the lacroix scrap books

Couture gets no more haute than Christian Lacroix. With his first collection in 1987, full of fantasy and drama, he was hailed as the new star of a new look.What Lacroix actually did was return to using couture as a laboratory of ideas.

Lacroix dreamt up the puffball skirt. He put women in corsetry, which he believes can work wonders of the sort some seek in surgery. Above all, he created a style of unique theatricality.

Christian Lacroix: The Diary of a Collection, published tomorrow by Thames & Hudson (pounds 38), shows how many ideas went into just one of his couture collection, that of spring/summer 1994. Lacroix documented its creation in two huge books of collages and sketches: his energetic drawings, fabric and embroidery swatches, pictures of medieval shoes, 18th-century hairstyles and waistcoats reveal the entire process. You can't help but feel the urgency, and the pace of a genius at work. It's as if his hand had had trouble keeping up with his thought. Through the pictures and text, you can imagine him trawling libraries, museums and flea markets across London and Paris in his quest for inspiration.

Nowadays, Christian Lacroix also produces a ready-to-wear collection and a still cheaper line, under the label Bazar, as well as jeans. Everything is designed by the master himself, and each has his touch - quirky, mismatched fabric and colour, and obsession with detail. The real money generated by Lacroix, comes from these non- couture lines. Such is the power of the Lacroix look that women who can't afford a hand-made couture dress at pounds 5,000 are ready to buy the magic in the shape of a ready-to-wear dress at pounds 300, or a pair of jeans for pounds 150.

Ten years after his first couture collection, the art history graduate from Arles with a passion for the theatre still has a uniquely dramatic style - it's the development of a style that is most important to Lacroix. As he writes in the prologue to the book: "Fashions, like butterflies, are born to die. Style, on the other hand, is said to have the opposite destiny - to live forever." Rebecca Lowthorpe

! Lacroix will sign copies of his diary, produced with Patrick Mauries, at Dillons Arts Bookshop, 8 Long Acre, London WC2, on Tuesday 29 October, 6-8pm

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