"Mr. Lacroix is not taking calls," an operator repeated endlessly this week, as the whiz kid of Paris fashion holed up in Manhattan's Hotel Pierre.
Lacroix was possibly nervous at showing his own collection in America for the very first time--in New York this week, in Los Angeles at a Saks Fifth Avenue charity gala Wednesday. But he couldn't be suffering too much Angst.
His work has been described as "fresh and exuberant" (the New York Times), "impertinent and improbable" (Vanity Fair magazine) and "frothy French frou-frou as sweet and light as Creme Chantilly" (San Francisco Examiner).
He has deposed Yves Saint Laurent as Women's Wear Daily's Paris king. And buyers from America's upper-crust stores competed to be first in their cities with his ready-to-wear.
The question remains: Will women really buy these highly publicized, highly decorative, highly romantic clothes? The 36-year-old design prodigy doesn't know for sure. And some think he shouldn't really care.
A man who can dream in neon-ruched damask and Day-Glo ruffled brocade, who can lavishly appoint a dress as if it were a sitting room, who can plant flowers growing straight up on hats, or straight out of bosoms in zany replicas of the Whitman Sampler box--such a guy shouldn't have to grapple with the bottom line.
When he showed in Paris three weeks back, some guests returned repeatedly, like foreigners seeing Disneyland. "I couldn't absorb it all at once," a Paris-based fashion consultant said.
"I'm saving my money to buy one of his suits," sighed the editor of an underground New York magazine, who usually dresses in baggy black. "It's a lot of hype," said a Manhattan buying office executive, "but delightful, nonetheless."
And, for one Los Angeles resident who works downtown, the collection had a lot of the flavor of home. The vivid aquas, pinks and yellows, the belled skirts, the spool-heel shoes, the fluffs of fabric sewn on everywhere, the lavish use of lace and bows, even the music as the models walked ("Besame Mucho," mambos) recalled the sights and sounds of 3rd Street and Broadway--a culture more Latin than Gallic. Whatever his muse, Lacroix has carried it to exquisite extreme.
He will arrive at LAX next week with his full entourage: Francoise Rosensthiel, his wife; six house mannequins, including the gray-haired favorite, Marie Seznac; hairdressers, fitters, a "music man," and so many clothes that Saks will meet him with security guards.
Lacroix will appear at Saks Fifth Avenue Thursday, the day after the $100-per-person charity show, with the Luxe ready-to-
wear collection (priced from $2,800 to $4,500) and the couture collection (you don't want to know the prices).
The clothes will remain in the store through Saturday. Lacroix will return to New York, at Mikhail Baryshnikov's invitation, to design costumes for the American Ballet Theatre's revival of "Gaiete Parisienne."