PARIS — Christian Lacroix is paring down — and it’s all for the better.

In an effort to align his core ready-to-wear business more closely with the house’s couture image, the designer has phased out two long-running diffusion lines, Bazaar and Christian Lacroix Jeans, while expanding his main signature collection with more accessible items like knitwear and even denim.

Nicolas Topiol, chief executive officer of Lacroix, outlined the changes to WWD and said Lacroix’s new owner, Falic Group, of Florida, is confident they will lead to “good avenues to growth.”

In fact, Topiol said doubling the size of the Lacroix business is “definitely feasible” as the firm embarks on a retail expansion and brings licensed products to new international markets. Sources estimate the brand generates annual revenues of about 40 million euros, or $50.7 million at current exchange. Topiol said the consolidation of its rtw lines, which took full effect with the cruise collection, is already generating results. Sales for the season more than doubled as buyers embraced a collection that spanned everything from crested, polo-style dresses and simple capri pants to lacy cocktail dresses.

Lacroix’s spring 2007 collection, to be unveiled to the trade starting July 18, will fully reflect the new merchandising approach.

“The idea is to have a collection with a wide range of prices,” he explained, noting that prices for cruise ranged from about $450 retail up to $4,000. “We really want to appeal to a much wider audience.”

He also noted that jersey, knitwear and other mix-and-match categories were expanded for a label often stereotyped for elaborate after-five dressing and grand eveningwear.

Topiol said the diffusion lines, introduced in the mid-Nineties when the brand was owned by luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, “started out well, but then faded.”

What’s more, he said the three collections ultimately became confusing internally and for the trade, and resulted in a rtw message that was “difficult to read.” Distribution of the secondary lines was concentrated largely in Europe, he noted.

To support the expanded Christian Lacroix label, Topiol made some key hires, including Kim Laursen as studio director and Veronique Beaumont as sales director. Laursen rejoined Lacroix after design stints at Cacharel and Kenzo; Beaumont previously worked at Marcel Marongiu and Sonia Rykiel.

This story first appeared in the June 23, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

He also said production was disentangled from the LVMH network and Lacroix now works with new suppliers and manufacturers who can meet stringent quality and sizing standards.

Topiol also stressed Lacroix himself is instrumental in the new effort.

“He’s really involved, very motivated and very directive in his approach,” Topiol said.

Eliminating the diffusion lines resulted in a drop in sales, but “not dramatically,” Topiol noted.

Lacroix, gearing up to open a newly designed flagship at the Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas in late July, has targeted the U.S. as a key growth market and is hunting for real estate in Manhattan.

Topiol also plans to broaden distribution of licensed products. For example, men’s shirts, wedding dresses, jewelry, swimwear and lingerie are among those not yet available in America that will be showcased at the Vegas flagship, he noted.

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