The House that Lacroix Built

AllyG: Heather, one of our readers, posted a great comment the other day. She asked us to open up a dialogue about the turmoil at House Lacroix. Heather wrote:

Humbling as it is, it’s such a sad state of affairs when someone this talented is left with no other options but bankruptcy. You should do a feature on his amazing clothes. I think it would be a great way to throw some support behind this iconic couture house.

PS: I saw on FT that the house is such dire straits that they showed the latest collection in a garage. I actually thought it was a great place to show but he is really known for opulence and glamour so again very humbling for him.

If you aren’t familiar with what’s happening at the Lacroix label, has a pretty good overview here. While it looks as though Lacroix will indeed have to close the doors to his fashion house, he is keeping the back doors open for a potential comeback. And you know we all love a good comeback (I was just saying this the other day about Britney!)

As Heather noted, Christian Lacroix held an unusually understated show last week, perhaps a direct reflection of his current state of affairs. Forbes notes, “The dire effect of the consumer slump could be seen through his sober collection presented in Paris on Tuesday marked mostly by black dresses and sober fabrics and materials.”

Looking through some photos of Lacroix’s F09 ready-to-wear collection, I have to disagree with the review. While admittedly the car park venue was in stark contrast to the more elaborate locations in the past, the clothes were all class with just enough couture attitude.

Christian Lacroix1

I believe there is a fancy name for this type of dress (any the more cultured readers can for sure provide me with a lesson), but I tend to describe it as the perfect bubble dress. The buttons provide a great militaryesque feel, giving the LBD a bit of sass.


I never thought this sentence would be uttered from my lips…but I am finally glad we’re bringing the 80’s back. I adore the ribbon detail on the semi-sharp shoulders and the flared out skirt is growing on me. Mind you, I am not sure how this look would translate on a regular lass, but that’s not the point of Lacroix.


Again, I’m giving props to the 80’s. This is the sort of outfit Melanie Griffith should have worn in Working Girl. She wouldn’t have had to waste all that time giving Harrison Ford the bedroom eyes in order to move up the ladder.

I love the crisp, tailored look of the blazer and scarf with the contrast of the soft skirt on bottom. I think this is because Stacey and Clinton taught me to enjoy “movement” in my clothing.

I think what I like best about Lacroix is that he has always made being in your thirties exciting. It’s likely this is not what he is after, but that confidence resonates through his clothing. I’d gladly toss out my Le Chateau discount card (if they had one) for a chance to be clothed in Lacroix seven days a week.


I argue that you just cannot pull off the above look in your twenties. You can’t. You need to have the experience and gusto that comes with surviving your twenties to wear this. I love the patterned skirt, not so hot on the gold top, but perhaps that is due to the fact that gold makes me look like I’ve spent five nights in a row with Captain Morgan and Paris Hilton.

Lacroix’s state of affairs certainly raises questions about the future of couture in today’s climate. Jeanne Beker (one of L-A’s favorites!) wrote a fantastic column on just this topic in Saturdays’ Globe and Mail. She states, ” Having the financial means to indulge is, of course, another criterion. But if one truth stood out during this past week, it was the ability of couture artistry to transcend dismal economies. Sure, some designers are taking a more practical approach, but trying times sure do make for great creativity.”

As for Lacroix, I am confident he will return with a new investor and a fabulous ready-to-wear line. Perhaps by then I’ll be able to afford even a pair of underpants from his collection. A girl can dream.

L-A: This really is a sad state of affairs. Lacroix was born to design clothing.  Seriously. When I was reading up on Dior last week, I read a quote by Lacroix that when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer was, “Dior.”  And while he might not have become Dior, he did create a fashion house that was one of a handful of members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture who are legally allowed to call themselves Haute Couture.  And despite all he has achieved, there is the sad news that the House of Lacroix has filed for bankruptcy. Of course, it is not so much Lacroix himself as it is his management (the company was purchased by Falic in 2005).  It was the management that laid off all but 12 of his employees (I can’t imagine one could run an atelier with only that. To be couture you must have a minimum of 15). And it is the management telling us that the “downturn in the luxury goods market” is the cause.

Perhaps it is. I’ve never really been part of that market. But I am in the market of admiring the work of the great couturiers, and that includes Lacroix, for all his extravagant design.  Because someone needs to be extravagant, n’est pas? Someone needs to make fashion fun. And Lacroix does just that.  Just look at that Pret-a-Porter collection!  (apologies for not saying Ready to Wear. I just love throwing around the occasional French is all). He totally played with the trends from when he first launched in 1987, which is why it has that Working Girl feel to it (well played Ally!). (as an aside: did you know that Lacroix invented le pouf? Le pouf being the poufy bubbly skirt. Part of me hates him for that skirt, but most of me loves him for what he did with le pouf. It can’t be helped what others did with it). And while I am loathe to see the styles of the ’80s return, I do like what he did this season.  Here are some of my favourites (clearly I’m still hesitant about the ’80s, as there isn’t one strong shouldered design in the bunch):


He totally brought the pretty with this number. Loves it. No idea how this would look on a real person, but I don’t really care either. I just like to look at it. I also love his use of the giant flower pin. I am a big fan of brooches and can get behind the “gaudy” giant pin (unless it is actually gaudy. A fine line that will make for another post.)


I love the tie around the neck. Well done Monsieur Lacroix. And this dress is totally backs up what Ally was talking about: you can’t really pull this off when your 20 (with exceptions of course). This is for women who have survived their 20s and have moved on from drinking crap like vodka and lime to maybe knowing something about wine (like, that there is more than just red and white and that Two Oceans wine is not really that good after all).  They may still put back a bottle of that wine all on their own, but they will look damn good doing so because they can pull of a dress like that one.  Oh, and did you notice the shoes?


Hot, n’est pas?

What really kills me is that despite all the talk of his extravagant designs over the years (he was the favourite of the AbFab girls for a reason, I suppose), what may have been his downfall was that he wasn’t extravagant enough. He didn’t push his wares onto the masses. Says Lacroix: “I can’t stand the idea that people think I am to blame. But to a certain extent I am paying for not having done what everyone else did, with their logos and It-bags. I never went down that route.”

What also kills me is his final couture show happened only because seamstresses and milliners and others were willing to work for free. Only the models were paid and that was because French law requires them to be paid at least €50 each.  But they did a beautiful job.


The hat does nothing for me, but I am in love with that dress. The silk looks like something you could just live in. And considering the cost of couture, I would probably have to live in it. That and Chez Cardboard box.

And if this show was his swan song, then he designed just the bridal gown to cap off this part of his extravagant career:


Holy crap. Did I mention that the seamstresses, jewelers, embroiderers and milliners donated their time? You don’t help to make a gown like that if you don’t believe in the man who designed it. That is a labour of love. And while this dress isn’t exactly my taste, I can’t help but be impressed. And that is the point of couture. It isn’t made for us to buy. It is made to be admired. To inspire. Just because it’s clothing, doesn’t mean it’s not art. Because that gown is indeed a piece of art.

Until his comeback (and I do hope there is one. If BritBrit can do it, so can Lacroix!), we’ll have to take up opera and ballet watching in the hopes of seeing some of his costumes (I’ll be checking it out at the Met…well, the Met Performances broadcast at the movie theatre), such as this sucker from his award winning work for the opera Phèdre:


And before I wrap this up, I’m going to encourage you to visit the website of Lacroix.  I have an almost universal hate on for any website that automatically plays music when I open it.  But this was one of the few times when it worked for me. In addition to seeing his past collections and sketches from his theatre work, you can watch a slideshow of his Ready to Wear collection while a cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” is played on a cello (at least I think it is a cello. I really don’t know. I do know it is a deep sounding stringed instrument).  Considering it was his final collection and it was presented in a garage, I think it’s fitting. And maybe a little heartbreaking that art is going bankrupt.

Alan Ricketts, Mike Trask, The Divorcees, and Nathan Rogers

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