Lacroix himself says that he is owed more than a million euros. The fall ready-to-wear collection received many orders that were never filled because the house is in huge debt to its suppliers (Lacroix estimates these debts at 18 million euros). He has begun his own hunt for backers, with the help of his friend David de Rothschild.
“I could not stand having my workers doing nothing during Fashion Week,” Lacroix says. “In this métier, you have a biological clock in your stomach, and they knew: Couture is coming.”
Against the Falics’ wishes, Lacroix began to sketch. He filed for protection with the French government, which he says agreed that the Falics should pay two more months of salary (through August) and 15,000 euros in fees for the models.
The donations began pouring in. Olivier Saillard, of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre, offered three elegant salons. Inès de la Fressange and Bruno Frisoni, the creative directors of Roger Vivier, sent over boxes of shoes; Odile Gilbert volunteered to do the hair; Stéphane Marais chipped in with makeup. Lacroix gathered his suppliers together in the garden behind his office: “I asked them to forgive me,” he says. “And they said that if we would show, they wanted to give everything.”
Taroni and Gandini, two of the best Italian fabric mills, donated fabrics. “I didn’t want to exaggerate,” he says. “I didn’t want to be rude. But this house, it means something to the métier. It means something to Paris. It is really like some happiness pills.”
Lacroix loves fantasy. Growing up in Arles—the sunflowery Provençal town where Van Gogh went to paint—he spent a great deal of time by himself. He is eleven years older than his only sibling. “I was very fond of books, literature, images, legends, and fairy tales. I was always inventing, always sketching. Very early, I felt it was not possible to share my world. I feel we all have a deep, deep, deep soul which is impossible to share.”
In his twenties, he moved to Paris and was living with a “Maoist aristocrat”—a man—in Les Halles when he met a smoky-voiced woman named Françoise. He was not happy with the Maoist aristocrat—“Everything always had to be a bit dusty”—and when he saw Françoise it was as if his Parisian fantasy had stepped off his sketchbook and into his life: “Elegant legs, black belt, high heels, cashmere, and old fur from her mother, a beautiful brooch. What is that?” Lacroix, who still identifies as bisexual, fell madly in love. “At first sight,” he says. “So we went to the movie theater, and I invited her to a Russian restaurant, an exhibit by Braque. She was perfect.” Françoise divorced her husband, and she and Lacroix have been together ever since. “We remain child together,” he says, “for 35 years.”
The afternoon of the show, Francoise is there, her red hair cut into a severe bob. “C’est la vie, c’est la vie, c’est la vie,” she sighs. “I have been with Christian through the ups and downs, and this one, this will be fine.” All around her, the clients begin filing in. Danielle Steele is here, wearing a white blazer from Balmain with shoulder pads the size of tennis balls. “It’s very worrying,” Steele says, wrinkling her brow. Suzanne Saperstein, the ex-wife of a Texas billionaire, is across the runway, with her pillowy lips and two belts slung over her jeans. Kelly Sia, wife of a Singaporean businessman, is wearing a raspberry-colored strapless dress. “He made my wedding dress,” Sia says, looking sad.
Lacroix, meanwhile, is backstage, bending and writhing and wriggling before a throng of television cameras. He is laughing a lot, but he appears tired, stressed. In his fantasy version of this story, there is, somewhere in the audience, a savior in the crowd who will be dazzled by what he sees today. He will take out his checkbook, the atelier will go on.
The seamstresses arrive en masse and disperse quickly to their dresses, each of which is hanging in a collapsible black wardrobe. A short woman with an Ace bandage on her ankle touches her dress and then crosses herself, kisses her fingers, and closes her eyes.
“I have my conscience with me,” Lacroix says, smiling his great big circus smile. “And something in my soul, in my gut, it is my Jiminy Cricket saying that I will find my way, a wonderful white knight will arrive on a horse, a beautiful princess! I am sure we deserve it. Without being romantic, the workroom deserves to be saved. Without being poetic, this collection is one of the best that we did.” He says it again and again, into tape recorders and microphones, and slowly for people wielding notebooks and pens.