By  on June 3, 2005

PARIS — "I am very happy. It's a new beginning," Christian Lacroix declared Thursday, having completed an employment contract with Falic Group, the Florida-based travel retail firm that bought his fashion house last January.

The five-year, renewable agreement secures the future of Lacroix's couture collection, with his next show slated for July 7 here. It also gives what the designer described as a chance for his 18-year-old brand to get the attention it deserves.

As artistic director of Lacroix, the designer will also continue to design all ready-to-wear and accessories lines that bear his name.

Lacroix, 54, who had been vocal about lackluster development of his brand by the previous owner, luxury giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, on Thursday praised the "entrepreneurial, pragmatic and realistic" approach of the Falic brothers and their vow to invest to rapidly develop the business.

Lacroix described his upcoming couture show as the "first step" in his new relationship. But several projects are said to be in the works, including new fragrances and leather goods lines.

The Falic family could not be reached for comment. However, in a statement, the family said it would concentrate initially on developing the Lacroix brand in the U.S., while consolidating its presence in Japan and South Korea. The Lacroix brand is in about 1,000 doors worldwide, including 20 brand boutiques.

Lacroix's new contract came after protracted negotiations. According to sources, key issues for the designer were the preservation of couture, the length of his contract and approval rights for future management hires. Shortly after acquiring Lacroix, the Falics were said to have identified a new management candidate and presented it as a fait accompli, which rankled the designer.

Under LVMH ownership, Lacroix had a revolving door of chief executives — nine over 18 years. At present, the chief executive is Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, who joined Lacroix in 2003 from the merchandise and retail division of Euro Disney.

LVMH head Bernard Arnault launched Lacroix to fashion stardom in 1987, plucking him from Jean Patou and setting up a couture house just for him. Thanks to sensations like the pouf skirt and the designer's rich, baroque style inspired by the South of France, Lacroix quickly became a darling of the fashion press and international society.However, translating his romantic vision into commercial success proved challenging, and LVMH endured many years of steep losses.

Last month, LVMH said it would take a 12 million euro, or $14.6 million, provision for capital loss related to the Lacroix disposal. Documents filed with France's official government publication of record, "Balo," notes LVMH sold the house to Falic Group for a "symbolic" amount, which typically means one euro, or $1.21, at current exchange.

Still, Lacroix maintains ties to LVMH as the rtw designer of high-flying Emilio Pucci, where sales almost doubled in 2004, gains management attributes to Lacroix's artistic vision and prowess with color and pattern. He joined the Italian house in 2002 and his contract runs through March 2006.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Lacroix said it was "business as usual" for him at Pucci.

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