French fashion designer
Born: Christian Marie Marc Lacroix in Arles, France, 16 May 1951. Education: Studied art history at Paul Valéry University, Montpellier, and museum studies at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1973-76. Family: Married Françoise Rosensthiel, 1974. Career: Freelance fashion sketcher, 1976-78; assistant at Hermés, Paris, 1978-80; assistant to Guy Paulin, 1980; designer/artistic director, Jean Patou, 1981-87; opened own couture and ready-to-wear house, 1987; established
Pieces of a Pattern, Lacroix by Lacroix, with Patrick Mauries, London, 1992.
Lacroix, New York, 1992.
Your World—and Welcome to It: A Rogue's Gallery of Interior Design, New York, 1998.
Coleridge, Nicholas, The Fashion Conspiracy, London, 1988.
Mulvagh, Jane, Vogue History of Twentieth Century Fashion, London, 1988.
Wilson, Elizabeth, and Lou Taylor, Through the Looking Glass, London, 1988.
Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and Passion, 1960-90, London, 1990.
Guillen, Yves-Pierre, and Jacqueline Claude, The Golden Thimble: French Haute Couture, Paris, 1990.
Martin, Richard, and Harold Koda, Bloom, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995.
Mauries, Patrick, Christian Lacroix: The Diary of a Collection, New York, 1996.
Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.
Baudot, François, Christian Lacroix, New York, 1997.
Verdier, Rosy, "Jean Patou et Christian Lacroix," in L'Officiel (Paris), November 1984.
"Lacroix: The New Paris Star," in WWD, 31 July 1986.
McEvoy, Marian, "Blithe Spirit," in Connoisseur (London), November 1986.
Harbrecht, Ursula, "Christian Lacroix: Nouvelle Étoile au Firmament de Paris," in Textiles Suisses (Lausanne), March 1987.
Baumgold, Julie, "Dancing on the Lip of the Volcano: Christian Lacroix's Crash Chic," in New York, 30 April 1987.
Baudet, François, "Christian Lacroix: La Nouvelle Couture," in Elle (Paris), August 1987.
Brampton, Sally, "Lacroix's Grand Entrance," in the Sunday Express Magazine (London), 30 August 1987.
Paquin, Paquita, and Francis Dorleans, "Christian Lacroix: Fiévre Inaugurale," in L'Officiel (Paris), September 1987.
Howell, Georgina, "How Lacroix Took Paris by Storm," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 4 October 1987.
Mestiri, Mohand, "Christian Lacroix: Portrait Chinois d'un Provincial Cosmopolite," in Connaissance des Arts (Paris), October 1987.
"Lacroix Designs for Us," in Connoisseur, October 1987.
Brubach, Holly, "Lacroix Goes to the Ballet," in Vogue, February 1988.
Garmaise, Freda, "Chic Frills," in Ms. (New York), February 1988.
"Christian Lacroix," in Current Biography (New York), April 1988.
"Les Trésors de Christian Lacroix," in L'Officiel (Paris), March 1989.
Grossman, Lloyd, "The Wider Side of Paris," in Harpers & Queen (London), May 1989.
Donovan, Carrie, "The Three Who are Key: Couture's Future," in the New York Times Magazine, 27 August 1989.
"A Day in the Life of Christian Lacroix," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 27 August 1989.
Gerrie, Anthea, "Lacroix's Business Scents," in the Sunday Express Magazine (London), 18 March 1990.
Rafferty, Diane, "Christian Lacroix: The Art of Sensuality," in Connoisseur, June 1990.
"Lacroix's Fan Club," in WWD, 18 December 1990.
Levin, Angela, "Christian Lacroix," in You magazine of the Mail on Sunday (London), 10 February 1991.
Rolf, Gail, "Racy and Lacy…A Perfect Paris Match from Lacroix," in the Daily Mail (London), 20 July 1993.
Menkes, Suzy, "Sweetness and Light by Lacroix," in the International Herald Tribune (Paris), 27 January 1995.
Spindler, Amy M., "Olé: Lacroix Conquers the Couture," in the New York Times, 27 January 1995.
Schiro, Anne-Marie, "Lacroix and Rykiel: Classics," in the New York Times, 18 March 1995.
Mirabella, Grace, "Grace Mirabella on the Lacroix Nanosecond," in the Washington Post, 10 September 1995.
Johnson, Eunice W., "Comfort With a Touch of Luxe," in Ebony, February 1999.
Kadri, Françoise "Christian Lacroix, a Twenty-Year Love Affair with Japan," in Agence France Presse, 24 June 2000.
Shard, Sarah, "Lacroix in Full Technicolor for Next Winter," in Agence France Presse, 11 March 2001.
Lowthorpe, Rebecca, "Excess All Areas," in the Independent on Sunday, 1 July 2001.
Alexander, Hilary, "Couture Tales Off on a Magic Carpet Ride," in the Daily Telegraph, 11 July 2001.
In a way I just love to mix everything for the sake of mixing. For many people fashion is being dressed as your neighbor, your best friend. But, for me, fashion is expressing your own deep individuality; that is why I have always done noticeable things.
There is a prevalent myth in French haute couture that only once every decade does a new star emerge. Writer Nicholas Coleridge traced this path of succession from Paul Poiret, to Chanel, to Balenciaga, to Saint Laurent, then Lagerfeld ( The Fashion Conspiracy, London, 1988). Judging by the buzz and excitement that preceded the launch of his first collection in the Salon Impérial Suite of the Hotel Intercontinental in July 1987, there could be no doubt Christian Lacroix was a new star.
Quite why Lacroix became the new star of couture is debatable, but his timing was definitely right. There had been no opening of a couture house since 1961 with Saint Laurent (Lagerfeld had become a star by resuscitating the established house of Chanel.) As the chairperson and financial director of the new house, Paul Audrain was to declare, "We had a very strong presentiment that the climate was right for a new couture house." New social and cultural changes had reversed the values of the 1970s; the jeans and t-shirt dressing, so prevalent during that decade, had changed. A new sexual identity had emerged. The entrepreneurial spirit of the 1980s created new money, and Lacroix's debut was in time to capitalize on this trend.
Lacroix had begun his career with an aspiration to be a museum curator. After moving to Paris from Arles in the early 1970s, he met his future wife Françoise Rosensthiel, who encouraged his interest in fashion, which led to his taking positions at Hermés and Guy Paulin. He became the designer for Jean Patou in 1981, revitalizing the flagging couture house and upping sales from thirty dresses a season to 100. He seduced the fashion press with spectacular shows, reviving fashion staples such as the frou-frou petticoat and the puffball skirt. In 1987, with the backing of five million francs from the textile conglomerate Financiére Agache, Lacroix opened his new couture house.
As a designer, Lacroix throws caution to the wind, providing the sort of luxurious product that, at first, justified the amount of "new money" spent on him. His collections are always an exotic, lavish cornucopia of influences, ranging from the primitive, rough naïveté of the paintings of the Cobra movement, to an homage to Lady Diana Cooper, to modern gypsies, travelers, and nomads. He uses the most luxurious fabrics in often unexpected mixes or even patchwork, embroidered brocades, fur, reembroidered lace, ethnic prints and embroideries, even gold embroidery. Nothing is considered too expensive or too outré to be included in the clothes.
An extravagant technicolor musical from the golden age of Hollywood would perhaps be an understatement when describing the impact of a Lacroix collection. As an artist, he is not afraid to plunder junk shops, museums, the theater and opera, or the glamor of the bullfight to create designs that astound yet are always stylish in their eclectic clutter. There are many strong retrospective references from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s in a Lacroix collection, like the detached hauteur or waiflike gestures of fashion models from the period. The unapproachable allure of movie stars like Tippi Hedren or Capucine, or real-life personalities who embody these qualities, all inspire his designs, often resulting in eccentric accessories, colors, and poses.
Lacroix recognizes that contemporary couture is often only a public relations exercise for money-spinning ventures such as perfume or licensing deals using a designer name to sell a product. Lacroix, however, is fully aware of the value couture has in pushing fashion, projecting a dream, and making dramatically important fashion statements. This is essential if fashion is to survive commercially, because the ready-to-wear and mass-market manufacturers always see designers as the inspirations that direct the movement of fashion. Before his first show, Lacroix seemed to synthesize this point of view when he said, "I want to get back to the position where the couture becomes a kind of laboratory of ideas, the way it was with Schiaparelli 40 years ago."
The minimalist 1990s saw not only a downturn in interest in Lacroix's over-the-top extravagance but also in couture itself. Fashion critics said the Lacroix moment had been the 1980s, and it was over. Lacroix continued to design, however, with a signature collection of tableware and homeware, eventually turning to costume and designing for theater, ballet, opera, and finally film, for all of which his creations have always been well suited. His work in costume has received many awards. Through the changing climes of the fashion world and his own fortunes, however, Lacroix's central interest has remained couture, and he has continued to create one-of-a-kind couture for a cadre of wealthy clients. And as is ever the case in fashion, his moment was destined to come again.
With collections skewed a little younger, less "heavy, outdated, obsolete," in Lacroix's words, and more casual, the designer's shows again became a hot ticket as the decade turned and the 1990s gave way to the 21st century. And whatever the changes, the collections are still everything one expects from Lacroix—an exuberant riot of color, ecstatic, nearly surreal details, and rich fabric upon rich fabric. Trompe-l'oeil collars, a lacquered chiffon dress with rhinestones, fluffy pom-poms in hot pink or lemon, and hems dangling fringes of pastel-colored mink tails show that the designer has not given up his delight in "the cross-fertilization of styles."
updated by Jessica Reisman