Wednesday, Sep 18th
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“When I was a child, I dreamed of being a costume designer, and fashion came along by chance. I’m lucky that it’s lasted 30 years”
Christian Lacroix, the always theatrical, white knight of Haute Couture, was born in 1951 in Arles, France. He was the eldest child and only son born to a family of engineers. Lacroix was so enthralled with history, as a child he dreamed of becoming a museum curator or costume designer. He studied Art History at the Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier and once courses were completed moved to Paris in 1973. There, he attended the Sorbonne to complete his thesis on 18th century clothing and trained as a museum curator at the École du Louvre. In 1978 after a turn working in public relations, Lacroix became a sketcher at French fashion house Hermès. He quickly moved on to work with freelance designer Guy Paulin and later for a couturier of the Tokyo Imperial court. By 1981 Lacroix was appointed artistic director at French brand Jean Patou. During his time at the house of Patou, Christian Lacroix invented what is now known as the bouffant or “pouf” skirt. He went on to win his first Golden Thimble and CFDA award before leaving Patou to launch his namesake label.
In July of 1987 he unveiled his first couture collection under the new the label, ‘Christian Lacroix’ to much success. With his fantastical puffy skirt and his use of velvets, satins, taffeta and embellishments the fashion presses dubbed Lacroix the “savior of the couture world”. A year later, he introduced his first ever Ready-to-Wear collection and in 1995 he signed a deal to design a line of jeans. In 1997 Lacroix introduced his tableware line with French flatware manufacturer Christofle and his book Pieces of a Pattern: Lacroix by Lacroix was published.
By 2000, Christian Lacroix was ready to expand his label and announced his menswear line. Two years later, he was chosen as the Creative Director for renowned fashion house Emilio Pucci, where he stayed until 2005. Shortly after leaving Pucci, he branched out of the fashion world to design the Hotel du Petit Moulin in Paris and the uniforms for Air France. Sadly, in 2009, Lacroix filed for bankruptcy and stepped down from his namesake label, which has continued on without him. The artistic Lacroix was undeterred; he began designing more hotels, uniforms and train interiors for the Tézo and TVG lines, a new tramway for the town of Montpellier, France and picked up one of his childhood dreams, costume design. The year 2011 turned out to be quite busy as he curated the “Women in Orient” costume exhibit for the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, illustrated Christian Lacroix and the Tale of Sleeping Beauty, created a furniture line for Italian mosaic manufacture Sicis and designed costumes for the ballet La Source at the Paris Opera. In July of 2013 his 18 piece tribute couture collection to Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli was unveiled at the Musée Les Arts Décoratifs.
Christian Lacroix’s first fashion memory was sitting under the table amongst his mother’s friends all decked out in their tulle petticoats. In 1988 legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov personally chose Lacroix to design costumes for the ballet Gaîté Parisienne. In 1996 he won the Molière award for costumes he designed for the French theatre Comédie-Française and made his first of two appearances on the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (the lead character Edina is a huge fan, frequently mentioning his name on the show). In 1998 he illustrated the book Your World….and Welcome to It. In 1999 he costumed actress Juliette Binoche in the French film ‘The Children of the Century’. In 2002 Lacroix became a Chevalier (knight) de la Légion d’honneur; it is the higest decoration in France. In 2004 Pop Queen Madonna wore Lacroix designs for her 2004 Re-Invention Tour. In 2010 he was named the artistic advisor of the French mint, Monnair de Paris.