He’s the king of exuberance, mixing materials, and clashing colours. He draws on inspiration from folklore to redefine it with elegance and sophistication. Christian Lacroix spoke exclusively to Underlines at the launch of his new capsule collection with Aubade.
Mr. Lacroix, the first question we would like to ask you is: what is femininity to you?
It’s a mystery, an enigma, an embrace, the light that makes the world go round… it’s Yin and Yang. For me that covers the vast spectrum of relationships with women and it shouldn’t be restricted to the image of a cheeky young lady wearing lingerie, often associated with it.
Having worked so closely with women throughout your amazing career how would you describe the way they have changed over the years?
The first woman in my life was my mother Jeanette – she didn’t like that name. In Arles, she received a traditional education and was living simply before the war came and swept away all certainties. The war deeply changed women, the role they played in society, their relationship with men, even the way that they dressed… When the siren sounded my mother would make sure she wore blue, white and red, and her new shoes, too. That was her touching way of being defiant. She was as “earthy” as my wife was “ethereal”. She would say: “You have met the one you used to tell me about when you were a child”. And then came the 70’s: cultural, liberated, naturistic and… environmental. At that time, I was living in the ‘Fellinian’ Halles district of Paris and I still have in mind the image of the Aubade young lady unhooking her bra from the front; its rightness made a lasting impression on me… An import from America, the trend that followed was the conquering businesswoman, which was far removed from my sensibility. Then, came the time of AIDS and the consequential redefinition of the body, leading to the contradictory porno-chic trend.
In your opinion, what did women gain and what did they lose?
They didn’t lose anything. On the contrary, we have all gained a lot. Take for example gay rights, which was completely unthinkable back then.
As a creative and an aesthete, how do you see lingerie?
Lingerie is the foundation of the rest. It allows you to mould the body before you dress it, it is therefore essential to the shape. My haute-couture dresses were often built around corsets and strongly influenced by lingerie. I would have loved to create haute-couture lingerie. Sometimes I almost regret not being a woman! (he laughs).
Any particular memory?
I remember the very first time that I was with my mother in a small lingerie boutique in Provence, it had an evocative name: Red Corset or Venus’ Corset. It had padded curtains and a fabulous photo of Brigitte Bardot in bridalwear, she was so beautiful undoing her lace corset. My mother too, had many lace items
from the lovely trousseau made by the nuns of Arles.
In your opinion, what position does lingerie have in a woman’s wardrobe?
Its closeness with one’s intimate side is essential and immediately gives lingerie such a privileged status. We choose these items more carefully than our clothes.
What is the ultimate bad taste?
It doesn’t exist!
What image comes to mind when you think of “beautiful intimates”?
Sophia Loren in the arms of Marcello Mastroianni.
You have just designed a capsule collection with one of France’s most loved brands, can you tell us what inspired you?
With the theme of the collection being Versaille, I wanted to convey the style of courtly love and remain very close to the essence of Aubade.
In the creative process, what role does the fabric play?
This may surprise you, but this is not what I am most passionate about. For me, what counts most is the design, the volume, the shape.
Do you have a favourite fabric?
I have always liked satin, leather and faille* because they allow you to create volume in space, just like mousseline.
If you had to choose: look or feel?
Feel. Although I am a very tactile person, I also have a distinct sense of smell: a smell can bring me down, just as some well-known perfumes can make me feel sick.
It’s not just about making beautiful products, you must also sell them. How important are shops in the commercial success of a brand?
The coherence between a product and its setting is fundamental. I’ve always wanted my own store. It’s the place where close-knit bonds are formed.
Christian Lacroix has personally and boldly reinterpreted one of the most iconic Aubade lines. He has chosen to combine fishnet lace straps with floral prints to which he adds a lacing that finished with small pom poms in contrasting colours. The range features four bras, three panties, a corset and a nightie. They are available in two colours: Imperial Princess, which is a mixture of fuschia and slightly acidic pastel green; and Gardenia, which fuses sombre black and cherry hues.
*Synthetic or natural silk material, yarn-dyed weaved taffeta, a very fine grain that creates diagonal lines close to larger grains.