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PARIS — Christian Lacroix’s latest project — a furniture line in collaboration with Italy’s Sicis that’s making its debut at the Salone del Mobile in Milan — takes him back to a favorite childhood and teenage pastime: reimagining his surroundings.

This story first appeared in the April 8, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The couturier recalled his days growing up in the French Provencal town of Arles and being taken by his parents to visit assorted friends and families. “In my mind, I was always transforming everything: the furniture, the flowers, the vases, the curtains, the ladies,” he recalled with a guffaw. “I was never very happy in real life. I always try to transform it into a story.”

Indeed, he recalled his approach to the 17-room Hôtel du Petit Moulin, his first Paris hotel, which opened in 2005. “Each room was a different set for a short movie,” he said.

Lacroix’s first 11 designs for Sicis, the Ravenna, Italy-based maker of mosaics, display his penchant for baroque flourishes of color, embellishment and far-flung historical references. “We mix something new and something old — like for brides,” he said. “It’s between something very classic and contemporary. It’s very couture.

“I always love to mix and match something very popular — ethnic, folk, craft — with something very refined and deluxe.”

The collection — spanning chairs, sofas, tables, lamps and carpets — sees styles from the 18th and 19th centuries modernized and rendered in a mix of leather and French brocade fabrics, enriched further with passementerie and sparing use of Sicis’ famous mosaics.

Lacroix said he imagined Empress Theodora flung from Byzantine times into the present, and believes his furniture will be popular, especially among Chinese, Russian and American clients with a taste for extravagance and maximalism.

Since his couture house was shuttered in 2009 by Florida’s Falic Group, which continues to develop the Christian Lacroix brand in men’s wear, accessories and home products, the designer has churned out an array of projects, from stage costumes and museum sets to tramways and movie theaters. He even overhauled the packaging of the famous French beer 1664, and continues to design special coins as artistic adviser to the Monnaie de Paris, the French mint.

Shuttling among Germany, Italy and Spain seems to suit Lacroix. He just finalized a contract for a fourth tramway in Montpellier, France — gold is the theme — and was rushing off to a lunch with French theater operator Gaumont.

Lacroix continues to indulge his taste for high fashions via opera, particularly in Germany, but also in Paris, where a forthcoming production of Molière’s “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme” at the Bouffes du Nord theater will bear his handiwork. And he’s still in touch with Spanish chain Desigual, having collaborated on a capsule collection earlier this year. He said he remains duly impressed with how the firm has parlayed patchworks, bold colors and prints into a high-street phenomenon.

“I love to be connected with things that are not only deluxe but in touch with the life of everyday people,” he said. “I think my duty is there.”

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