The unraveling of Christian Lacroix began long before the label filed for bankruptcy in France in May. Lacroix has clashed with the Falic family, which owns the label, for years. The designer told Hamish Bowles that the Falics, “not being from the couture-and-luxury field … were not prepared for the long-term investment” in his label. “They thought that in two seasons they would get their money back.” As the Wall Street Journal notes today, couture shows are not staged for the purpose of making money off those clothes. The benefit of a couture show is its worldwide marketing power, which helps sell things like sunglasses and handbags to aspirational and wealthy consumers. Those sales are the meat and potatoes of a fashion house. The money brought in from the actual couture collection is just the gravy — and maybe not even the gravy, but the truffle oil in the gravy — on top.
Shortly after the Falics purchased Lacroix from LVMH in 2005, they tried to run the house on a budget. Yet at the same time, they wanted the label to be among the highest-end on the market. They quickly canned Lacroix’s lower-priced Bazar and Jeans lines. Lacroix was delighted not to have to bother with cheaper lines anymore. But it wasn’t long before suppliers failed to receive checks, new suppliers had to be found, and Lacroix was back to the cheap stuff. He was supposed to produce, as he says, “the ‘It’ bag in cheap leather.”
Although his fall 2009 collection was heralded and Barneys placed a large order for it, that line won’t be produced. Neither will his cruise collection. Which means Lacroix boutiques will have to close in September. The label has hardly been able to fill orders for the couture collection presented in January, even though some devoted clients paid up front for the pieces so that the label could buy the supplies needed to produce them. “I struggled to make the dresses for the [Marielle] Safra wedding,” Lacroix says.
So that’s how a celebrated, revered label goes to pieces. Lacroix says the Falics didn’t want him to stage a couture show this week (he did anyway because he wanted his employees to have work). Maybe they foresaw the flood of publicity their mistakes would receive.
Lacroix has until the end of the month to find a buyer. His banker friend David de Rothschild is helping him locate new investments from people who know what they’re doing. Lacroix says he’s met with “some important people” and will only see those “ready to support couture.” But whoever wants to invest will have to cough up about 40 to 60 million euros over the next few years. Although speculation has surfaced that LVMH might scoop up Lacroix again, no one at the company has said anything to indicate it actually will.
Lacroix thinks the Falics would rather just see the house go under. Sadly for them, the entire fashion industry holds out hope the label will survive.