Christian lacroix fashion show

Christian lacroix fashion show

Fashion world mourns Christian Lacroix's last show at Paris couture week as money woes force the designer to bow out


The fashion world sloughed off its artifice, shedding genuine tears of emotion and submitting to the humiliation of group hugs in homage to legendary French designer Christian Lacroix, who yesterday delivered what will likely be his last haute couture show.

Hard-boiled fashion editors and members of the elite cadre of ultra-wealthy women who actually buy the made-to-measure couture garments wiped their eyes following the presentation, which had an almost funereal feel about it. Even the models, in devastatingly chic black and navy skirt suits and coats, looked like trophy wives at a Mafia wake.

French fashion designer Christian Lacroix, right, escorting a model wearing a wedding dress

Bow out: Christian Lacroix takes what could be his final bow as financial issues mean without backing his haute couture label will close at the end of this month

'People are very moved,' said Didier Grumbach, who heads the Chambre Syndical, regulating body for Paris' haute couture labels. 'There's no question he is an artist and needs to express himself. The difficulty is that we are in an industry, we are not in contemporary art.'

Lacroix, who has been dogged by financial woes for much of his label's 22-year-long existence, has said he will probably be forced to close his doors at the month. But he also says he hopes to attract new investors with deep pockets and come back, Phoenix-like, after the crisis.

A model in Christian LacroixA model in Christian Lacroix

Sombre: The mood of the collection was funereal, with much black on show

Nearly everyone at the show - a tour de force made possible in large part by the largesse of Lacroix's longtime collaborators - wanted to believe him.

Money was so tight that Lacroix's friends and supporters had to pitch in to make the show happen.

A prestigious embroidery house worked for free, painstakingly applying rhinestones and tone-on-tone embroidery the label is known for; a high-end shoe brand donated the models' towering heels, and the makeup artists and hairdressers worked pro-bono. Only the show's 12 models were paid.

A model at Christian LacroixA model presents a creation by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix

Assistance: This final show was made possible by a huge effort from Lacroix's friends, who helped make clothes and provide shoes free of charge

In the dog-eat-dog luxury world, such a show of solidarity speaks volumes about Lacroix, whose artistry is such that his name has come to epitomize couture.

'I must admit I was really touched because for me, he is simply the greatest,' said longtime fashion critic Isabelle Chalencon, one of many who were dabbing their eyes after the display.

'It's simply not possible that a label like this one can disappear,' she added.

The label launched insolvency proceedings in late May and looks likely to close at the end of the month.

Lacroix blamed his financial problems on a 'lack of chemistry' between the business and creative sides of the company - which was bought from luxury giant LVMH by the Falic Group, a U.S. duty-free retailer, in 2005.

'I can't think this is the end,' Lacroix said in a backstage interview. 'It's the beginning of something, I hope.'

A model at Christian LacroixA model wears a creation as part of the Christian Lacroix

Backing: The show was in part aimed at potential backers who have the financial clout Lacroix needs - some £50m - in order to save his label

Tuesday's show was part of an effort to seduce possible backers to allow him to relaunch the haute couture line and a 'very high-end' ready-to-wear collection, as well as more accessible perfume and sunglasses collections. It would take an estimated £50 million to properly relaunch the label, he said.

If the reaction to Lacroix's show is anything to go by, the flamboyant designer will soon be back. Nearly all the 24 looks garnered a raucous round of applause, and loyal fans unfurled a banner reading 'Christian Lacroix forever' as the genial designer took a final lap around the catwalk.

Other winter 2010 shows also showing on day two of the French capital's three-day-long haute couture extravaganza, included a high-wattage performance by red-carpet favorite Giorgio Armani, a darkly ravishing collection by Givenchy and Chanel, where models emerged from giant perfume bottles.

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