Christian Lacroix

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For Christian Lacroix, this year and its economy have wreaked some major havoc on the prospects of the fashion house and its artfully elaborate designs. The line’s much publicized bankruptcy forces even the cock-eyed optimist to face the faulty future of haute couture, the labour-intensive genius behind its garments, and the shrinking luxury market. A mere two weeks ago in the city of love, Lacroix’s Fall 2009 Couture collection graced the runway. Although the show was bittersweet in atmosphere due to the line’s financial hardships and the possibility that Paris might be the end, the clothes delivered magically. Not in the majestic fantasy-land wonderment that Lacroix is famous for—these pieces are understandably more subtle, though not at all muted in comparison to other couture designers’ restrained fall collections.

Baroque, royal, and ornate detailing characterized much of Lacroix’s work. Gold embellishment, capes, hats, and fur still shone on the runway, but atop simple silhouettes and decidedly wearable skirts and dresses. Impeccable fit combined with bright colors on black and white made for a collection that encompassed what haute couture is all about—the glamour and lavishness of highly conceptual pieces in combination with unfailing craftsmanship in the garments’ construction. A regal, stately aesthetic dominated Lacroix’s fall creations, as even the color palette featured hues of royal blue, purple and gold.

In 1987 Christian Lacroix opened his own couture house. He began putting out ready-to-wear in 1988 drawing inspiration from diverse cultures. Critics commented that he did not seem to understand the type of clothing the working woman needed. In 1989, Lacroix launched jewelry, handbags, shoes, glasses, scarves and ties (along with ready-to-wear). In this same year, he opened boutiques within Paris, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Toulouse, London, Geneva and Japan.

With his background in historical costume and clothing, Lacroix soon made headlines with his opulent, fantasy creations, including the short puffball skirt ("le pouf"), rose prints, and low décolleté necklines. He quoted widely from other styles—from fashion history (the corset and the crinoline), from folklore, and from many parts of the world—and he mixed his quotations in a topsy-turvy manner. He favored the hot colors of the Mediterranean region, a hodgepodge of patterns, and experimental fabrics, sometimes handwoven in local workshops.

In 2009 the fashion house, owned by duty-free retailer Falic Fashion Group, put the business into administration and laid off all but 12 workers. Lacroix's A/W 2009 Haute Couture was privately financed by Lacroix and each model was paid €50. "I didn't want to cry," said Lacroix "I want to continue, maybe in a different way, with a small atelier. What I really care about is the women who do this work" Lacroix said about his last Haute Couture collection. Throughout its history it never turned a profit and reported a €10 million loss in 2008.

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