Christian Lacroix made fashion history with his July 1987 debut couture collection backed by LVMH. His was the first Paris haute couture house to open since Courreges in 1965. Lacroix took the bustles, bows, corsets and crinolines painted by 18th century artists Boucher, Fragonard and Nattier and mixed them up with ruffles, feathers and fringes of Toulouse-Lautrec’s can-can dancers and the gypsies in his hometown Trinquetoulle, Provence. Lacroix’s puffball skirt – a taffeta or satin balloon of fabric that gathered a crinoline at the hem – reinvented the ball gown for the late 20th century. “Personally I’ve always hovered between the purity of structures and the ecstasy of ornament,” says the designer who brought Rococo back to couture.
Born on 16 May 1956, Lacroix moved to Paris in 1971, where he studied at the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre, where he planned a career as a museum curator.
Instead, he began designing-, first for Hermes (1978), then Guy Paulin (1980) and Patou (1981) before being offered the keys to his own couture house by Bernard Arnault of LVMH in 1987. Lacroix’s inspiration was as broad as Arnault’s plans for the label: Cecil Beaton’s Ascot Scene in ‘My Fair Lady’; Oliver Messel’s neo-Rococo interiors; Velasquez Infantas; Lautrec soubrettes; Provencal gypsies and his dynamic wife Francoise.
Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear followed the couture in 1998 and diffusion line Bazar arrived in 1994. Lacroix’s sensibility translates superbly to theatre, opera and ballet. He designed landmark productions of ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’, ‘La Gaiete Parisienne’ and ‘Sheherazade’ as well as the jewelled corsets worn by Madonna for her 2004 Reinvention Tour.
In 2002, Lacroix was appointed creative director of Florentine print house Pucci, and in 2005 a new chapter began for the designer when his fashion house was sold by LVMH to an American company, the Falic Group.