LACROIX PLANS PATH TO REVIVE HIS HOUSE

Byline: Katherine Weisman

PARIS — The renaissance of Christian Lacroix has begun.
With a new management team in place, the house is surging ahead with new projects and strategies aimed at putting a spark back into the 13-year-old operation.
The latest deal is a new licensing arrangement for children’s wear. A contract for worldwide distribution excluding Japan was signed with Turkish producer Cukurova for a collection to bow spring 2001, revealed Jean-Pierre Debu, house managing director. Debu joined the company from Kenzo in January, under the direction of Yves Carcelle, who is president of Lacroix as well as president of parent LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s fashion and leather goods division.
Debu and designer Lacroix chatted over breakfast at the Hotel Bristol here Tuesday, unwrapping the first of the company’s plans since the new business structure landed in place at the beginning of the year.
“We’re having the baby, but we don’t have the father yet,” said the designer, referring to his longtime wish to launch signature men’s wear.
The designer’s impatience should be quelled by near-term plans, including the September launch of a sterling silver jewelry collection under license to Groupe Slam, which has worked with Lacroix on fashion jewelry for about a year. The company is also beginning discussions with architects to explore a concept store that would showcase all Lacroix goods from fashion and accessories to tabletop and home linens. The goal is to open a new Paris store in the beginning of 2001, Debu said.
The house’s strategy is clear. Control the production and distribution of the core image-making ready-to-wear collections — the signature label, Bazar and Christian Lacroix Jeans — and explore other developments or product categories via subcontracting, license or other agreements, depending on the best opportunities available, Debu noted.
He added that the children’s wear deal presented itself suddenly and had to be seized, even if the house thought a men’s wear deal might come first.
Lacroix, however, was quick to point out how much easier it is to develop ready-to-wear without the angst of dealing with licensed partners. But for other categories, “We need partners who can really interpret my message,” he said. He expressed how he wished all license agreements could go as smoothly as the house’s crystal, porcelain, silver tabletop and table linens agreement with French maker Christofle. “There is a great level of understanding between both teams.”
Other home products include bed and bath linens licensed to French maker Yves Delorme.
In January, the house announced that it had bought back control of production and sales of its three apparel lines effective for fall-winter 2000-2001. The signature line had been made under license with France’s Indreco since 1992. The Bazar collection, launched for fall 1994, was licensed to a former Kenzo entity, while the Jeans line, launched for spring 1996, was licensed to Italy’s Gilmar. This move, coupled with the fact that they enjoyed strong sell-through last season, helped push Lacroix rtw orders for fall-winter 2000 up some 60 percent compared with fall-winter 1999, Debu said. “It helped restore confidence among our clients,” Debu explained, noting that the steep sales gain was relatively uniform in all of Lacroix’s international markets.

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