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Christian Lacroix: The Costumier


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Christian Lacroix: The Costumier, Inspirational costumes made by master designer, Christian Lacroix. Exhibition held at National Museum of Singapore.

An article by Penny K

In June all of us from Penny’s Daybook went to see the Christian Lacroix: The Costumier exhibition held at the National Museum of Singapore. We found ourselves delightfully enthralled with the fanfare of Lacroix’s pieces, an assortment of costumes he had designed for the theatre and some ballets. I say it was fanfare because the costumes were colourful, made with intricacy, lots of love and passion. They duly captured the marriage of artistry and fashion.

Throughout the exhibition, there were large panels bearing Lacroix’s musings. As if his words weren’t full of impact and inspirational enough, here they were enlarged and suspended from the ground bringing them to life as they hovered over you. One of the more memorable quotes read, “Theatre has become much more than recreation, as this art cannot bear mediocrity nor lack of passion.” It is plain to see, art and the theatre was not something he indulged in only during his free time, it was something that gave him his life force. His fashion Qi, if you will.

Born in 1951 in Arles, France, Christian Lacroix spent his childhood between the Camargue beaches and the Alpilles pine forests, amongst the Gallo-Roman ruins and the remnants of World War II bombings. As a boy, he attended bullfighting events, the theatre and opera festivals. As a child, he spent his time immersed in both Provencal and Gypsy traditions, and appreciating museum paintings and attic books. All of these gave him the flight of fancy one needed in order to become the Christian Lacroix as we know him today.

chirstian-lacroix1-1

A wonderful sketch by Christian himself.

That Lacroix had chosen to put his costumes up for exhibition at the museum comes as no surprise. He has long established a close relationship with museums having studied Art History at the University of Montpellier, and also in Paris at the Sorbonne and Ecole du Louvre in 1973. His first ambition was to become a museum curator. Designing came later, after he met his wife Francoise, who introduced him to the charm of Paris and encouraged him to draw. In true romantic style, for Lacroix, love and destiny came hand in hand.

Despite Lacroix’s very uppity background in art training and his fashion endeavours which are haute couture, his costumes seem to showcase a different side of him. He says, “I also work a lot with old costumes picked up in flea markets or in archives, that I dissect and recycle… Nylon can be made to look magical, or plastic a baroque damask; conversely, the most precious 18th century furnishing fabric can be turned into rags.” Using thrifted pieces and turning them into pieces of art in their own right is no mean feat, and perhaps also shows that there is not a material in this world that’s beneath Lacroix. Tim Gunn has probably already met him, but Lacroix can and certainly does make it work.

Lacroix also favours incorporating contemporary touches to classic pieces. For a costume he made for the Cosi fan tutte, an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he added a streetwear hood to a period jacket. My favourite of all his costumes were those he designed for Othello. Possibly because I’m most acquainted with that play having spent hours bent over it as a student, but more so because all the costumes were black but with tinges of different colour for each character. Black is the staple colour of these costumes since Othello is a play about confusion and ancestral tragedy. Costumes for Othello also experienced Lacroix’s magic contemporary touch with the introduction of military and biker leather jackets!

If you missed the opportunity to go to the exhibition, all I can say in the most altruistic way possible is, what a pity. I brought my camera, an open heart and mind and the experience did me some good, as it proved to be endlessly inspiring. Budding fashion designers could have probably picked up a tip or two from the exhibition, but the biggest takeaway for me was Lacroix’s wise words and professionalism. And of course, it didn’t hurt that I was also bowled away by all its sartorial beauty.

2 comments

  1. Great review, great site!

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