Christian Lacroix Shares His Personal Highlights From a Life in the Haute Couture
One of the high points of the Spring 2020 season was the return of Christian Lacroix to the ready-to-wear—32 years after his debut and 10 years after he left his namesake house—courtesy of Dries Van Noten. The Belgian designer lured the couturier, who is now designing opera costumes, into his atelier in Antwerp, where they collaborated on a collection that married excess and minimalism. “It was wonderful,” said Lacroix when speaking about the project with the New York Times, “but this is my last day in fashion.”
Anyone who has seen a Lacroix collection—or watched Absolutely Fabulous, the British sitcom in which one of the leads, Edina, is obsessed with Lacroix—knows the designer’s place in fashion history is eternally secure.
“Lacroix,” noted the historian Anne Hollander soon after the designer arrived on the scene in 1987, “is daring like Picasso.” He reveled in color and volume, and he was credited with making the haute couture feel vital and relevant in a way it hadn’t for years. Lacroix’s exuberant, joyful clothes captured the era’s zeitgeist—“my motto when I was a teenager was too much is never enough,” he once said. And the bullish market of the late ’80s meant that there were people with money, inherited or otherwise, to spend on his wild confections. With their historical references—Corsets! Bustles! Crinolines!—lineage was sewn into their seams, lending them a sort of social imprimatur. (It didn’t hurt that the designer’s muse Marie Seznec looked like a latter-day Marie Antoinette, either.)
Van Noten isn’t the only one who feels that Lacroix’s work is once again resonant. For starters, it’s inherently optimistic. It also approaches art in terms of both craftsmanship and aesthetics. To look at his past couture designs is to see the work of artists like Giovanni Boldini, François Boucher, and Christian Bérard assume three dimensions, and the palettes of Kees van Dongen and Jean-Honoré Fragonard come alive. On the eve of a new decade full of unknowns, Lacroix’s work links us to distant and nearer pasts and recalls lines from John Keats’s poem, “Endymion”:
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep.”
Here, at Vogue’s request, the designer waxes poetic about 31 of his couture creations.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.