By  on January 19, 2007

PARIS — From furniture to trams to hotels, this promises to be a hectic, blockbuster year for the multitasking Christian Lacroix.

The designer celebrates the 20th anniversary of his couture house in 2007, a fact being marked by exhibitions in Paris, Hyères and Moulin, France — plus an extra-long list of side projects, from opera costumes to a plush-but-not-too-cuddly toy for children.

"It's gone so fast," Lacroix mused about crossing the 20-year mark in an interview Thursday, taking a break from fittings ahead of his couture show here next week. "I don't like anniversaries so much. I don't even celebrate my birthdays. It's just time passing by. But it's a good way of thanking people who work with me."

To be sure, they will all be in high gear given the number of Lacroix projects coagulating in 2007. Here is a rundown:

  • On Jan. 26, at the end of couture week, Lacroix will be feted at a gala dinner during the Maison & Objet home design show after being crowned its Creator of the Year. Lacroix confessed he was perplexed by the honor.

    "I asked, ‘Who was the last one?' [Architect] Jean Nouvel, I was told. Not bad!" he said, breaking into laughter. Unfortunately, some of Lacroix's recent projects that won him the honor (high-speed trains and movie theaters) are too cumbersome to display at the show, so he will opt for a table setting.

  • On Jan. 30, a press conference is scheduled to reveal that Lacroix has won the contract to design a new tramway for the southern French city of Montpellier. "I was sure of losing," he said, describing a whimsical sea decor scheme with swimming-pool colors and coral-shaped coat hangers. The trains are slated to be operational in about two years.

  • On Feb. 2, Lacroix's latest women's fragrance, with partner Inter Parfums, will be unveiled in Paris. The designer was mum on details, but assured, "I like it."

  • This spring, Habitat stores will begin stocking a slate of new objects for children, and Lacroix proposed some stuffed creatures à la Tim Burton. He calls them "monsters."
  • In April, Lacroix is slated to reprise his fall runway show in Tokyo in a move to help raise his profile in the market.

  • Also in April, Lacroix will head down to Hyères for its annual fashion festival, as head of the jury for the fashion competition and as the subject of a poolside exhibition at the landmark Villa Noailles. Lacroix is still finalizing the concept but is collaborating with industrial designer David Dubois, who does his boutiques, and choreographer Christian Rizzo, who for one performance had male dancers wear satin Lacroix couture boots…on their hands.

  • In June, the national costume museum in Moulin will showcase a retrospective of Lacroix's set and clothing designs for the stage. The designer confessed he has outfitted so many operas and plays, "I forgot about a lot of things." But not his latest project: costumes for the "Marriage of Figaro" during the festival in Aix-en-Provence. (He's also been tapped for a contemporary version of "Romeo and Juliet" for 2008 at Paris's Opera Comique.)

  • This fall, the La Redoute catalogue will feature a range of new designs by Lacroix, most of them for the home, including tables, chairs, bedding and tableware.

  • In November, Paris' second boutique hotel designed by Lacroix will open on Rue de Bellechasse. He noted that model suites would be ready for inspection next month.

  • Also in November, the designer will curate a major exhibition at the Museum of Fashion and Textiles here that will mix treasures from its archives with his designs. Not a retrospective per se, the show is meant to shed light on the couturier's creative process and his eye on fashion. To be sure, he was agog at the museum's rich offerings, including knitwear from the 15th century. "It was like Missoni: bright green with patterns," he marveled.
Lacroix noted there might be even more on his plate this year: He has entered a competition to design street furniture for the City of Paris, meaning his baroque touches could soon be found on everything from benches to billboards.

Meanwhile, Lacroix related that his rapport with his new owners, Florida-based Falic Group, continues to go swimmingly and that "it helps having my mind lighter."Lacroix's pre-fall and fall collections — now freed of all lingering production ties to the former owner, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — went on sale to buyers this week at the firm's new permanent showrooms at 79 Rue de Monceau.

Nicolas Topiol, Lacroix's chief executive officer, said the transition from a "diffusion company" to a maker of luxury ready-to-wear is complete and getting strong feedback from its retail partners. To bolster its U.S. presence, the house recently hired Terry Esther Cohen from Lanvin to head its business in the Americas.

Topiol said the flurry of activities, including yet-to-be-defined anniversary festivities planned around the July couture, are bound to raise the brand's profile, culminating with the fall opening of its first Manhattan flagship at 36 East 57th Street. He noted the Lacroix business is on track to reach breakeven in 2008.

And couture, despite dire predictions of extinction, remains "surprisingly robust," Topiol said, citing a 30 percent increase in sales last year for high fashions.

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