Profile - Christian Lacroix


A fashion designer, in FX? No, this is Christian Lacroix, the contract designer for the past 17 years. Since he turned his back on fashion he has turned his talents to theatre design, exhibitions and a new carpet collection for Danish company ege, just launched...


Words by Emily Martin

Christian Lacroix is a name known by many, largely owing to his fame in the fashion world between the Eighties and the beginning of the new century – but others will also know him from a second career carved in contract design after his high-profile departure from his label Christain Lacroix Paris in the late 2000s.

 His unique styling sees his design work blending together classic and modern to create stunning costume collections, theatre design, exhibitions and even carpet design among others, with his sketches also something to be desired.

Sketch by Lacroix for an interiorSketch by Lacroix for an interior

His passion was – and had always been – in costume design. ‘My parents were very conservative and as soon as I had an idea about my future, I knew I wanted to be a costume designer. But it was not a serious enough profession for my parents,’ says Lacroix. ‘And I was a very nice son who wanted to please them.’

He trained as a curator in Paris, in the Seventies, but it wasn’t until meeting someone that helped change everything for him: ‘I met the girl who was to become my wife and I showed her my sketches. She said, “You have to do something with these”.’ Françoise Rosenthiel was a respected PR consultant working in the fashion industry and helped Lacroix make the connections to pursue a design career in fashion.

Carpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design WeekCarpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design Week

He landed a job at Hermès, where he worked as an assistant before moving on to other fashion houses where, eventually, Lacroix found himself in charge of his own couture collection.

‘I didn’t know what fashion was, as I was much more theatrical, and I was never encouraged to do fashion design,’ recalls Lacroix. ‘And then I was doing my first couture collection, which is crazy because I didn’t know how to. But I wanted to show my parents that I was OK doing what I was doing and not doing bad by them.’

Carpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design WeekCarpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design Week

The demand for Lacroix gowns meant setting up his own label – Christian Lacroix Paris – which saw exquisite dresses and fabrics on the catwalks under his leadership from the Eighties to the 2000s. His designs took visual cues from previous centuries’ fashions while showcasing a stark, contemporary edge. ‘I don’t like what’s in the middle; I like mixing warm and cold all together. I remember as a child first seeing abstract paintings being hung with 18th-century furniture; it is my mantra, my way of working on everything,’ says Lacroix.

Carpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design WeekCarpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design Week

In the mid 2000s he sold his label, which was then quickly sold on again to the Falic Fashion Group. It continues to operate the label, some 30 years after being originally set up.

It was making eye-watering losses and Vogue reported that a 2009 haute couture show, put on as part of Paris Fashion Week, was being delivered on a ‘shoestring’ budget: ‘It was one of the most poignant and emotionally fraught haute-couture shows ever: a collection produced on a shoestring at the last minute, and only made possible by the collective will and donated time and skills of the seamstresses, embroiderers, jewellers, milliners, and shoemakers loyal to Christian Lacroix,’ wrote Sarah Mower.

Shoestring or not, he nevertheless received a standing ovation, for what turned out to be his last runway show with his label. By 2010 he had severed all ties with the fashion house, and he stepped away from fashion.

It’s now been some 17 years since his departure, but Christian Lacroix is a name still remembered by many. During this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week, he appeared in ege’s London showroom to launch a new carpet collection, Atelier, produced with the Danish brand. The designs showcase obvious references to fashion as seen in the Textile range, which includes patterns of patchwork, velvet and paisleys, as taken from Lacroix personal archive of ethnic fabrics.

Carpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design WeekCarpet designs from the new Atelier collection, by Monsieur Christian Lacroix for Danish company ege and launched at Clerkenwell Design Week

The showroom was packed and there was an anticipation ahead of Monsieur Christain Lacroix’s arrival; what would he be like? What would he be wearing? Would he even turn up? To fans in the room he didn’t disappoint. He arrived, he was charming, warm and kind. ‘I love your work,’ gushed one man during a Q&A session after Lacroix’s short speech about his collaboration with ege. Lacroix has been working with the company for 13 years, after exploring an interest in carpet design and .inding it di.icult to get his ideas manufactured.

‘When I started collaborating with ege carpets, I discovered that anything was possible – I was entering a limitless world!’ he says. ‘A carpet is like make-up; it changes the surface. It makes the room [appear] larger, wider or smaller.’

And among the queues for photo requests and book signings, which Lacroix patiently worked through while enjoying a glass of red wine, I was struck by the absence of major retrospective exhibition showcasing his life’s work. ‘I did it [fashion] and I was inspired by what I did and I now I have to invent a new dream; I have to .ind something else,’ he says.

He has had some notable exhibitions such as the L’Orient des Femmes, at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, in 2011, where he explored the evolution of female traditional dress in the Middle East. But his role is more curator than subject matter. ‘I am preparing this week a piece which will be a 17th-century costume made using army clothes,’ adds Lacroix enthusiastically. But Lacroix says he tries to put o. the idea to hold a retrospective of his work, when it is suggested.

‘I didn’t invent anything [new]; my job, my work – and what people liked – are a way of being inspired by the past centuries. I didn’t invent a [new] cut, I didn’t invent a [new] textile, and I didn’t invent an “it-bag”,’ he says.

Instead you’re likely to see Lacroix garments showcased with traditional costume, which he carefully curates to showcase new and old together, something which he is very inspired by and is keen to highlight these historical links whether in fashion, theatre, .ilm or interior design.

‘This is the question: will I be mixing everything up?’, he says smiling broadly while pondering the idea for a second. ‘I like, like everyone, to sometimes live in a quiet place. But for the future? Perhaps being a director or architect; we’ll see.





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