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The Fashion Legion

PARIS — Bernard Arnault made fashion history 15 years ago when he launched a couture house for Christian Lacroix. No one else has dared since. So you can forgive the LVMH chairman for not knowing where to start when he delivered a speech and...

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PARIS — Bernard Arnault made fashion history 15 years ago when he launched a couture house for Christian Lacroix. No one else has dared since. So you can forgive the LVMH chairman for not knowing where to start when he delivered a speech and decorated Lacroix as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor on Wednesday night. The ceremony was held on the terrace of the headquarters of Euro RSCG, an ad agency, and followed by a dinner for about 60 inside.

“The usual procedure for this ceremony is to retrace the recipient’s life,” Arnault told the audience. “But your life is so rich, your universe so full of fantasy and your talents so multiple that it is difficult to begin. I have the impression that I should cut to the essentials, but even that is a challenge, since you escape, you move and you surprise.”

Arnault said that he met Lacroix through a mutual friend, and they started as lunch buddies. But it wasn’t long before the LVMH chairman was enchanted by Lacroix’s fashion vision. “You are close to Michelangelo, the master of purity and flamboyance,” Arnault said. “What good company for an artist such as yourself, who looks into the mirror that separates theater from reality; the Baroque from classicism.”And with Lacroix now doing duty as the creative director of Pucci, Arnault is predicting a new renaissance for the acclaimed designer. “Today you continue to challenge yourself,” Arnault said. “The years to come are sure to be the most intense, the most glorious of your career.”

Just as the dinner was ending, the terrace lights went on to reveal a lineup of models dressed in a mixture of Lacroix’s various spring collections — signature, Bazar and jeans, along with vintage couture pieces. The sight gave visual testimony to Arnault’s identification of the designer as an artist, here at his eccentric best. Seen all at once, his lineup looked like a dazzling gypsy outpost, populated by women whose chief joy is self-adornment. He layered color, pattern and texture with his audacious sense of freedom and heightened the mystery of it all by veiling his models’ faces.

While Lacroix’s love of opulence was apparent at every turn, he kept some looks relatively simple — a short, jeweled dress, partially covered by a huge shoulder pouch slung across the body; a racy white jacket over a yellow mini. And even when he got carried away, he did it with beautiful skirts, jackets and tops that countless women will want to own.

This story first appeared in the October 4, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The models then made their way to the party downstairs, where a few hundred guests had gathered for Lacroix’s fashion show, and to dance the night away.

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