By  on November 28, 2005

PARIS — "I realized this week I'm crazy about fashion," Christian Lacroix declared with one of his big, infectious smiles.

While that might not sound like a revelation, coming from one of the world's most celebrated couturiers, it reflects a sea change in attitude at his house, which 10 months ago was bought by Florida-based travel retail firm Falic Group.

After 18 years under LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton ownership, the last few particularly disquieting, Lacroix said things are going well with his new parent and that he feels energized and inspired anew.

"It's a totally new culture," the designer said this month over coffee at the Bristol hotel here. "At last, we have some chemistry with people who are on the same wavelength."

In a wide-ranging interview, Lacroix disclosed fresh details about his new store concept, announced plans to speed development of men's wear and described a step-by-step approach to bolster women's ready-to-wear, the core of his brand.

Also, Lacroix said he would soon travel to Florida for the first time to meet the Falics on their home turf — and take in next month's Art Basel Miami fair, as well.

"It wasn't buying a couture house just for the sake of buying a couture house — and then putting it on a diet," he said, alluding to the specter of layoffs that often haunt businesses after a takeover. Lacroix revealed that the Falics have bolstered staffing in key areas such as marketing, merchandising and production coordination.

The designer stressed that his house is still untangling itself from LVMH, and that the spring-summer collection shown last month was still produced under its auspices. Yet, "We worked at it with a new spirit, so much lighter," he said, citing a 5 percent increase in orders.

The firm is searching for new manufacturing partners for its rtw collections and taking a "measured, analytical" approach to the task, Lacroix said. That includes ensuring that each item in his collection, such as a jacket slated for Neiman Marcus or Barneys New York, is "at a price that would be clever."

Effective with spring, Lacroix merged his top rtw line and his Bazar diffusion line to better reflect how women shop. "I know that our customers mix and match not only our clothes, but with other brands," he said. "I much prefer to have the buyer facing one rack with everything from a fur coat to a T-shirt."

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