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Five minutes with Christian Lacroix Creative Director Sacha Walckhoff

The Christian Lacroix creative director on kissing his idol, his burgeoning art collection and the house’s latest lifestyle line

Vivacious, vibrant and always va-va-voom: since it was founded as a couture house in 1987, Christian Lacroix has celebrated a ‘more is more’ raison d’être. Today the house continues to flourish under the charismatic leadership of creative director Sacha Walckhoff. Adding a lifestyle string to the Lacroix bow, Walckhoff has teamed up with the likes of Designers Guild, Vista Alegre, Savoir Beds and Kartell to create colourful home décor lines. The S/S17 Maison collection is no exception – it spans porcelain tableware, upholstery fabrics, wallpapers, luxury stationery and accessories, all underpinned by the brand’s signature flamboyant flair.

I have been with Christian Lacroix for almost 25 years now. I worked with Christian for 18 of those, followed by seven years and counting as creative director. I am like a cat; I have had many lives!  

Christian didn’t give me any sage advice when he left the brand, as he is not a sage spirit at all. That said, I am convinced that bad taste and good taste are two faces of the same coin, which might be a result of all those years spent observing him. 

My own personal style is quite different from Lacroix. It is more restrained and less colourful, but there is a bit of humour to it, a tongue-in-cheek attitude. My look has a cosmopolitan background and is rooted in French style and elegance. I am good at mixing all those things together without losing who I am.  

I realised at a young age that I wanted to be a designer. As a child, I was drawing all the time so it seemed quite natural for me to choose an artistic path. I saw the film Funny Face on TV at the age of eight or nine and I knew instantly that I wanted my life to look like that movie… It has been even better. 

Growing up, Grace Jones was my idol. She kissed me on the lips during a show in Berlin and I didn’t wash her lipstick off until the next day. A friend of mine, Jules Kim, founder of jewellery brand Bijules, actually made a gold cannon bit from a print of her lips. I saw her on TV the other night; she is still just as gorgeous, smart and rebellious at 68. 

The fashion industry has evolved a lot, and not always in the right direction. It’s 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. There is less respect for creation and everyone is copying everybody else. The industry is becoming a caricature of itself, however, the work of designers such as Simon Jacquemus, Raf Simons and Demna Gvasalia is thrilling and gives me hope for a better future.

Lately, home décor collections are promoting new trends, which are then followed by the fashion designers. For instance, our 2012 butterfly prints inspired Valentino, Givenchy and even The Kooples a few seasons later. 

I’m so excited about next year’s Maison collection because that’s what I’m working on right now, but I was crazy about S/S17 a few months ago! It was inspired by lavish theatre décor and brought back childhood memories of visiting Paris with my mother. I was living in Switzerland at the time and everything in the city seemed so chic by comparison. 

I buy a lot of out-of-print books and visit exhibitions and galleries for inspiration. I travel and keep my eyes wide open all the time. I must say that working on fashion and lifestyle lines at the same time is very illuminating. Sometimes a bad idea for a garment might give you a great idea for a lifestyle product and vice versa.

I’m really into collecting contemporary art. My favourite works at the moment are a resin and crystal headpiece by Canadian artist David Altmejd and a transparent glass decanter by david/nicolas, an amazing design duo from Beirut. I’m also in love with a gorgeous patched banner by New York multimedia artist Brian Kenny and last, but not least, a bronze sculpture by Belgian genius Johan Creten. Ask me next month though, and you’ll get a different answer.  

I also have a lot of Christian Lacroix Maison at home. In my apartment there are mask wall lamps designed by Garouste & Bonetti for the couture salons in the ’80s, as well as rugs, a bespoke sofa I created with Brazilian designer Ricardo Almeida, cushions, curtains, wallpapers, chairs and candlesticks. I’m almost a Lacroix piece myself! 

I’m in London frequently, especially when working with Tricia Guild at the Designers Guild headquarters. I love to shop at Dover Street Market, followed by Rellik for amazing vintage pieces, Mallett & Son for antiques and Alfies Antique Market for surprises. One of my favourite boutiques is Stephen Sprake’s on Church Street in Marylebone – he stocks the most beautiful furniture. I spend a lot of time people watching when I’m here, too. The street style is much more exciting to look at than in Paris. 

S/S17 pieces available to buy from Designers Guild and Liberty of London, www.christian-lacroix.com