fluoroOriginal: The Rise of Christian Lacroix

– An interview with Sacha Walckhoff, Creative Director, Christian Lacroix.

In May 2009, Christian Lacroix, the French couturier whose extravagant Haute Couture creations propelled him to fame in the 1980s, became a victim of the global financial crisis as the US-owned fashion house bearing his name filed for court protection from creditors. over 20 years, Christian Lacroix built a fashion empire hosting a brand portfolio that included Haute Couture, ready to wear and fragrance lines. His love for 17/18th century costume and elegant runway collections defined an era of Parisian chic and modern Haute Couture.

In 2010, Swiss designer Sacha Walckhoff was announced the Creative Director of the brand. Simon and Léon Falic flew from Miami last January to meet with Nicolas Topiol (CEO of Lacroix) and Sacha to talk about the future of the company. It was that same day where it was decided — Sacha was to step up to become Creative Director of the house.

fluoro interviewed Sacha where his passion for his work was almost tangible. He is crazy about fabrics, embroideries and prints. He examines sewing techniques in items he collects. He told us that he is always imagining the story or the people who made them and wore them, which fascinate him.

“I collect all kinds of stuff. I am a flea market expert! This weekend, in the country where my partner and I have a small house, I found an amazing bag I never saw before that was used by the merchants at the beginning of the 20th century… it made my day… and maybe next season hit!!! (I’m joking…)”

We asked him whether the latest collection is trying to reinforce Christian Lacroix’s love and commitment to France?

“We are a very French (even if the studio is very international)! A lovely link between Paris and the south of France, so the story of this season, a Parisian guy, a little bit “Rive gauche”, a little bit “Savvile Row”. Touring the French Riviera was just obvious to us… it is, in a way, what we are.”

Have the changes within Christian Lacroix had an impact on the Summer 2011 collection?

Well, after all the years spent together, working without Christian has been a new experience for all of us. Since the collection came out last month, many viewers have told me that the collection looks young, easy and still very Lacroix, (a good sign for me has been that during the presentation a lot of guys wanted to try the clothes!) so the right answer to that question should be “yes and no” I guess!

You took your collection for the first time ever to US buyers. Has the feedback exceeded your expectations?

I must say I was nervous about it, but all the press came in our little show room on the 57th street in New York and all of them have been very kind to us and to the collection… so I hope the buyers will follow up but it is to early to tell!

Affordability has become the backbone of the brand’s upcoming creations – you’re considering collaborating with Target or H&M – as a high-end brand, do you think this move comes with a risk of losing that status?

We are at a turning point with the company. We all agreed in the house that going on with Haute Couture without Christian would be nonsense right now.

But we have this wonderful “patrimony” built with him for more than 20 years. Wherever you go in the world, people know the name “Christian Lacroix” and you can feel the admiration attached to it but only a few really own something from the brand and after asking them a few questions, you quickly come to the conclusion that they think it is more for their mother or even grandmother… My goal is to make this change, without loosing our “savoir faire” and adapting the right idea to the right subject. For me “Haute Couture” is a state of mind, you can reach this feeling of luxury in many ways… expensive things are not always elegant and chic.

Throughout Christian Lacroix’s history it never turned a profit and reported a €10 million loss in 2008. The collapse is attributed to a reduced spending on luxury fashion. Do you see a rise in spending on luxury fashion?

The traditional luxury market is heading East, the new “Eldorado” are India and China, but I hope that the rest of the world will also recover from the crisis and that more and more people will be able to experience this pleasure of owning something special… it is the reason why I want to do affordable things too.

Up until now, the brand was best known for it’s colourful gypsy-themed clothes and elaborate Haute Couture. Looking forward 5 years, what’s your vision for how the Christian Lacroix brand will be known?

To be known as a “chic, easy, affordable, it is made for me, I cannot live without it!” brand would be great.

You want ‘everyone to enjoy the brand’. When can expect to see Christian Lacroix expand into other areas: womenswear, perfume, accessories?

In September, we presented our new collection of sunglasses and eyewear for women and men (available worldwide for summer 2011) as well as a complete stationery line. We also designed a very exclusive case and bottle for a limited edition 18 year old Chivas for the next holidays as well as a collector DVD cover of “Sex and the City 2” as Sarah Jessica Parker is very close to our house.

Next January, we are presenting at “Maison et Objet” in Paris our first collection of interior fabrics (distributed by Designer Guild) that we designed with Tricia Guild who is a very talented, amazing lady. We are also finalizing the last fragrance out of a trilogy we began with Avon two years ago and that will be available at the end of 2011. We are working on a line of bags and leather goods for women and men available next winter 2011 too.

So I hope that very soon, everyone will find something that they like made
in our “Lacroix” way.

Photography by Claude Weber.

Images supplied by Christian Lacroix, Paris.

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