important to stay away from things you dislike or don’t understand. But at the same time, it’s even more important to find the things you love and spend your time and energy understanding the investment opportunity in these areas.

Failure is a part of the process, a source of information which will help you improve over time. The trick is to know when to lose, how to lose and how to use losses to bounce back.