CHRISTIAN LACROIX – Q&A POLIMODA by Filep Motwary
-Modernism’s maiden characteristic was autonomy and one of the reasons that led to becoming a movement was humanity’s need to find answers. Somehow, monsters served the same role in ancient history. Could we suggest the purpose for creating monsters then, served what modernism does in the current society?
CL: I am not sure whether I fully understand this question, as it looks interesting, yet complex and it would need hours or days or even an entire book to answer on what modernism is about and what a monster is. Lets say they both escape from normality, classicism, traditionalism or established standards. Having said that, creativity is in its most daring, quintessential meaning appealing as a brand-new step against old norms. On the other hand any kind of “modernism” is sentenced to death with each passing decade, becoming obsolete, outdated, despised and probably, another kind of “monster”.
Monster, as a word itself coming from Latin “shown, exhibited” (in antique circuses) refers to something standing outside of any current rules, that people gather to admire (admire: first to be astonished by something unusual). Today the same gathering reason could be for something as close to a fashion show.
These creatures were then and effectively representing anything unknown or even frightening; and I do think with poets like Baudelaire or Wilde, both “Dandies” from the XIXth century, who were in search of new expressions and aesthetics believed that true beauty includes strangeness, oddness and must be widely weird and not cute.
As the future seems nothing but safe or comforting, we have to face new mysteries and wonders. People must be given not what they already know and like but what they don’t now yet they will like.
It could seem like something monstrous at first sight though it will be effective in the long term, transformed to a lasting form of beauty afterwards.
-Is it obligatory for a fashion monster to be beautiful?
CL: Of course not!
-Could give us some examples of outstanding fashion monsters?
CL: What Alexander McQueen showed most often, or the beauty of Tilda Swinton, or the works of Iris Van Herpen…
This approach of modernity, gives a push to a certain level of beauty and fashion which is rare, given that fashion nowadays or “design” in general, is only ruled by money, profits etc. The bottom line is, as things are now, they level downward or to medium.
-So, monsters reflect a specific historical era or are they timeless, infinite?
CL: Monsters are timeless! This is perhaps out of subject but look at nowadays vampires and monsters stories success in the movies and video games. They all symbolize today’s fear of the future.
-A bridge could be the metaphor for dialogue, between two opposite opinions, the history and the present, the young and the old.
A performer can build a dialogue with an audience, the same way a fashion designer can connect with his customers through objects he/she created.
What is a bridge for you?
CL: Images, more than words as words are full of tricks, even for me here with my weak English, trying to make myself understood… And eyes also, a glance. It is the reason why I am so in love with photos, paintings, the canvas…
-What are the differences between an innovative designer/artist /architect compared to someone who simply serves a profession?
CL: Taking risks, preferring to stay faithful to their morals, their soul, rather than being successful or become richer and richer. Though life is not always fair, as success and creativity rarely go together.
– Why does fashion have such a strong impact in society?
CL: Because it is connected with sex and seduction and it works as a second skin, in the form of communication and easier relationships, even if they are based on lies.
One side of it, is about belonging to a tribe, your gang or one you want to be part of, based on common preferences and tastes in music, sports, the status, your daily “dough”. This is the “every day life” street fashion: real clothes that are sold and ready to be worn, cheap or expensive.
The other side is about the fashion magazines, the runway, looks only existing on paper as protagonists or prototypes, being icons just to be admired as Gods from the past. It seems relevant to what monsters are all about…again.
-Does it serve the same role as architecture did during the renaissance years?
CL: Perhaps, if you mean Florence during the Renaissance years, in a way yes, though I am not so sure about it.
New York, Paris, Milan, London and Florence are main fashion cities of the world as they express a way of being, a certain power, strong business the same way churches, palazzos and public buildings did in the past. But that’s not enough to connect the past with the present.
-What is a bridge for you?
CL: Allow me to add Ponte Vecchio, without any means for humor. It was-is a place not only for going from one side of the river to the other bank but also it serves-ed a space where some lived, sold or bought, made deals, it served as a meeting point, a place where people could exchange ideas, their points of view or actual objects.
-How in your opinion a historical city like Florence can become today what it used to be in the past: a place for innovative forms of art and expression?
CL: Without making its struggle loud, without pretending to be something too far from its own past history, the present as it is, its reality and deep character. And these should be the rules for every town that carries such a strong heritage.
Each city has its reality; personality and specific opportunities only can rise (and could become tricky and unlucky if badly executed)
Of course being an open museum for tourists in not enough as Florence has it’s own contemporary side to express and fashion is only a small part of its modern face.
Perhaps it only misses a contemporary art foundation or museum. The best example is the House of Pucci, a Florentine family established business that exists since forever and still manage to be part of the “game”
-What makes the identity of a brand stronger than another’s and what does it take a designer to conquer such a large amount of fans who would do anything (suchas standing in queues for hours to buy the product, pre-ordering products online before the original launch etc) to get it?
CL: This is similar to the “Golden Calf” from the Hebrew bible, which were another “monster” and a fake “bridge” that led to nowhere. This kind of fashionable fetishism used to be based on the test of time (time never respects anything made not depending on it)
Nowadays, its more a matter of money, meaning the power of advertising, is perverting the reality and the truth of things, by using someone famous as a link (bridge) to the product.
And it is so common – if not vulgar – that one needs to be naïve, candied and dependant to believe and buy. A brand’s image with a new “starlet” is not James Dean or Marilyn for me.
Only a brilliant creative spirit can truly make me a fetishist, as I may be with Martin Margiela or Comme Des Garcons, who have remained so faithful to their own philosophy (even if I never queue neither order their products online), with their limited editions or even better, their one-of-a-kind universe. And indeed they are two of the few who can explain such phenomenon.
Since I am embarrassed with the question of quantity and rarity in these matters, but that will be my own problem forever about fashion. I do think there is a way of being you and only you, have your own character and self expression, disconnected as more as possible from any trend and being the clone of your neighbour,
–Since the ancient times, humans tend to categorize themselves depending on their clothes. Focusing on fetish, it has always been linked to sexually provocative clothes while today, behaviors linked to such manners, have evolved to something else. We are now aroused on the site of a logo, a certain designer etc. Your quotation?
CL: I hardly understand or share such behaviors. Of course, feeling a sense of shared community is part of the human nature/being. But not until it becomes slavery!
On the other hand, isn’t slavery a sexual stimulation too? No better marketing than Catholic religion, for example, followed for centuries, that travels through time, the unique “hero”, Jesus on the cross in so many variations, in almost every home… That is a wonderful logo too!!
I need to be overwhelmed, impressed and moved by beauty, aesthetic, creativity for feeling that kind of Fetishism.
This I find easier with vintage these days, because of its uniqueness. Or one-of-a-kind Couture and men’s tailors. Being addict to only and only logo might be an artistic gesture (as on one of these Japanese pictures of young girls and boys that have their room’s walls covered with Vivienne Westwood and only Westwood – or other designer’s stuff – I don’t remember the name of this book and photographer). I have a need for dramatic need of independence and autonomy. And going back to your first question, this is the story of our times, to be free apparently, progressive, modern. In fact we go back to the darkest archaism with the excesses of a global liberal world/village.
One of several conversations and interviews by Filep Motwary, featuring renowned individuals from the industry of fashion, part of a project, commissioned by Linda Loppa and Polimoda to Filep Motwary in 2013. A small selection of these interviews were later included in Danilo Venturi’s “Momenting The Mememento” published by Skira
In the photo: Christian Lacroix, Stephen Jones and Natalia Vodianova as Alice in Wonderland, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, courtesy of Vogue US , December 2003
Women’s Haute Couture fashion designer with his own house, Christian Lacroix, which was bought by LVMH and subsequently sold to Falic Fashion Group in 2005 until its liquidation in 2009. Today, he continues with designing historical and opera costumes, exhibitions and design interiors.