‘Lacroix, sweetie’, are the legendary words from the mouth of Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous that have come to immortalize the French designer as the go-to name for 90s fashion. Christian Marie Marc Lacroix, a graduate in Art History from the University of Montpellier, became famous around the world for his opulent, theatrical designs completely at odds with everything else on the catwalks at the time. From redefining style in the 80s through financial hardships and the redirection of his talents, read on for a five-step history of a true French revolutionary and the brand he created.
In 1987, Christian Lacroix launched his eponymous fashion house with the backing of LVMH magnate Bernard Arnault and his first haute couture show was a runaway success. Critics, so used to the minimalist Japanese aesthetic that had dominated the scene throughout the decade, were blown away by its playfulness with colors, fabrics, intricate detailing and theatricality. Central to the Parisian’s collection was the pouf, an inventive, exaggeratedly puffy skirt, which set down a marker for a new era in fashion. Hailed as a design savior, Lacroix quickly expanded his operations to include a ready-to-wear line, jeans, perfume, menswear, childrenswear, lingerie, and homeware.
From Lacroix’s stunning debut and through the decade that followed, The French designer was undoubtedly one of the biggest names in fashion, serving additionally as creative director at Pucci between 2002 and 2005 and a cultural icon in his own right. The vivaciousness of his fashion designs resonates to this day. When US Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, was recently asked to pick her favorite cover of all time, she chose her first for the magazine from November 1988, which was shot by Peter Lindbergh and features model Michaela Bercu in a Lacroix top, because of the image’s simple vibrancy.
Lacroix never managed to translate critical success into profitability. In short, his designs were too expensive to produce and too impractical to wear. Following the financial crisis, the French fashion house filed for bankruptcy in 2009 having made losses throughout its 22-year lifetime of approximately 150 million euros. The new owners of the label, the Falic Group, managed to secure its survival in a much-reduced form – the workforce went from 120 to around a dozen and the lines were restricted to perfumes and accessories – with the designer walking away completely in 2010. He continues to design womenswear, notably in partnership with Desigual.
As well as on the runway, Lacroix has applied his love and expert knowledge of art history and costume design to interiors. He has been behind the complete renovation of several boutique hotels, some of which can be visited here in Paris including the Hotel du Petit Moulin in the Marais, the Hotel Notre-Dame near Saint-Michel and the Hotel Bellechasse in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Since Lacroix’s departure in 2010, longtime employee Sacha Walckhoff has taken over as creative director at Christian Lacroix. The brand focused at first on homeware and fashion accessories and successfully relaunched its menswear collection for Spring-Summer 2016. The future is once again looking bright for this most iconic of French fashion houses and who knows, a new ready-to-wear or haute couture line could be right around the corner.