Lacroix, sweety! The legendary designer, who rose to fame during the 1980s, has started an Instagram account, which documents his life since the closure of his label in 2009. Here, he opens up about his newfound addiction
Emails from Christian Lacroix arrive in a friendly fire of capital letters and exclamation points, signed at the end, affectionately, ‘XIAN’. We first speak just before Easter, when he is enjoying a well-earned rest: in France, the theatres are closed for Holy Thursday, and he has had a lie in. Theatres are where Lacroix spends much of his time now, holed up in the ateliers, where the opera’s grand costumes are created. “A production, play, ballet or opera is like a couture collection, but lasts just a few performances,” he will later tell me.
Lacroix exited the fashion industry in 2009 when his eponymous label folded. Rising to fame in the 1980s, his collections – spanning haute couture and prêt-à-porter – were exuberant and excessive, a pile-up of bustles and crinoline, colour and print, and a rebuff to the power-shouldered women who had previously defined the era (“Lacroix, sweety!” went Edina “Eddy” Monsoon’s rally cry in Absolutely Fabulous). Alexander Fury, AnOther’s fashion features director, deemed the designer’s clothes an expression of joy: “the simple joy of creativity, the joy of craftsmanship, a joy in wearing these extreme, amusing clothes,” he wrote. Since then, Lacroix has retreated from the public eye, living quietly, out of the spotlight.
Then, in February of this year – about a decade since Lacroix quit fashion – a new account appeared on Instagram, titled @fkachristianlacroix. Announced with the bio “A LIFE AFTER FASHION & COUTURE !!! THE GENUINE & AUTHENTIC ONE IS HERE !!!”, and begun with a triumverate of videos of the designer in the ornate Opéra Comique, it was soon evident that this was Monsieur Lacroix himself, in his first appearance on social media (the home furnishing brand which still bears his name, @christianlacroixmaison, he has nothing to do with). In part, he started the account to clear up this confusion: “Even some people from my own family or friends didn’t understand what is mine or not under my name ten years since I left the couture house,” Lacroix explains.
Since then, though, Lacroix – now a self-confessed Instagram addict – has used @fkachristianlacroix to express his joys, those of a life after fashion: there are hand-made ceramics, wigs, antiques, statues, chairs, bustles, bows – and the very occasional selfie. Here, in a conversation conducted over email, Lacroix talks DMs from fans, his favourite accounts to follow, and his life looks like post-fashion.
Jack Moss: The account started in February – what made you download Instagram?
Christian Lacroix: Already two months?! I thought about it and hesitated a long time, dubious about so many accounts with just ducky faces, pizzas, muscles, plates or shopping, but with the feeling, too, that nobody knew what I was doing for stage, which is much less publicised and advertised than fashion. Even some people from my own family or friends didn’t understand what was mine or not under my name ten years since I left the couture house, which still bears my name and belongs to the Falic brothers group in Miami. When they went for Chapter 11 [bankruptcy] they stopped couture and fashion for wallpaper, fabrics, decoration, china, furniture, scarves and stationery which I have nothing to do with. I’ve designed for stage since the mid-1980s with two Molière Awards but since 2009 I was able [to do multiple] projects, worked a lot in Germany, Switzerland, France of course, but without any publicity. A production, play, ballet or opera is like a couture collection but lasts just a few performances. I do books too, hotels, industrial design, ceramics and decided to share these works so people have better understanding, and can share, react. It’s an opportunity to explain everything more clearly and better than just a website.
JM: Are you addicted yet?
CL: Yes, I’m an addict, I was, since the very first day!
JM: Your bio calls it a look at “life after fashion and couture” – what is that life like now?
CL: A hectic life in different fields, the one I dreamed as a child, working for famous theatres mainly. So I achieved my childhood project.
JM: Do you miss the fashion industry?
CL: No, it has changed so much since 1980, when I started. We had so much fun and freedom. I had some success because I did what I wished I’d been doing on stage. When I [graduated from] the Sorbonne University and Louvre Museum School [École du Louvre], I first showed my sketches to opera and theatre people, without any positive feedback, so I went into fashion, on the advice of Marie Rucki [who was] already directing Studio Berçot fashion school in Paris, who I met through friends. So I proposed theatrical or operatic design on the runway, each client was for me quite a unique drama queen, opera heroine, as actresses I do costumes for now. [It’s about] expressing a character, along with history of costume, fashion and art. I can now express everyday far from runway, but I’m still interested in daring designers!
JM: In a piece for AnOther, Alexander Fury quoted you as saying “costume is my favourite thing, not fashion”. Your current work on costume is documented a lot on the account – what is it you love about it?
CL: Since I was a very young child I have been fascinated by the past – art, decorating and the way of life – and I am always studying these matters by myself, through family albums and magazines. There were even less than a few books then, in the late 1950s and 1960s, about costume and fashion, they first appeared in the early 1970s with the impact of Diana Vreeland through the Met [Museum] after Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. I love everything bigger than life: escapism through fabrics, embellishments, or a pure, simple neat silhouette but always expressing some lyricism, like a dream, not in too sweet a way, but something going further than everyday life, something less dull than what we see in the streets or on TV. I like to be astonished, surprised any morning, any moment, any second, it’s why Instagram is an endless source of images.
JM: What are some of the opera productions documented here? Do you have a favourite image?
CL: I’ll try to post both old documents from old productions I did a long time ago that people don’t know – like Peer Gynt, a wonderful production Éric Ruf did for Comédie-Française at the Grand Palais, which was among my first posts – and new pieces like Le Postillon de Lonjumeau I recently posted. I don’t want to post any personal photos, there are so many great ones already on Instagram. But I’m planning to open another one for my office and company, called XCLX, showing simpler or in-progress work. If I ever publish any personal images it will be through another name! But sharing with my closest friends is enough for my private life if I want it to remain private!
JM: How did you get into ceramics? Is this something new or have you been doing it for a while?
CL: Yes, I’ve had this project for a long time. I’m a Taurus with an ascendant in Leo, which means earth and fire – so it was already in my chart! I now like to create even more specific shapes. I started lithography too, and paintings...
JM: Who are the best people you follow on Instagram?
CL: I don’t follow so many designers but Baroque art, abstract photos, art, fashion and costumes history, anybody bizarre, astonishing, surprising, funny or surreal... @richardhaines and @daviddownton of course, @thierrystruvay (vernacular anonymous photos), @johandeurell, @patrickvanommeslaeghe, @richardquartley (English or Hollywood eccentricity), @julen_morras_azpiazu, @mechrissmith, an unbelievable transformer, performer and photographer, @documenting_fashion, @the_lbp, @edgaritoavila, with his everyday vision of Paris streets, @horapollo, @jmredparis, @pippolini_antonio, @gertgermeraad, @daniel.frischmann, @raf_gom, @anapestdestiny, @jppm.fr, which are just a few...
JM: Have fans of your work been reaching out to you on DM?
CL: Yes, a lot, and this is astonishing for me how much reactions I got worldwide from all ages and people – or people as crazy as me on costume and fashion history too!