ARNAULT: LACROIX IS UNGRATEFUL

Byline: Godfrey Deeny

PARIS--Is there a new crisis between Christian Lacroix and Bernard Arnault? The financier, who began bankrolling Lacroix's fashion house back in 1987, recently accused the designer of being ungrateful. "Christian Lacroix treats me like a patron of the arts and not a financier," complained Arnault, president of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Europe's largest luxury goods group, which controls the Lacroix fashion house.
Arnault, who made his remarks during a recent address to graduate students at HEC, a leading French business school, could not be reached for further comment. The event was organized by French business weekly Le Point, which reported Arnault's comments, and was off limits to other journalists.
"Mr. Arnault can say what he wants. He's the owner. But
everything is going well at the house of Lacroix. Other than that, we have nothing to say," said Jean-Jacques Picart, Lacroix's partner.
Arnault's remarks came just two weeks after he had to fork out more than $6 million to the house of Jean Patou because a Paris court ruled that Lacroix was guilty of "unfair competition" for leaving Patou abruptly in 1987 to found his own house with Arnault's backing.
Relations between Arnault and the designer have not always been smooth. In 1992, Lacroix complained in a French magazine that the financier treated the fashion house like a child who "wants to break his toy." Whatever Arnault's criticisms, the financier has certainly made a substantial financial commitment to the house. Since its founding seven years ago, the maison Lacroix has posted losses of more than $46.2 million (250 million francs).
A spokeswoman for Arnault insisted Thursday that the LVMH chief's recent remarks should be seen in a positive light.
"Often, Mr. Arnault's image is one of a financier interested only in business. This shows his concern for the future of haute couture and luxury in France. He supports Lacroix because he wants to aid couture and certainly not to boost the financial results of LVMH," she argued.

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