Christian Lacroix’s haute couture shuttered in 2009, fashion’s highest-profile victim of last decade’s economic crash. Business isn’t exactly booming at the moment, but in a bunker-like concrete cavern under the Opéra Bastille, a little slice of pre-October 1987 was resurrected on Wednesday afternoon. Monsieur Lacroix had been enlisted by Dries Van Noten as a collaborator on an extraordinary Spring/Summer 2020 collection that represented not only a melding of two distinct and divergent styles, but of minds, spirits and souls.
Because hunkered under the opera house – which, since 2009, has been Lacroix’s primary field of expression (he now creates costume, rather than couture) – the collection shown bore all the hallmarks of each of these major league talents, harmoniously mingled in outfits that celebrated the very best of each. In their difference, similarities were found – the odd restrain of Lacroix’s airborne silhouettes, poufed and puckered but otherwise simple; the wild flamboyance of Van Noten’s renowned fabrics, lustrous brocades and taffetas and embroideries galore. AnOther Magazine’s editor-in-chief Susannah Frankel brokered an exclusive Q&A preview between the two, exploring their similarities and differences, and delving into the collection in depth. It brought valuable context to the clothes, released shortly after their unveiling.
Yet, in the concrete shell, you were guided not by intellect of insight, but by instinct. The only clue was a red rose on each seat, bearing the initials “DVN + XCLX”, the latter being the moniker Lacroix now goes by professionally (his label and name is currently owned by the Florida-based Falic Group). Well, that and rife rumours that this show would be not only a definer of the season, as Dries Van Noten often is, but one for the history books. And as the models came out, you realised this was something special – pitched perfectly, during a season when Monsieur Lacroix’s keynotes of express, exuberance and joie de vivre feel not only relevant but omnipresent, perhaps as a poetic and potent antidote to the harsh sting of reality; toxic dumps, Donald Trump, Brexit, breakdowns. A pouf of magenta taffeta can’t erase all of that, but it can provide welcome distraction.
The overriding mood of this collection was generosity: generosity of fabric (watch those billowing 12-foot trains), generosity of decoration, generosity of spirit. And the generosity of Dries Van Noten in, willingly, deciding not to create pastiche or homage to Lacroix – as many other have, and do – but a genuine, heartfelt and somewhat romantic partnership. This was a romance between two creatives who have helped shape contemporary fashion’s approach to aesthetics and taste – and in turn a romance between them and fashion. It was a love affair. Maybe that’s why we have roses? Maybe that’s why we loved it. At the end, tears were shed by an audience who could feel the adoration, admiration and electricity in the room, and erupted into thunderous applause when both talents took a bow at the end of a show that, truly, felt like the best of both worlds. Bravo.