By  on September 13, 2005

PARIS — Celebrated couturier Christian Lacroix just designed the longest train of his career — the kind that runs on rails at 200 miles an hour.

The first fashion designer to dress France's prized fleet of high-speed trains, Lacroix unveiled plush and futuristic seating pods in vivid red and purple — and that's in coach.

"Some of our customers already tried it and they thought they were sitting in first class," reported a beaming Guillaume Pepy, general manager of train operator SNCF, which showed off its new look at the Montparnasse station here.

Lacroix, tanned and grizzled after vacationing in Provence, said he was eager to avoid the boring "bus effect" by interjecting quirky colors into each car. Even in first class, which has a more serious mood in gray and black, random seats boast arresting acid yellow headrests.

Roughly half the fleet, a total of 183 cars, has received a Lacroix makeover, with the balance slated for renovation by 2007.

Lacroix, who has romantic connotations of rail travel, said he was mindful of the eastern destinations: places such as Reims, Metz and Strasbourg. "I thought we should work on light, water and earth effects, with an abstract sketch of reflections for the carpet and glasses, on the tables, too," he said. "I just tried to express modernity and comfort."

While taking the lead on the overall concept and colors, Lacroix collaborated with the agency MBD Design, a firm familiar with railway projects, and Compin, a seat manufacturer that has supplied French trains for more than a century.

Calling himself "a true fan" of rail travel and all its romantic implications, Lacroix said he finds it more convenient than flying, giving him more time for "working and thinking." In fact, for his frequent travels to Florence and Bologna in Italy, where he moonlights for Emilio Pucci, he prefers the overnight train.

Lacroix seems to be on a transportation kick lately, having earlier this year unveiled chic new navy uniforms for Air France. So now that he's done trains and planes, what about automobiles?

"I'm not so interested in cars," Lacroix demurred, "especially since I don't have a driver's license!"

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