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Lacroix’s Schiaparelli: a love letter

Alex Fury
Croquis inédit de la collection par M. Christian Lacroix 243x300 Lacroixs Schiaparelli: a love letter

A sketch by Christian Lacroix for the Schiaparelli homage collection

Let’s talk a little bit about the way a big newspaper operates. I don’t want to be condescending – speaking personally, I’m barely a month into my tenure as the Fashion Editor of The Independent, so I’m still figuring it out.

My updates from the Paris haute couture are classified as “news”. Which means, although they offer an opinion (hopefully) on the day’s proceedings, they are limited by the constraints of the newsworthy. The bigger shows – Christian Dior – and the bigger stars – Naomi Campbell – overshadow shows that, maybe, are something quieter, more personal. Couture should be about personal enjoyment. It’s supremely self-indulgent.

My indulgence is Christian Lacroix. And here I lose all objectivity: I adore Lacroix. I adore everything his fashion stands for. Frivolity, coquetry, revelling in the senses. That very French idea of l’art de vivre – the art of living. Lacroix’s couture is joyous. At least, it was: Maison Lacroix ceased showing couture in 2009. The party was over.

Until Monday, when Christian Lacroix presented the first couture clothes created under the label Elsa Schiaparelli since 1954. Lacroix himself said that the collection was “a proposition” – he’s only there for one season and a new designer will be announced within the month, we are told. So Lacroix approached dressing Elsa as if he was outfitting her for a play about her life, like the 1970s Broadway musical Coco, starring Katharine Hepburn. Hence the twists and turns around the Schiaparelli legacy, the bandbox-striped bustled gown recalling her revival of Victoriana in the early 1930s, the jackets with their broad, strong shoulders and Byzantine embroidery, and the hats, delicious little things created by Maison Michel, the premier couture millinery house in the shape of a clown’s cap, or a knotted chartreuse satin turban. Typically Schiap.

As a press aide walked me through, pointing out the Schiaparelli-isms in the clothes, I couldn’t help but smile wryly. Mais oui,

Sacristie by Dominique Maitre 199x300 Lacroixs Schiaparelli: a love letter

"Sacristie," by Christian Lacroix for Schiaparelli. Photography by Dominique Maitre

mademoiselle, but they’re also Lacroix. Not just the colours, but they were striking – they share a love of vibrant pink, the one Schiaparelli called shocking which also became an emblem of the house of Lacroix. It was combined here with navy-blue and chartreuse, a clash that is so quintessentially Lacroix. I was thinking more of the wit, the panache, the colour, the exuberance. The fun. Couture isn’t fun anymore. With Lacroix, it always managed to walk a line between humour and honour. There is a playful respect for the past, but a need to move it on. The perfect tightrope-walk.


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