Thursday, 22 April 2010


It was in 1987, forty years exactly after the opening of the House of Dior, that Christian Lacroix founded his own house, financed by LVMH. Born in Arles, in the south of France Christian Lacroix has brought sunshine into haute couture with his palette of colours, daring to blend every one of them, making him an advocate of the "neo-Baroque" style. His gilt metal jewellery, his lace of Arles and his taffeta bustles infused life into luxury, modernity to tradition, technology to heritage. As one of the most influential and colourful couturiers in the world, who is known as the “man with the magic paintbrush” ,he changed otherwise rather darker, duller fashion trends of the time, providing a cheery but elegant and refined alternative, an artistic and cultural gift to the fashion world.

There is a prevalent myth in French haute couture that only once every decade does a new star emerge, suggests writer Nicholas Coleridge, who traced this path of succession from Paul Poiret, to Chanel, to Balenciaga, to Saint Laurent, then Lagerfeld in his book The Fashion Conspiracy (London, 1988), and Christian Lacroix was no doubt one of those stars. His timing was definitely right. There had been no opening of a couture house since 1961 with Yves Saint Laurent. 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.

Christian Lacroix was a darling of the fashion industry in the 1980s, but his expensive and elaborate clothing didn’t sell. However, 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, his central interest has remained couture, and he has continued to create one-of-a-kind couture for a cadre of wealthy clients. He also turned his interest to costume and designing for theatre, ballet, opera, and finally film, for which his work in costumes has received many awards.

LVMH CEO, Bernard Arnault, who funnelled millions into the company, his only in house “created” label, in the hopes of turning Mr. Lacroix into the next Yves Saint Laurent, announced his decision to sell his “Maison” to the US investment company Falic Group (best known for their duty free business, and with no previous experience in haute couture nor fashion) in December 2004.

Exactly 2 years later, Lacroix is in total comeback. His popularity peak is attributed to a swing in the fashion cycle that has made his brand of maximalism cool again. In France, Lacroix's renaissance is already obvious everywhere—from the nationwide Gaumont cinemas and the new TGV trains to Strasbourg, for which he designed the interiors, to the charming 17th-century Hôtel du Petit Moulin in Paris. As he prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his house later this year, he also feels on the verge of an exciting new chapter in his life.

This paper approaches the history of Lacroix as a “timeless” brand, which had cyclical difficulties due to the fashion trends of 1990s, the financial restructurings of luxury business and fashion houses in late 90s and early 2000s, as well as the mismanagement of the company itself under LVMH’s ownership. The disagreements between Lacroix, himself and Arnault regarding the strategy for the brand and lack of investment in it. ( to the extent that in order to repaint his boutique Rue Faubourg St.Honoré, Lacroix had to complain publicly to a journalist during an interview.)

Finally, this paper also questions the positioning of Lacroix as a fashion designer and cultural figure in France . His stamp on French culture is undeniable. As a sort of French cultural Ambassador, how much will his financial dependency on his actual owner - an American, duty free group of Jewish-Russian origin - have an effect on his creations and the exportation of French culture? Isn’t globalization both the reason for its drifting away across changing fashion trends but also its survival through new money and markets? But do not these global, no boundary international markets represent a danger for its future and the very existence of the essence of French culture in the soul of a fashion brand?

Christian Lacroix : His biography and label

Mediterranean, curious, contemporary… Christian Lacroix is a man firmly entrenched in his era, who views the past with tenderness and admiration, fully devours the present with his love for contemporary art and imagines the future with a kaleidoscopic spirit.

He was born in 1951 in Arles , in the south of France . He grew up in a very fashion minded family, loving the theatre and dreaming of designing costumes. To this end, he studied art history at The University of Montpelier. After graduating, he moved to Paris to study 17th century costumes at Ecole du Musée du Louvre. It was there that he met his future wife, Françoise, who shared with him her interest in drawing and fashion design and Jean-Jacques Picart, a press attaché and advisor to several Paris designers who introduced him to the fashion world. During the 70’s, he worked as a free-lance shoe designer, an accessory designer for Hermes, and as a design assistant for Guy Paulin. In 1981 he joined Jean Patou, which was a dusty name at that time, and completely revamped the company, tripling its sales. His collections were huge successes, his designs were extravagant and boisterous. He used bright, sunny, provencal colours and lush velvets and taffetas. It was at this time that he was awarded two prestigious fashion awards in a row: Dé d’Or in 1986 and Oscar for the best Foreign Designer in 1987.

In December 1986, Bernard Arnault, a real-estate baron who had recently entered the luxury business with the purchase of Christian Dior, contacted Lacroix and proposed to set him up in his own company. This was the first new Haute Couture Salon to be opened in Paris for two decades. Lacroix agreed, sold his name to LVMH and was hired as the house designer. The next month, Lacroix told the owners of Patou that he was leaving in a matter of days; the news didn't go over well. "I didn't go back to the Patou studio," he says. "I left everything, even some personal things.”[1] Patou sued and won $2 million from Lacroix in damages; it has not produced another clothing line since.[2]

The first collection, in July 1987, on the theme of the Camargue, Arles and natural landscapes, highlighted eccentricity in opposition to the minimalism that was then in style. It drew heavily on his provencal roots with bright yellows, reds, and blues as well as his study of theatre and costume history. On his website, Lacroix defines his understanding of couture as follows:”Couture is a free and imagined "impressionist" creation for a woman in movement, a woman who embodies the theme of the season or the moment, a woman caught in a rough sketch of history” This first collection included an embroidered bodice intertwining a cross, heart, and an anchor - representing love, hope, and faith. It was in this collection that he introduced the “poof” or bouffant skirt. This taffeta skirt ballooned like a parachute from the waist ending just above the knees. It was to become a fashion classic.

After his second collection in 1988 which was awarded a Dé d’Or, in 1989 he launched his first Pret-a-Porter collection. for which he explains its essence on his website: “The latter is, of course, designed for a greater number of women and I draw my inspiration from culture cross-breeding. People travel more and more, enabling us to mix'n match world wide influences on one silhouette. The look is snappy and the silhouette sharp. The wardrobe is extended to every hour of the day and every occasion, with ever-present structure and ornamentation”.

However, critics commented that he did not seem to understand the type of clothing the working woman needed. His collections during the 1990s were based on old culture and folklore, as well as fables and the past. In 1990 Christian Lacroix launched his perfume “C’est La Vie ” .1989-1990 he introduced his “Luxe” line and from 1990 onwards introduced a complete range of accessories, including footwear, eyewear, hats, handbags, jewellery, scarves, and belts. In 1995 Lacroix opened his new Bazar line of youthful, funky casual wear, which he describes in his words as “Bazar is not specifically designed for the young. I don't like these kinds of classifications. It's a complementary and a little less expensive way of putting together a wardrobe, anchored in the reality of consumer-buying with, I hope, a touch of fantasy.[3]” The same year he introduced his home furnishings and household articles line. In October 2002, together with the presentation of spring-summer 2003 collections and the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Couture House, Christian Lacroix received the insignia of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur from Bernard Arnault, Chairman of LVMH. Besides his label, he also served as the Creative Director for the Italian fashion house, Emilio Pucci from 2002-2005. Christian Lacroix has designed many dresses for Hollywood stars; amongst them, he is responsible for designing the wedding dress of Grammy award winning Christina Aguilera and was, in the 1990s famed as being a favorite designer of "Edina Monsoon" in the hit UK sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous”. Princess Diana used to be one of his fans. Uma Thurman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ivana Trump and Madonna are still among them.

Lacroix's designs are available in more than 1,000 stores worldwide (of which 60 points of sale within France ), including 20 brand-specific boutiques.

Inspiration and Style:

Lacroix’s style is timeless and his designs are easily recognizable because of their bright colour combinations. His palette includes such colours as Magenta, Bright Pinks, Orange , Yellow, Reds, Blues and Greens, all sometimes in one outfit. In this he was influenced by the sun of his native Provence . He mainly uses trapezium and pyramid shapes, and thus the ultimate garment turns out to be long, loose and breezy. The look is predominately layered. He uses a lot of flowers to accentuate necklines, or hats, he uses ruffles, frills, and laces. He feels that embroidery is an integral part of couture, and he uses it lavishly. His embroidered patterns often imitate historic Spanish costumes. He often incorporates gems into his embroideries, which are mostly made by renowned embroiderer Francois Lesage. He likes to use wool, mohair knit, leather, tweed, cottons, velvets, tartans, tapestry, crepe, satins, lame and printed fabrics. However toile du jouy, silk and taffeta remain his trademark textiles. Accessories are important for him because as he suggests on his website “ they define posture and an all over look” He also mentions: “Jewellery reflects all my fantasies, gilt metal hearts, of course, decorated with gems, rhinestones, glass, but also all the floral or abstract inspirations” He accompanies his designs with such accessories as chunky jewellery, felt and leopard skin hats, patchwork capes, hoods, embroidered berets, fringed or striped scarves, studded or fringed belts, embroidered gloves, long necklaces, orange or gold boots, bejewelled crosses either hanging or incorporated into the embroidery design.

He says that southern France Provence is a haunting inspiration in all of his collections and adds: “When you are a designer, you have to keep your feet on the ground, but your head in the clouds forever, because it's very exciting and very difficult, but that's the excitement of the job,"

His words on his website describe the best of what Lacroix is all about: “I have personally always hovered between the purity of structures and the ecstasy of ornaments. Because Couture is both at the same time. I know I shall always detest emptiness and that I shall fill it with flowers, painting, or something similar. I know that I shall always be the Mediterranean man of paseos, of the Lices and of those processions combining ornamentation with allure, gypsies from the Ganges with bohemians from Kensington. I know that I shall always love snobbery, the real kind, when it signifies the right to be different, when it's about elegance, about the humble spangles of travelling shows.”

He takes inspirations from a lot of things: from bullfighting costumes and gypsy traditions of his childhood, the Orient, Medieval tunics and gowns, Military uniforms of the Napoleonic period as well as costumes from Outer Mongolian peasants. He is fascinated by painters like Picasso, Lautrec and Van Dongen, by the movie stars Maria Shell, Ava Gardner and Sarita Montiel, by the words of Jean Cocteau, Christopher Richardwood, Philippe Julien, by the poems of Camargue poet Denis Collandonnart by movies like “ Dames de Bois de Boulogne” and “My Fair Lady” . His range of interests is very large from, archaeologists like Patrick Maurière, to couturiers like Balenciaga and, Adrian and personalities like Jackie Kennedy. If there is another culture he is deeply influenced by, it is the English one: the time of the Beatles, mini skirts, and decorations of Cecil Beaton, Jane Austen but also the baroque taste of mixing centuries and the Victorian interiors of the English. Yet his emphasis stays always on the “modern”. He says "Modernity is in the allure, in the behaviour, in the gesture, in the way you walk with flat shoes for instance. When a young girl of 15 is wearing something from the 18th century, it gives her a wonderful mixture of charm, and I try to capture this modern day of mixing everything.” [4]

Lacroix, the French cultural ambassador:

Lacroix’s does not limit his efforts to couture. Owner of the Legion d’Honneur, France ’s highest award given to a civilian, on the 15th anniversary of the House of Lacroix, he also contributed to French culture and to France ’s image on many occasions.

His love for theatre and costume history resulted in designing costumes for many performances ranging from operas like Carmen or Don Juan in the Opéra Garnier, to Baryshnikov choreographies in the Metropolitan or new year ballet performances in the Vienna opera house. Above all he designed costumes for the symbolic cultural values of France , for instance the costumes of French classic cult movie ‘ Les Enfants du Paradis” or “Phèdre” of Racine at the Comédie Française, for which he was awarded the Molière prize for the best costume.

He always felt like a genuine costume designer. On his website he talks about this passion coming from his childhood: “Above all, for me the theatre was the one I would make for myself as a young child. I used to like to place costumes on little cut-out cardboard silhouettes, then, when I came home from a play, I used to redesign the costumes and change the harmonies, colours, volumes. It was an inexhaustible way of entering once again into a reinvented and transfigured world where everything became plastic and possible.”

In 2005, he was asked to illustrate the cover and the lettering of the “petit Larousse” dictionary for its centenary edition. It has as much symbolic value as getting a Legion of Honor.

But also he worked on remaking of France ’s external image: He was commissioned by Air France to redesign the uniforms of Air France staff and crew in 2004 and Pyjamas signed by him are handed out to passengers traveling on Air France First Class. Representing the first makeover in 17 years, the new livery consists of more than 100 items — all in trademark dark blue — which can be mixed and matched in different ways "like a woman's wardrobe," in the words of Lacroix to be worn by 36,000 employees of Air France. They were so elegant, that they captured the attention of the fashion world, particularly Colette, Paris ’ Saint-Honore windows displayed the outfits for two weeks.

He has been chosen by the French National Railway to recreate the interiors of 183 cars of the High Speed trains. From 2007 on, over the next 5 years, all high-speed trains on the Atlantic route and the new route to Eastern France will be made over by Lacroix and his design team, promising to transform their drab interiors into ultra modern, stylish, boutique-hotel-like environments. They are bursting with colour; the seats are cherry red, apple green and dove gray. The rich palette and designs give an haute couture finish to the train. This is the first time a high fashion designer has been charged with revamping the railways.

How did it happen that such creativity, richness, originality and modernity ended up in a failure?

1980s and1990s: the business of fashion

Throughout the 70s the democratization of fashion continued apace. In France , haute couture was a paradox of self-doubt, as prêt à porter took the high ground and street wear usurped aristocratic glamour. Until the French tycoon Bernard Arnault began laying the foundations of LVMH in 1980s, the Italians seemed to have the monopoly on luxury as a business; they knew how to marry art with commerce in a way that many French labels hadn’t quite grasped. In the 80s the most interesting thing on the catwalk was in prêt a porter with Jean Paul Gaultier,Thierry Mugler, and Kenzo. On the other hand Christian Lacroix was showing flamboyant dresses as it was the time of the New Romantic but more than anything, this was the era of the yuppie, whose clothing signified success.

Times change, and as '80s ostentation made way for '90s minimalism, Lacroix found his exuberant designs appealed only to the most outgoing of ladies — his haute couture clientele. Attempts at launching ready-to-wear, fragrances and jeans never really took off, and he went from being the darling of the fashion scene to a parody of it. The delightfully outrageous Absolutely Fabulous character Edina routinely dismissed uncharitable remarks about her attire with an acid-dripping, "It's Lacroix, darling”[5]

Fashion also became less important than lifestyle; in fact the media seemed more interested in how the models lived than in the clothes they wore. In parallel, this period also saw the emergence of the Japanese designers, minimalist rigour and futuristic interpretations of traditional garb, a monochrome severity that characterized the tail end of the 1980s. Paris catwalks lost their relevance in the face of MTV culture and street wear. In his book “Fashion Brands”, Mark Tungate says ”By the end of the 1990s Paris was a shadow of its former self, its image as the world’s fashion capital eroded by the slow decline of haute couture and the rapid ascent of Milan, not to mention the dominance of US pop culture and the influence of American designers.” Levi’s, Nike and Gap seemed a lot more connected to daily reality than some ethereal vision on a runway. Finally, and very importantly, many fashion houses were acquired by or grew into vast corporations, selling clothing, accessories, make-up and furniture. They became publicly traded companies which had to maintain steady predictable growth and profit for their shareholders.

From all these changes Haute Couture has suffered enormously. Because of the heavy costs of fashion shows, and the declining number of haute couture clientele from once 20.000 in 1945 to 2000 today[6] houses abandoned haute couture one after the other: Nina Ricci, Paco Rabanne, Lapidus. For them to survive they needed to have 2 very strongly functioning businesses: prêt a porter and diversification (perfumes, licences etc) hence making haute couture just the showcase, the advertising and buzz for the brand. The numbers given by “Féderation Française de la couture du prêt-à-porter, des couturiers et des créateurs de mode “reflect this reality: while haute couture business generated 280 million FF in 1996, the sector, including perfumes and accessories aggregated 7 billion FF in France . (6)

LVMH , the creator and the seller of the brand “Christian Lacroix”:

As unlikely as it may seem, the resurrection of Paris as the world’s most glamorous city can be credited to one ascetic, understated businessman, Bernard Arnault.

His start in luxury was at the age of 35. Using a combination of family money and loans, he bought Boussac, a bankrupt French textile group that had financed Christian Dior's original fashion house in 1946. Arnault stripped Boussac down to Dior and used it as a vehicle to create LVMH, which was born out of the 1987 merger between Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy. He spent the '90s snatching up still more luxury brands, including shirt maker Thomas Pink, Chaumet jewellery, Fendi leather goods, the Pucci and Donna Karan fashion lines, Krug champagne, and TAG Heuer watches. With his father, Jean, he still controls 47% of LVMH's stock and 63% of its voting rights, while separately owning 68% of Christian Dior Couture, the fashion side of Dior.[7]

The formula, devised by Arnault, involves sharply defining the brand identity - or "DNA," as he puts it--by mining the brand's history and finding the right designer to express it. As he states clearly in his interview in Time magazine (June 24th, 2001); "I'm not interested in anything else but the youngest, the brightest and the very, very talented” (Fortune Magazine, Sept 6, 2004). After all, he says “Brand building in the luxury business is trickier than in, say, the cereal business. You need to create desire for things that no one really needs”.

Like Richemont and Gucci, the model is based on economies of scale in production, marketing and communication costs: tightly controlled quality and distribution; and the creation of a masterful marketing buzz.

The business world of the 2000s heralded a new era. Due to financial pressures, more profitability and performance requirements, luxury groups started to move from being”'pot pouris of fashion, cosmetic and liquor brands” to a position where they concentrate on a few key and profitable brands.

Moreover, there has been alarming facts like each groups' top brand (Gucci for Gucci, Cartier for Richemont, Louis Vuitton for LVMH) earned more than twice the operating margins than their parent companies. In the case of Louis Vuitton, it contributed half of LVMH's $3.7b annual revenues.[8]

Lacroix excelled in the rarefied field of made-to-measure haute couture but has performed less well in mass-market ready-to-wear. Lacroix generated a loss, and sales dropped. His first perfume, C'est la Vie , was a commercial flop. The company's attempt to reach a broader audience with the more youthful Bazar and Jeans lines soon failed too. After 17 years and the introduction of lower-priced ready-to-wear and accessories, the house has not yet broken even and insiders calculate the entire investment at as much as €200 million, or $260 million[9]. LVMH announced in January 2005 that it was selling Christian Lacroix, for a sum estimated at £22 million to £43.5 million to the U.S. investment firm Falic Group, best known for its duty free stores.[10] Arnault apparently felt emotionally torn, believing that his treatment of the couturier by underwriting the losses and giving the designer freedom to pursue other activities, like stage design, has been "royal," but that he was viewed as too much of a patron supporting an artist. The person who has created only one brand among all that he acquired and has always only been interested in two things: the arts and business, had to make a choice. As he could not see how to turn Lacroix's undeniable creativity into a profit, and under pressure from analysts to cut back to core investments, he therefore envisaged keeping Lacroix as the designer of the Emilio Pucci brand, within the LVMH group, but turning over the Lacroix house to Falic Group, according to executives inside LVMH.

With this decision to sell “the unit whose sales never took off”, Bernard Arnault, was obviously showing his intent to focus on brands with greater growth potential, like Louis Vuitton, and heralding for some more alignments for his group as well as the industry.[11] As for Lacroix, he had to negotiate his contract as artistic director for his own house, which now belongs to the Falic family to continue to design both haute couture and ready to wear collections as well as accessories, as Mr. Arnault had effectively sold the company without the designer, who had worked freelance for the brand since 1999.

Difficulties, mismanagement, no sharing of future:

Was it really the potential of the label, the turns of fashion or financial pressures that decided the destiny of Christian Lacroix? They certainly did. However one should also take into consideration how crucial a role management plays in even the most creative and artistic companies. It was known that Lacroix had difficult relations with LVMH. By 2004 the tension had nearly destroyed the designer. In his interview with Newsweek March 12th, 2007, the designer remembers this period with the words: "Each morning I put on my samurai mask and prepared myself for everything that came my way, I was completely paranoid and took everything badly." For him there have been a lot of misunderstandings and a lack of chemistry with Bernard Arnault and he didn’t understand his "eccentric style and creativity". Nor, he added, did they know how to market or merchandise his label for the future (June 3, 2005 Herald Tribune: ) . He claimed."LVMH have rules and formulas that do not suit my method of design. They don't see that creativity does not stop at the entrance to the design studio. I always felt like the poor boy." .[12]

The announcement of the selling of the label came as a relief to Lacroix. After his haute couture show in January, he expressed his feelings to the press with the following words:” I'm not sad, it's a relief. What I want is to finally be heard, which hasn't happened for the past 17 years, and for the right people to be given the right jobs."

It was true that the succession of presidents—more than a dozen in 17 years—didn't help matters. The constant personnel changes made for far too many shifts in strategy, and the company continued to lose money. “When the LVMH group didn't know what to do with someone, they sent them to Lacroix," the designer ironically said in one of his interviews at International Herald Tribune [13].The situation looked gloomy at the beginning of 2005: “All the collections grew unwieldy, the designs "heavy and gimmicky," and production was increasingly poor. I was embarrassed when I passed women in the street wearing my clothes. They looked like catalogue clothes." [14]

The comeback:

2007 starts with a cheerful and optimist tone for Lacroix, as his newly launched fruity summer fragrance called “C'est la Fête “suggests.

"I feel like I am being born again," Lacroix, told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of his spring-summer haute couture collection in Paris in January 2007[15]."I have the feeling that it's something that is starting anew, but with a little more knowledge," he added.

In 2007, Lacroix is facing perhaps the busiest year of his career, with projects including a new perfume, opera costumes, children's toys and the design of a new tramway for the southern French city of Montpellier , in Mediterranean tones with sea motifs. In April the house has kicked off its 20th-anniversary celebrations with an exhibition of Lacroix's clothes at the Villa Noailles museum in Hyères , France , followed by a show of his theatre sets and costumes at the national costume museum in Moulins, France , in June. He is still busy doing costumes for operas and ballets. Next up: "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Aix-en-Provence festival in July. A major exhibition of his work is scheduled to go up at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in the Louvre in November—the same month Lacroix will inaugurate his first American flagship store, on East 57th Street in New York. ( Lacroix opened its first American boutique, in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in2006)

In France, Lacroix's renaissance is already obvious everywhere—from the nationwide Gaumont cinemas and the new TGV trains to Strasbourg, for which he designed the interiors, to the charming 17th-century Hôtel du Petit Moulin in Paris, where every room is decorated in Lacroix's signature baroque style. Three more hotels are planned, the first to open down the street from the Musée d'Orsay on the Left Bank in November. Lacroix has become so influential in design that in January he was named creator of the year at the prestigious Maison & Objet interior-design trade show in Paris . Last year's recipient was the world-renowned French architect Jean Nouvel.

As is ever the case in fashion, his moment was destined to come again. And what a grand entrance he's making. In March 2007, Helen Mirren picked up her Oscar for best actress wearing a Lacroix made-to-order gold lace couture confection. the designer's shows again became a hot ticket as the decade turned and the 1990s gave way to the 21st century. For 2007 /8 collections he presented in Paris Fashion Week, his streamlined fall-winter womenswear with an emphasis on feminine, dark-hued wool suits and short, jewel-colored satin dresses and in haute couture, a little younger, less heavy, outdated, obsolete and more casual collection. In his interview to IHT on Jan 23th, he was celebrating the comeback of maximalism with the following words "What I feel, and I think I'm very lucky, is that the times are right for us again. Since the last two seasons or so, thanks to the revival of the 1980s, the return of prints, the return of more ornate things, and the era is once again favorable,"

Whatever the changes, the collections are still everything one expects from Lacroix: an exuberant riot of colour, ecstatic, nearly surreal details, and rich fabric upon rich fabric. Trompe-l'oeil collars, 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." Macy’s fashion director Nicole Fischelis,. put it this way: “Lacroix is Lacroix” Macy’s doesn’t carry the pricey label.” [16]

On the business side, Falic Group, controlled by three American brothers of Russian and Israeli descent, is using its business acumen to reinvent the label.They have pulled the disparate lines into one cohesive ready-to-wear collection and planned a major expansion into the United States. They hired the French-born, American-educated entrepreneur Nicolas Topiol as Lacroix’s president. Under Topiol's guidance, Lacroix's lower-priced Bazar and Jeans lines have been dissolved, and the ready-to-wear line is designed to be more readily wearable, featuring basic Capri pants up to pretty lace cocktail dresses, with prices generally ranging from $250 to $4,000. Production quality has been greatly improved. Setting the company on a course to become profitable in 2008, for the first time Topiol hopes to double the company's revenue to $100 million within three years[17]. When the American brothers bought the label in 2005, they had announced that Lacroix was the diamond in their company.[18]It seems to be the case so far as Lacroix has negotiated a more secure deal with the Falics,and since then the company has flourished.. "I run the company with him," says Topiol. "We are partners in crime."[19] . Lacroix is aware of the challenge of making ready to wear profitable in his interview to the International Herald Tribune on January, 23rd: "What is most exciting to me right now is to be up to this evolution — how to evolve while preserving the core, while keeping this universe intact, without disappointing those who have loved me in the past, but still surprise those who might tire of it."

A story more than the age –old dichotomy between the creative and the businessman:

The story is only partly the age-old dichotomy between creative talent and money men. The parting of ways between Arnault and Lacroix has also signal the end of an era, when apparently limitless demand for luxury encouraged optimistic designer start-ups, but managing creativity has proved to be more difficult,

Hasn’t Lacroix recognized 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? He mentioned his wishes at an interview before his show in 2005: "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."

Moreover, Christian Lacroix is the quintessential French designer, but since the new owner of his house is the Falic Group, does it mean that Christian Lacroix is now an American fashion house? We will always think of Christian Lacroix as French, but the fashion critics since 2005 mentioned more and more the American influence and affinity to American taste in the collections presented by Lacroix. During the selling of the label, the French press questioned several times how haute couture, although not profitable and difficult as a business, can sell one of its most brilliant French “créateurs”, the French “savoir-faire” and the showcase of the world number one luxury group to the foreigners.

Weren’t there any other solutions for a designer who is fully aware of the value couture has in pushing fashion, projecting a dream, and making dramatically important fashion statements blessed with centuries old knowledge of costumes, culture and French heritage.

This is essential if fashion is to survive commercially, because the ready-to-wear and mass-market manufacturers always see designers as the inspirators that direct the movement of fashion


“Couture is mad, contradictory, unpredictable, and most of all, it's stronger than I am.”

Christian Lacroix

Unlike his contemporaries who are satisfied with merely celebrating the trends, Lacroix steers his creative eye towards the future, pushing the boundaries of an ever-changing world. For him it is a mistake to give in to the mood of the moment. “On the contrary, we must go one step further and beyond toward the next generation who are bound to have another approach to clothing, to consumer-buying and luxury.” He says to Telegraph in 2006[20]. And there is nothing better than the own words of Christian Lacroix to conclude this discussion:“At the end of the 20th Century, Couture will survive if it manages to situate itself coherently between luxury ready-to-wear, that it must not be, and radical creativity that is not its role. Even a new clientele does not escape certain codes. Some designers do the work of a couturier while others propose an obsolete image of women. A hand-made straight skirt doesn't mean very much. The future lies between the two because the individual desire for a unique and hand-crafted garment will always exist, especially since more and more people will refuse to wear uniforms. I believe in local neo-couturiers, in customised clothes, even modest ones, in the rare and beautiful things we can invent for ourselves. I want to continue to believe that being different remains the key to everything. In my fashion house anyway. The finest signs of personal identity are always to be found in what is ephemeral, particular, unique. Luxury in itself must achieve individuality,a difference, a personal dandyism - not an esthetically outdated middle class. I believe that we only have one thing to say but that this thing consistently evolves. It is this consistency within change that determines a style.”[21]

Bibliography :

« Fashion Brands », Marc Tungate, ( Kogan Page, 2004)

« Qui est là ? », Christian Lacroix (Mercure de France, 2004)

“ Fashion Now” Terry Jones & Avril Mair (Taschen,2005)

Radio Interview in « ça me dit Après midi « on France Culture, 21.04.07


[1] Radio Interview on Radio France , 21.05.07

[2] Newseek, March 12th, 2007

[3] Christian Lacroix website

[4] CNN, Feb 7th, 1996

[5] Time Magazine, article of Lauren Goldstein

[6] , 12.04.2001

[7] Fortune, September 6th, 2004

[8] Wall Street Journal

[9] International Herald Tribune, January 8th, 2005

[10] Telegraph, UK, January 21th, 2005

[11] International Herald Tribune, June 3rd, 2005

[12] Telegraph, UK, January 21th, 2005

[13] International Herald Tribune, June 3th, 2005

[14] Newsweek, March 12th, 2007

[15] International Herald Tribune, January 23th, 2007

[16] The Wall Street Journal, 5.03.2007

[17] Newseek, March 12th, 2007

[18] Telegraph UK, January 21th 2005

[19] Newsweek, March 12th, 2007

[20] Telegraph, 7.07.2006

[21] www.Christian

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