LACROIX’S L.A. ADVENTURE
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
LOS ANGELES — The ladies who lunch in the name of philanthropy got to one-up the celebrities, stylists and editors who get first view of a collection when Christian Lacroix personally shared his pre-fall looks last week — a full month before officially unveiling them in Paris.
Several hundred fans in Beverly Hills and San Francisco were treated to a spring runway re-creation and a pre-fall trunk show co-hosted by Neiman Marcus and Lacroix.
Philippe Soussand, president of Lacroix USA, was on hand, as well as Lacroix’s Paris team, including managing director Jean-Pierre Dubu, Stateside solely for the two events.
The designer clearly relished the unorthodox move, grinning like a boy who had triumphed in a sneaky stunt.
“It was ready, so why not show it?” Lacroix asked matter-of-factly. “In France, in Europe, we do not do these trunk shows. French women will not buy so early. American women love this. This is something very interesting to me, something very American.”
Neiman Marcus does not disclose sales figures on its trunk shows, but John Martens, general manager and vice president of Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills, called the sales from the show Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon “excellent.”
From pre-fall, “there were more orders on the coats, especially the reversible goatskin, the long and short black-and-white styles,” said Martens, speculating that the sudden drop in temperature during the trunk show days — to the mid-50s from about 90 degrees — likely contributed to the rush on outerwear.
“The suits did well, particularly a simple black wool suit with a multicolored beaded seahorse on the sleeve,” he added. “I think it was the right audience for suits.”
The group consisted of 250 members of the Blue Ribbon group, a 30-year-old sponsor of educational and cultural activities for the Music Center of Los Angeles County, which includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theatre and the Hollywood Bowl, among others.
A whitewashed backdrop splashed with blood red and a rectangular runway that appeared in Paris last November were rebuilt exactly for the Beverly Hills event. “All this from a video,” gasped a pleased Lacroix.
In San Francisco, some 350 guests crammed into the Ruby Sky nightclub Wednesday night to see spring live, then visited Neiman Marcus the following day and Friday for the trunk show. Minutes after the Union Square store opened Thursday, 10 head-to-toe-Lacroix-clad fans rushed the designer like groupies to a rock star.
The promotion upstate honored supporters of local cancer research groups: the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Cancer League of Piedmont and the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Foundation.
“[The visit and showing of pre-fall] was a real coup for us and his customers on the West Coast,” said Neiman Marcus’s Martens. “We had been trying to get Mr. Lacroix here for the last year. I think only in more recent times [Neiman Marcus’s] business has grown to such an extent that it warranted it. As a result, he agreed to come. The collection is right for Los Angeles.”
The Beverly Hills door boasts the largest floor space devoted to the designer at the chain.
Lacroix concurred. “Looking at the figures from last year, I noticed the West Coast and Neiman Marcus in particular was very, very good for us.”
That growth, Lacroix added, is companywide. “We are up 150 percent in sales — just because we have [the signature line, Bazar sportswear and jeans] back in-house and not with the licensees.”
The company took back control of the manufacturing and distribution of the three lines January 2000, with deliveries beginning that fall. The house is part of luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Fresh off the plane from Paris, Lacroix stopped at Lily et Cie, the Beverly Hills treasure trove of designer vintage and a favorite stop come awards time. There, the designer said he embraced “his babies” from several seasons past.
Lacroix said he relates to the city’s culture and its glamour. “Forever I am not a minimalist. The West Coast is a little bit more inspired. New York has its inspiration in the architecture, the art. It’s a little more European in style, it’s quite familiar. It’s the same as London, Paris, Milan. Here it’s something else. Los Angeles has the history of movies, youth. People are a little more warm, open-minded, individual.”
The visit marked Lacroix’s second, following a 1986 event that he credited with helping launch his company. “I don’t travel. I’m very, very difficult and heavy to move,” he quipped.
Such a long break won’t happen again, he promised. A Los Angeles showroom is reportedly in the planning stages to offer products in the LVMH stable to editorial and Hollywood outlets.
“We need a showroom for all the stylists and actresses to come,” said Lacroix. “It would be very convenient.”
It’s also too close at heart to resist, he added, lamenting that his schedule has only permitted him to collaborate on one film thus far, 1998’s “Enfants du Siecle” with Juliette Binoche.
He has slated time to oversee the costumes on the theatrical production of “Berenice” at the prestigious Festival d’Avignon this summer. The side project will reunite him with Kristin Scott Thomas, in the title role, whom he dressed for her Oscar win three years ago.
“The movie style is my style. As a child, my dream was working for movies and theater. It’s why I continue making costumes for ballet, for theater. If you print this, maybe I will get a call to do more cinema?”