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Christian Lacroix

Christian Marie Lacroix was born on May 16, 1951 in Arles, France. He studied art and costume history at the University of Montpellier, and after graduating with his arts degree in 1973, Lacroix went to study at the Sorbonne in Paris, hoping to establish a career as a museum curator. After moving to Paris from Arles in the early 1970s, he met Françoise Rosensthiel, his future wife, who encouraged his interest in fashion. After graduating the Sorbonne, he worked as a shoe designer, an accessory designer for Hermés, and eventually a design assistant for Guy Paulin.

In 1981 he became lead designer for Jean Patou, a company that was in the early stages of demise. Sales tripled as he seduced the press and breathed new life into a dying brand. In 1987, he left Patou and launched his own label, opening what was to be first new haute couture salon in Paris in nearly two decades.

He is most well-known for introducing the “pouf,” or the “puffball” as it was called in British fashion circles. This gravity-defying concoction became famous for its inventiveness and was a staple of late 1980s party-gear.

His couture designs referenced fashion history, fairytales, and folklore, mixing them to suit his needs. His use of sumptuous fabrics, such as velvets, silks, and leathers, epitomized the 1980s in both frivolity and excess. He specialized in exaggerated silhouettes, extreme mismatching of fabrics, and a gallimaufry of decoration, ornament, and color. But, such things were expensive to produce and impractical to wear, and in the subsequent economic climate were proven to be virtually unsustainable. His designs soon began to fall out of fashion.

While he tried to find a niche in ready-to-wear, Lacroix also retained his interest in costume design, and designed costumes for ballets, stage productions, operas, and films throughout the 1980s and 1990s. By the late 1990s fantasy fashion was beginning to find it’s footing again, and Lacroix once again became somewhat popular. He began to focus on wedding dresses and gowns, and continued to design for the stage and screen.He diversified into jeans, perfume, children’s wear, lingerie, menswear couture, ready-to-wear and homeware, yet the house never turned a profit, incurring lifetime losses of €150 million.

In 2002, Lacroix became the head designer for the house of Pucci, which was faltering as a company. The Pucci aesthetic worked well with Lacroix’s fashion vision. He remained with Pucci for three years, returning once again to the world of Haute Couture in 2007. His return was short-lived however, and in 2009, he filed for Bankruptcy and his business was placed under administration. In 2013, Lacroix was invited to do an 18-piece tribute collection for Schiaparelli. The collection was presented at the Louvre’s Museum of Decorative Arts to celebrate the Schiaparelli legacy, however none of the garments were produced for purchase.   

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References:

Bernstein, J., (2013). When a Pouf Skirt Said It All. [Online]. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/fashion/recalling-the-lacroix-era.html

Craven, J., (2008). Christian Lacroix. [Online]. Available: http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/christian-lacroix-biography

Fury, A., (2017). The Enduring Impact of Christian Lacroix. [Online]. Available: http://www.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/9621/the-enduring-impact-of-christian-lacroix

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