FRENCH FASHION sensation Christian Lacroix creates bonbons for the body, decorative delectables that many say will change the course of modern haute couture. He burst on the scene only a few seasons before this month's issue of Vanity Fair named him to its annual "hall of fame," the only fashion designer so honored in 1987.
Lacroix made his name with poufs, taffeta, tulle and froufrou, but his taste in hair styles and makeup is classic and subdued. And although his irreverently fun-loving designs may not be for everyone, his approach to hair and makeup may be: For example, the traditional French roll and ruby lipstick worn by Lacroix models in the designer's gala fashion show last month, staged by Saks Fifth Avenue, was emulated by dozens of his followers in the $100-a-ticket audience.
The 36-year-old designer says that he has been approached by makeup and perfume makers anxious to cash in on his fashion sense and name. Many designers would jump at the chance, but not Lacroix. "For me, perfume is not as interesting as makeup," he says. "Makeup is an accessory; it is fashion for a woman's face." But designer makeup will have to wait, Lacroix says, until he feels that he is established as a fashion leader.
Even without a signature cosmetic collection, Lacroix has created a definite look in beauty. Yet he is adamant about keeping the look natural. "American women wear too much makeup," he says. "In France, the most elegant women are less and less made up."
He says that despite warnings about skin cancer, a tan is still a status symbol among the French, "and they wear very little other makeup, perhaps just some red lipstick. A suntan symbolizes that the women have the luxury of time and money to spend their summers in Saint-Tropez and their winters skiing in Megeve."
Despite the fact that some of his best customers may be confirmed sunbathers, Lacroix himself favors pale foundation on non-bronzed skin. "Not too pale--perhaps one or two shades lighter than their natural complexions. Nothing shiny. I like powder on a woman's face for a very finished look." When Lacroix's models parade the runway, their skin looks like porcelain, with just a touch of blush worn high on the cheekbones. He says the blush is to impart a healthy look, not to create the hollow cheeks that many models have worn for years. Lacroix models have strong features: prominent noses, big eyes and succulent mouths, which he accents with basic colors.
"With winter clothes, the mouth is cherry red; the eyes are shadowed in gray or black. For summer, the mouth is coral or deep pink; the eyes accented with pink," he says. Makeup that complements couture clothes is too sophisticated for ready-to-wear fashions, Lacroix points out. He says he plans to create another look more in keeping with his whimsical, lower-priced (under $5,000) line. Just what that new makeup look will be, he can't--or won't--divulge.
Lacroix refers, however, to his grandmother, who rimmed her nostrils and dabbed her earlobes with rouge. "That was her makeup recipe," he laughs. "Perhaps I'll take inspiration from her."
As with makeup, Lacroix believes that simplicity is best for hair designs. His favorites: a French roll or a short pompadour, created for Lacroix models by Daniel Frenna of Alexandre de Paris. The styles, he says, are classics.
"No curls. No softness. No free-flowing look," he says. "I don't like the fake look of freedom, where the 'freedom' is cut into the hair. No 'Dynasty' looks, where hair has to be curled and sprayed to be 'natural.' "
Lacroix's version of the pompadour is soft, short and full, waved gently up and off the face. His fantasy clothes are priced far beyond the budgets of most women, but the Lacroix look--above the neck, at least--may well be the big trend of the late '80s.