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Sacha Walckhoff at Christian Lacroix

When Lacroix himself left in 2009, the reins of the Parisian powerhouse were handed to his assistant of 17 years. We chat to Walckhoff about sartorial theatricality, couture and migrating birds

After 26 glorious years of extravagance, theatricality and of course “le pouf”, Christian Lacroix showed his last couture collection in the summer of 2009 – a joyous riff on Parisian chic. And then, like Jil Sander and Helmut Lang before him, he severed all ties with the house that bore his name - another victim of the recession. Monsieur Lacroix may be gone but his right-hand man for 17 years, Sacha Walckhoff has been appointed by the owners, Falic Group to become creative director of the maison.

Tasked with rebuilding the brand, Walckoff has taken a wisely low-key route – starting with home textiles and stationery, he also launched the menswear line for AW11 with a charming, quirky collection titled “Les Garcons Migrateurs”. Based around the idea of birds migrating during winter, the collection showcased a particularly Gallic take on masculine dressing - featuring dandified suits with a sharply tailored edge, chunky knits embroidered with eagle motifs mixed in with more modern touches like a luxurious puffa jacket.

Dazed Digital: You worked with Monsieur Lacroix for 17 years – what was the best lesson you learnt from him?
Sacha Walckhoff:
 I would say "to try to be open to new ideas without losing yourself" which mean you can always improve who you are but you need to be open-minded even if you are not seduced by what is in front of you; as many times, it will open new doors for you that you did not expect...

DD: Lacroix conjures up images of haute couture – why did you start the relaunch with the launch of a menswear line?
Sacha Walckhoff: I wanted to show that "Christian Lacroix" is more a state of mind, a gesture than Haute Couture imagery. There is a way for Lacroix to be closer to the real life without losing "un point de vue " which is, I think, unique. The menswear line help us to give this vision of Lacroix that I always had: "being chic is an attitude, can be affordable and part of your everyday life". The funny and unexpected thing is that even Lady GaGa has been wearing the menswear last week!

DD: How would you define the Lacroix man you’re imagining now compared with how he was in the past?
Sacha Walckhoff: Closer to what a guy who is traveling a lot, and does not have so much time to pack his luggage, needs to be at ease, elegant and edgy in a smooth way.

DD: The A/W11 collection is more youthful than one would readily expect from the house of Lacroix – what inspired it?
Sacha Walckhoff: This is true, I am always on planes or trains, going from Paris to Hong Kong, London or New York. The young crowds in all those cities are energetic, appealing and I wanted to address myself to them with that "Lacroix spirit" which is, as I see it, very close to their way of being.

DD: If there was a criticism of Lacroix towards the end, it was that his clothes were too rarefied and perhaps not in tune with needs of today. How are you addressing that with your vision for the house of Lacroix?
Sacha Walckhoff: Absolutely, and it is part of the reasons why the House has been forced to stop Haute Couture. So my reaction, last year when the Falic group and Nicolas Topiol, our CEO, asked me to go on with the Brand was to re-think what was the "Lacroix" specificities for me and to adapt them to different lines , commercial lines but without losing myself and what Lacroix is about.

DD: The company has also launched home textiles and stationery – how do you expand the business while seeking to preserve the legacy of Lacroix?
Sacha Walckhoff: Well, this is the perfect example, for me it was making sense to go for home lines at Lacroix, as the brand is so well known and respected for her skill in mixing colours and patterns...but as a customer, I would rather buy an amazing colorful cushion or notebook than an amazing colorful jacket...except if all this amazing work is on the lining of a black jacket and in this case I might go for the jacket too...This is what I am doing right now, finding the right ways to express our skills and expanding to new territories.