Christian Lacroix

Christian Lacroix hit the world of haute couture to the sound of wide acclaim. When he showed his first collection in 1987, the public showered him with flowers in their enthu­siasm. The critics spoke of liberation and a break with the past. Using folkloristic motifs from bullfighting, flamenco and the Catholic Church, exploding colours and theatrical opulence, Lacroix reintroduced extravagance into haute couture.

Christian Lacroix was born in Arles, Provence, in 1951, and studied literature at Montpellier and art at the Sorbonne in Paris. He wanted to become a museum curator, but then Françoise Roesenstiehl entered his life; they married in 1974. “She was the one who flung open the doors to my creative fulfilment. Encounters with designers, with Jean-Jacques Picart, who had a press office, with Guy Paulin and Hermès introduced me into a world that has since become mine too.” In 1978 he began work as a sketcher at Hermès, but soon switched to assistant to Guy Paulin, eventually becoming artistic director at Jean Patou. There he laid the foundations for his own interests: “Patou … represented what has remained the basis of my work: history and revolution, historical and modern, past and future.” Since then, Christian Lacroix has remained a leading innovator in haute couture. He combines the Mediterranean tradition of his home region with feminine elegance, and ethnic influences from all over the world with top-class tailoring. Hippy fashions and the ancien régime, or fin-de-siècle French escapism, all form part of his rich stock of cultural references. Lacroix sees the 1990s, when grunge and minimalism swept away the pomp of the 1980s, as a difficult time. “It was like having a millstone round my neck. Things went badly for haute couture.” The independent fashion designer suddenly had to make concessions to the zeitgeist. He developed his business into a lifestyle brand with commercial lines such as scents, sports­wear, jeans and children’s fashions. From 2002 to 2005, Lacroix was creative director of Italian fashion house Pucci. Alongside his work as a couturier, Lacroix also designs costumes for films, theatre, opera and the ballet, as well as, since 2000, for Air France, the TGV train, and hotels. He is the president of the National Center of Stage Costumes in Moulins where, in 2007, he exhibited his twenty-five years of stage designing parallel to the Lacroix fashion retrospective Histoires de Mode at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In 2008 he became the director of the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles, where he curated an exhibition at the Musée Reattu juxtaposing the museum’s 18th-century paintings and sketches collection with contemporary artists’ work and his own couture pieces.

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