The fact that Christian Lacroix showed a couture collection today in Paris at all is a testament to his tenacity and vision as a designer. Two months ago, the company that bears his name was forced to declare its bankruptcy.
Since its founding in 1987, the house of Christian Lacroix has never turned a profit. Lacroix himself has been working without pay for months. The current owners, Florida's Falic group, revealed a restructuring plan to staff on Friday that would cut the workforce from 124 to 12 by the end of this month, and effectively reduce the house to a licensing operation, trading on Lacroix's name and reputation in order to sell men's shirts and silk scarves. In order to avoid this Doomsday scenario, an angel investor would have to step forward. The house is seeking letters of intent now.
Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the collection presented in such a somber situation should be done mainly in dark colors — black and navy, with notable accents in purple, metallics, and reds. But it's not as simple as dark times dictating dark colors: Lacroix chose to work in a limited palette to showcase what he called "the classic repertory of the house, what is left, the hard disk."
And Lacroix's signature is clear in the use of tone-on-tone embroidery in the traditional Provençal style the Arles-born designer has always favored (like in that cape), the focus on backless dresses, the continued obsession with bare shoulders, and of course in the draping.
It's truly a great talent who, with no money to speak of, can conjure such perfect outfits as these out of the creative ether. This chiffon blouse, with its gorgeous broad-shouldered jacket with the right military touch, cream miniskirt, and the punctuation of the bright glove — I can't wait till fall to pull an ensemble like this together myself.
And no Lacroix show would be complete without a pouf skirt.
Or, for that matter, a coat dress with the 80s boxiness that's come back in style.
Held at the Salon des Boisiers in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in front of an audience of only 280 people, this couture collection may be Christian Lacroix's last. If an investor for the company is not found, notwithstanding the buyer interest they might attract, these creations will never even enter production.
The show demonstrated the depth of the fashion community's goodwill. Hair and makeup teams and models all reduced their rates. (Unlike in New York, where designers pay models principally in trade, in France fashion houses are required by law to pay their show models some amount of cash.)
The food was donated, and Lacroix's own staff, as well as the embroiderers and lacemakers, worked for free. The creations were cut from bolts of fabric the house already had on hand.
Speaking of fabric choices, at first glance, this dress stands out from the rest for being a print among a sea of solid colors, but in fact it shares the same graphic quality of the line as a whole. Lacroix compared his collection to brush strokes.
And it's perhaps even more beautiful from behind.
At its conclusion, the Telegraph reports that many members of the team, and of the audience, wept. Master embroiderer Jean-François Lesage, Lacroix's good friend, also sobbed openly.
The audience gave a standing ovation.
Here's to many seasons more.