PARIS — Private customers (including Paloma Picasso), American store executives and the world fashion press gave 36-year-old Christian Lacroix a standing ovation punctuated with shouts of "bravo" in response to the designer's first couture collection under his own name.
The Lacroix collection, shown Sunday, was the introduction to the weeklong fall-winter couture shows.
As Sonia Caproni, vice president and fashion director of I. Magnin, said: "It's a triumph. These are very emotional clothes and so full of ideas."
Bloomingdale's vice president and fashion director Kal Ruttenstein also picked up on the emotional element of the collection describing it as: "Clothes from the heart. Shapes, fabrics, color: It was all there and all wonderful."
For Dawn Mello, president of Bergdorf Goodman, which will have the first Christian Lacroix boutique in the States, it was: "a tour de force; a tour de force."
But perhaps one of the day's strongest compliments came from a former art student who became a couturier almost by chance: Pierre Berge, chairman of Yves Saint Laurent.
"There are two directions in fashion today," Berge said. "And for this particular look, Lacroix is the best. The other direction is Yves' way. Lacroix is alive, young. He has a marvelous sense of color, of fashion and theater."
After six seasons as designer without a contract for the staid House of Jean Patou--which Lacroix quickly injected with his sense of fashion theatrics--Lacroix left. And on Feb. 2, he signed a contract with the Agache group, backers of the house of Christian Dior.
In less than six months, he has created work rooms and a couture house at 73 Rue du Faubourg-St. Honore, where the furniture and decor by two young artists, Elisabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, express the wit and elan of Lacroix's clothes.
The night before the collection, he gave a cocktail party to show off this new house, while behind the scenes, workers sewed away until 4 a.m. Sunday.
At 7 a.m., trucks arrived to transport the 60 outfits to the Hotel Intercontinental, where the show was set on a stage decorated with bulrushes, bunches of lavender and masses of tumbleweed to recreate Lacroix's native Provence.
And indeed, many of the outfits were modern-day adaptations of folklore costumes of Provence: the sizzling fuchsia of a satin matador's coat, the crisscross satin stoles over bouffant quilted skirts.
The difference: Where most of the original costumes hover around the ankle, in Lacroix's hands, those skirts bound well above the knee. Many had hoops high on the hips.
There were broadtail piano shawls dripping with fringe; sparkly lace mantillas; tri-corner matador hats and pony skin gaucho skirts, the latter teamed with a tailored houndstooth blazer.
Lacroix is credited with putting the pouf into fashion and, in his first collection, he continues it.
Along with his Provencal folklore, Lacroix also threw in a generous dollop of couture folklore as in the above-the-knee silver fox coat with a shawl-collar back dipping almost to the hem; the black broadtail cocktail suits with cocktail hats, and the embroidered short jackets on huge moire taffeta skirts. The fashion triumph of its native son continued late into the night at Les Bains Douches nightclub, where Lacroix had imported a gypsy band.