Flamboyance, surprise, singularity and colour
By Shelley M. Black
French designer Christian Lacroix’s signature couture was bold, exuberant, colourful and baroque. Today, his spirit lives on in an opulent collection of tableware, vibrant upholstery fabrics, iconic wallpaper and fabulous ready-to-wear clothing created by Sacha Walckhoff, the fashion house’s creative director. Responsible for the brand’s modern metamorphosis, Walckhoff has infused his own vibrant energy and vision into Lacroix’s DNA. Homefront talked to Walckhoff as he launched the BK x CL Collection.
Q. You’ve been with the house for 25 years and worked alongside Christian for a long time. Is it fair to say you’ve seen a lot of change?
Sacha: While the principles remain the same, the brand has been evolving since M. Lacroix left eight years ago. With Tricia Guild, the founder of Designers Guild, we’ve created the first Lacroix home collection and other products to reinvent ourselves, express our skills and keep the house fresh, modern and relevant.
Frankly, it’s not about old or new. The main concepts that made Lacroix and keep the style alive are “Joie de vivre,” “brave colours” and “lavishness.”
Q. You worked with Christian for a long time. What did he teach you?
Sacha: He built a style and line that are truly unique. Designing from the “Lacroix perspective” became second nature to me. With him, I realized that everyone is quite different and anything is possible. I learned to keep an open mind and no longer viewed things as “this is right “ or “this is wrong.”
Q. Who or what else has influenced your design work?
Sacha: This a tough question as everything can be inspiring: The history book I bought in Budapest a few months ago, the people I passed by this morning on my way to the studio, the television show I might see tonight!
I collect vintage decoration and out-of-print books. I also visit a lot of exhibitions and galleries, travel a lot and have my eyes wide open all the time.
My influences are multiple, from Madeleine Castaing to “Le groupe A.” I also love the way Henri Samuel mixed art, design and antiques together back in the ’70s. Current designers such as Marcel Wanders, Rodrigo Almeida, Sam Baron and Maarten Baas, and Martino Gamper, are also inspirational.
Q. In a world of grey and beige, what do you say to people who think that Lacroix designs are over the top?
Sacha: Well, we’re famous for prints and colours but our fabrics can be used in a far more subtle way. We are here to inspire. I love to mix old and new, colours and neutrals, renowned names and unknown designers. Eclectic choices are not always easy to harmonize, but the result is breathtaking when the balance is right.
Q. You have said that you try to stay true to the things that define the brand. What are they?
Sacha: As they have been since the beginning, the brand’s values are tolerance, variety, liberty and fantasy. I’m fortunate that my directors and shareholders trust me in maintaining the correct image. When I took over they gave me the precious time and freedom to find a new way to express Lacroix with colour, surprise, flamboyance and singularity.
Q. How did you transition from fashion into interior design?
Sacha: My love for garments and fabrics has been consistent. You know, fashion might be a “bitch” sometimes, but that’s what makes it special and never the same! The fashion industry has evolved a lot in the last 15 years but not necessarily in the right direction. It is not as appealing and exclusive as it used to be. The boundaries between luxury and mass production, between great style and poor taste, are blurred. Everybody is copying everybody else.
Having said that, I am encouraged when I see works from designers such as Simon Jacquemus, Raf Simons and Demna Gvasalia. They really spur me on and give me hope for the future.
Q. For your anniversary collection, you collaborated with New York multimedia artist Brian Kenny on a signature capsule collection called BK x CL. It’s got a kind of a “mad pop vibe.”
Sacha: Our 30th anniversary was the perfect occasion to build a strong friendship with Brian and have him express his art and vision. His joyful collection addresses a younger crowd who didn’t know us in the ’80s. I also felt it was important to work with a young artist who addresses himself to the world with humour and wit.
I love the collaborative process; we’ve also created special pieces with Kartell and Moooi (Marcel Wanders is a good friend with an extraordinary personality!). It’s about a creative relationship with the brand or the artist, and having an emotional connection.
Shelley Black’s career has spanned a unique range of editorial and corporate roles with Flare and Maclean’s. She enjoys writing about all forms of design.