Friday, June 5, 2009
Well the good news is that Christian Lacroix's Couture house is under bankruptcy protection, our equivalent of Chapter 11. The bad news is whether this comes at a time too close to preparing and showing the Fall couture collection. This is a difficult situation fraught with obstacles both legal and financial. Though he's sworn to give his all, "200%" to use his words, he hopefully will be able to manage all. That is just what is so amazing, inspiring and incredible about the designer and the man.
If you look critically at him and his contribution these past 25 years , you will see what I would consider the perfect designer. The focus and the essence of Lacroix are the clothes. Always and only the clothes. Yes, Absolutely Fabulous made him a household name and a mega- watt superstar like Manolo and Chanel in the lore sense of the word. But that deification was for entertainment value and not of his doing. He has always remained behind the scenes and has let the myriad collections , whether his own or others like Pucci speak for themselves. At the end of the day if the clothes have no legs of their own it doesn't matter how much you try to do the talking for them.
Years ago, when I was just a kitten I had the pleasure of meeting him twice. The first meeting was a complete accident. At that time I was between jobs( translation: jobless and broke) . Thanks to the generosity of a very close friend who was neither jobless or broke , I found myself shuttling back and forth to Europe acting as a second pair of eyes, searching out fabrics for multiple collections he designed. To be destitute in all the major cities in France , Italy and Germany beat turn style jumping and 1 slice of pizza a day in this town. It was particularly pleasant when you factor in travelling business class, staying at 5 star hotels and ending grueling days at fabric shows in night clubs and discotheques til 3 and 4 in the morning. Just some background for you.
So on one of these trips I completely forgot that France had decided that Americans needed visas to enter the country. No one at Kennedy asked for one so it came as a rude shock when I landed and could not enter any part of Paris beyond a holding area. After hours of my best friend at home arranging through his family in Germany to get me a visa to pass through Paris and head for Germany, I eventually got out of the annoying airport and onto the fun that was awaiting me. As I waited to be set free or sent back from whence I'd just come they let me sit at a departure gate and sweat it out. This was right when Lacroix had just left Patou to open his own house. As I sat sweating two men sat down directly across from me. When I looked up I immediately recognized them both. Locked in conversation was the man , THE MAN and his business partner, whose name I think is Jean-Jaques Picart. So I just stared in wonder and waited for the right moment to interrupt them and play stage door Kitty. Well, if I said he couldn't have been more charming , gracious and kind listening to me gush, I'd be lying. I gushed and he accepted it with humility and sweetness. He went a step further asking my name , where I was coming from, what I did and where I was headed. This gave me a chance to share my pathetic, silly tale. He tried not to laugh but I could see his grin was fighting a guffaw. It was one of those Haute moments when the planets align and having the opportunity moments before probable deportation to make chit chat with Christian Lacroix. It sure as hell worked for me and I dare say it would have worked for you, too!
Let's jump ahead about 6 years. Now with a collection of my own, though still cash challenged , I'm back in Paris with the gang and we're tooling down the boulevard of dreams in a cream colored convertible Mercedes. You see, my friend continued to become more and more successful and continued to treat me like a king. He'd recently met Christian in Italy and had been invited to drop by the House when next he'd be in Paris. So he says over the blasting radio, "Let's go see Lacroix". At that moment,try as I might, I couldn't come up with a better option so off we went......to see the King. It sounds crazy, but I'm not making this up.....we went to go hang with Christian Lacroix at his couture house.
We were announced and directed to a very comfortable sitting room . The one with all that cool furniture designed by two hot decorators at that time, Garouste and something or other. White couches with bold contrasting black trim. After a few moments in bounds Monsieur Lacroix like a large puppy. He greeted my friend warmly and introduced himself to the 2 of us. When we sat down a person came in with a tray of 4 glasses and an iced bottle of Vodka!!! As Christian was filling the glasses he looked up at me and said something that knocked me over. He asked me if we'd met years before and wasn't it at Charles de Gaulle airport as I was waiting to be deported. I admit I was blown away. He filled my glass again because at that moment I did my first of several shots with the Master. It was too much. He actually remembered me and my predicament after so many years and so many triumphs .
The whole visit was so interesting because he is so interested. He wanted to know all that each of us were doing. How are lives and careers were developing and if we were finding satisfaction in the web that is fashion. Lacroix was exceedingly practical, candid and humble. No bullshit only straight forward talk; engaging and engaged. We were beside ourselves by his humanity.
When we said our goodbyes and headed outside to what was becoming a beautiful Paris dusk, he came to the door and wished us all well and thanked us for the visit and timely diversion.
He was so lovely and I've never forgotten his kindness. It is in such short supply in this business and in the world. I say a prayer that what happens is for the best and that he and his marvelous house are spared. But no matter the outcome he will be fine.
It's who he is , not what.