The end of the line for Lacroix?

He dresses some of the most glamorous women in the world and at one time was hailed as the saviour of the elite world of haute couture. But as the fashion world gathers for haute couture week which opens today, speculation is rife in Paris that Christian Lacroix may be the latest casualty of the soaring and dwindling viability of fashion's most hallowed craft.

He dresses some of the most glamorous women in the world and at one time was hailed as the saviour of the elite world of haute couture. But as the fashion world gathers for haute couture week which opens today, speculation is rife in Paris that Christian Lacroix may be the latest casualty of the soaring and dwindling viability of fashion's most hallowed craft.

As parent company LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton (LVMH)made the final negotiations for the sale of Lacroix's 18-year-old business to the Florida-based travel retail firm Falic, those in the know were doubtful of the future of his loss-making couture studio, which is to present its latest offering tomorrow evening.

"I don't think he's made a huge collection," said Francois Lesage, whose specialist embroidery workshop has supplied the haute couture for the best part of a century. "His budget is very short now. Ten years ago his budget was 10 times the size as it is now, although he has the talent to make collections with the minimum."

One French fashion editor was more direct. "Everybody thinks it's the end for Lacroix couture."

Lacroix has been defiant. This month, he told Women's Wear Daily his show would be his "best answer" to any uncertainty. Despite his dwindling resources, the designer has had notable success with celebrity clients, now perhaps the most crucial aspect of haute couture. In 2004 he provided a raunchy corset for Madonna's Reinvention tour, and it was his atelier that created Catherine Zeta-Jones's wedding dress for her marriage to Michael Douglas.

Lacroix is known to be unhappy with the way LVMH has developed his brand. His ready-to-wear collection was kept off the runway for three seasons to cut costs. The price of staging an haute couture show is high, in the region of $3m (£1.6m).

Only a handful of stellar names are on this season's schedule: Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Lacroix, Gaultier and, for the first time, Giorgio Armani, who is launching a luxurious line that, although executed to similar standards, will not be haute couture in its strictest sense.

In recent years, the calendar has lost houses such as Ungaro and Versace. Yves Saint Laurent's retirement in 2002 was also a watershed.

Haute couture differs from ready-to-wear by being individually fitted and embellished to suit each client's requirements. Garments can take weeks or months to be made, and often require multiple fittings. Haute couture is also hand-made.

The practice is a source of considerable Gallic pride in that it is a spectacular showcase for the unique talents of the workshops that specialise in creating elaborate embroidery, beading, featherwork and corsetry. It is also often cited as a "laboratory" for techniques in construction and embellishment, a stage on which designers can push their imaginations and the skills of their ateliers.

The business, unique to France, is governed by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a body which implements rules of practice created in 1945. Each couture house must employ at least 20 people full-time and produce at least 25 original outfits each season that should be day and evening wear.

Lacroix is synonymous with haute couture. His house, created for him in 1987 by the LVMH chief Bernard Arnault, was the first new couture operation since Courreges in 1965.

He shot to fame in the mid-1980s with his satin puffball skirts, much copied by other designers and viewed as offensively opulent by some critics.

Born in Arles in 1951, the designer, whose first ambition was to be museum curator, cites Gypsy traditions, bullfighting and baroque art as inspirations. He worked for Hermes (1978) and Guy Paulin (1980). But it was at Jean Patou in 1981 that Lacroix created haute couture, for which he was awarded the prestigious Golden Thimble award.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower