Paris people

Escape to a better world

Photo: AFP, Pierre Verdy

Christian Lacroix is back again. A real tumbler. Somebody who always bounces back. He lost his fashion house? Yes, he did. As society’s power players shifted from the glamorous Nancy Reagan to the grungy Kate Moss, so Lacroix drifted into fashion hinterland. And then came the financial crisis.

It was painful to lose his name and close down the Haute couture studio. A very hard lesson indeed. But now it seems that the time of grieving is over. The Americans are selling out, but Mr. Lacroix is looking forward.

A hymn to oriental women

The fashion designer will celebrate his 60th birthday in May – but for him this is not a reason to retire. Christian Lacroix is back on stage. On opera stage to be exact. After Aida in Cologne, he will be designing the costumes for Capuleti e i Montechhi in Munich and than continue with Candide in Berlin.

In between he could inaugurate “Orient and women”. The exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly is a hymn to oriental women displaying some of the 150 marriage and other festive pieces and accessories. Orient and women? For Christian Lacroix, who was born in Arles, South of France, “two bewitching escapes, overlapping and fitting so well. Beyond any conventional exoticism, any cliché”, he says, “there is a sense of belonging: we all came from women. And often from the East. If we don't, it’s the East that has come to us.”

Respect, lots of love and fun

Mr. Lacroix has actually – like so many other designers - a very special relationship to women. He was just meeting up with an ex-boyfriend, when he met Françoise Rosensthiel: “She epitomised the Parisienne with her Vidal Sassoon haircut, wearing a T-shirt and pearls, a big peasant skirt, white tights, rubber shoes and a fur coat from the 1930s.” He wanted to get to know her. Back then, Françoise was married but she ended up getting a divorce. They got married in 1974.

And today? “We have respect for each other, there’s lots of love and fun”, Mr. Lacroix said in an interview to Harpers Bazar. “We’ve never had problems with my gay part because we met while I was with one of my boyfriends. I used to say that I made my ‘coming in’ with Françoise.“ She is, what he calls the “thread that runs through my life.”

Lacroix and the upper Marais

For Paris visitors it's easy to discover Lacroix's world: just check into Hotel du Petit Moulin, which he designed from top to bottom. It's situated in his neighbourhood, the upper Marais, where you can have a drink in "Le Sancerre" or dinner at "Chez Nénesse" or the posh Japanese canteen called "Usagi", a few of his favourite places that he mentioned in the Figaroscope.

Even if Christian Lacroix has now another approach to the fashion world, he still is convinced of its power. “The world needs some excitement from fashion. The big evolutions in fashion always come in times when things are tough. They are an escape to a better world.”Photos:
AFP, Pierre Verdy