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By
AFP
Published
Jul 2, 2007
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Milestone 20th birthday for Lacroix

By
AFP
Published
Jul 2, 2007

PARIS, July 2, 2007 (AFP) - Christian Lacroix says he still treasures the memory of his first haute couture show in July 1987 as he prepares to send out his latest collection on Tuesday, July 3rd marking his house's milestone 20th birthday.


Christian Lacroix April, 16th

- Photo : Stephane de Sakutin/AFP


Asked what has been the high point since he arrived as the new kid on the block, he told AFP: "Probably the first show, but all the past seasons, putting together a new collection in a few weeks.

"The days when I draw non-stop, the fittings for the bride with everyone with tears in their eyes. It has been full of precious little moments rather than a single momentous 'event'."

Lacroix had quite a bumpy start as his extravagant, baroque creations were out of kilter with the taste in the late 1980s for flashy Dallas power-dressing.

His early collections with lashings of lace and embroidery, and patchworks of fabrics in vibrant colours, were an exuberant celebration of his native Arles in the south of France and the Camargue with its gypsies and bullfighters.

His roots remain an inspiration, but only one among many others: Lacroix rails against his work being categorised.

It was a fortuitous series of meetings that brought Lacroix into fashion.

He studied art history at Montpellier and came to Paris to write a thesis on costume in 17th century paintings, preparing a career as a museum curator.

But he met his future wife Francoise, who encouraged him in his fashion drawing, and then Jean-Jaques Picart, press attache for several luxury houses, got a job for him at Hermes in 1978. In 1981 he went to work for the great couturier Jean Patou.

With the backing of the powerful Bernard Arnault of the luxury group LVMH, then chief executive of Christian Dior, Lacroix opened his own couture house in 1987.

Ready-to-wear followed in 1988 and over the years, accessories, furnishings, a jeans line, tablewear, perfume, and children's clothes.

And for three years from 2002, he was hired to inject some new fizz and sparkle into Italian label Pucci, also part of the LVMH stable, recreating the iconic prints so favoured by the Riviera jet set in the 1960s.

But this creative frenzy did not bring in the hoped-for profits and after ever more hectic changes of chief executive, in 2005 LVMH sold the house to the American duty free giant Falic, with Lacroix staying on as artistic director. Many of the diffusion lines were quietly dropped.

Undeterred, Lacroix remains as busy as ever: he has never limited his creativity to couture. For him style and lifestyle are closely related.

"I like to turn up where I am not expected," he says. Hence his forays into many other areas, sometimes far from fashion, from designing theatre and cinema costumes to new uniforms for Air France personnel and interior decoration for luxury hotels.

The designer, whose grandfather was on the railways, even had a hand in choosing a new colour scheme for the French TGV express trains and outfits for the staff.

In November, the museum of fashion and textiles in Paris is dedicating an exhibition to Lacroix which will shed light on his universe and his demanding conception of haute couture, which he sums up: "as perhaps the purest thing of all...

"It is bringing together dream and reality. Creating an emotion to the point of tears."



By Dominique Schroeder

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