Christian Lacroix's Creative Director Sacha Walckhoff talks to Jeanne-Marie Cilento from his Paris atelier about fashion, creativity and the future. Photographs by CG Watkins
TALL and handsome with an infectious laugh, Christian Lacroix's creative director Sacha Walckhoff brings his ebullient artistic energy to the house's menswear and lifestyle collections. After the eponymous couturier left the house five years ago, Mr Walckhoff has brought a fresh vision to the French brand. He worked closely with Christian Lacroix for 17 years so has a profound understanding of the house's artistic origins.
|Sacha Walckhoff & Christian Lacroix during the glory years|
|Dark flowers SS16. Photo: CG Watkins|
|Urban hubris SS16. Photo: CG Watkins|
As far as current trends in fashion, he still sees a slender aesthetic."People are wearing very slim lines, slim outfits and slim trousers, the young generation are still very body conscious."
The men who buy from the Christian Lacroix boutique in Paris are a heterogeneous group of artists, architects and lawyers from 25 years old upwards. "They are looking for something amusing with a good cut and good print with exquisite designs and fabrics. We are close to our clients. I am always trying to make the perfect shirts and suits. Pieces that you are happy to wear every day and then find them again in the next collection.When men find what they love, the right cut of pants or shirt ~ they don't want us to stop!"
|Nature rules in the Paris suburbs. Photo: CG Watkins|
Today, the fashion world has changed as luxury brands have some of their biggest clientele in Asia not Europe: "They were starving for fashion because of the political situations in their countries. I think what they are going through now is what we went through in the 1960s and 70s. Europeans are not our largest clients anymore. We have other situations that are very difficult here: people are too busy fighting for work, for places to live, really struggling. It is a difficult moment to talk about fashion in Europe because it is very frivolous. But I believe you can still say a lot through fashion. I think you have the possibility to express something interesting and the more that is expressed the better."
But the designer comments that he is surprised that many young designers are not expressing themselves as creatively as in the past with what they wear and design for themselves. "Today, when you look at men's collections that are very trendy, colourful and full of strange shapes ~ it is made for people to talk about and not to be worn. In the 1980s, we were making strange clothing but we were wearing it. We wanted to have originality and if you couldn't find what you wanted we made our own clothing. But now it is different as all of those young guys who are designing crazy outfits don't wear them. They are still wearing jeans and t-shirts as the designer and coming out on to the runway. It is very bizarre to me! It is like they are presenting clothes that they don't want to wear themselves.
|Sacha Walckhoff as a young designer in Paris|
Talking about the power of the fashion image today the designer believes it is more difficult to make an impact because we have visual overload. "We are bombarded by images today with the Internet and social media. It is difficult because you have to edit them all of the time. I am a bit afraid of being insensible to images in the future because there are just too many to filter through your mind. Even when you wake-up there are so many images to digest ~ even before having your coffee." Mr Walkhoff is also concerned
|Colour & embroidery SS16. Photo: CG Watkins|
"I was talking to [Dutch designer] Marcel Wanders, we were saying the machines will take over ~ they don't need food or rest ~ and one day there will be robots on the runway and robots making the collections and robots buying the clothes. We will be left at our country houses out of it all!" he says laughing. "With the new menswear collection, maybe it is about the fact that in an increasingly mechanised world nature is still much stronger than anything man can create. Maybe it is something unconscious trying to say that nature will always win ~ that is really the theme of this menswear collection."
Working with designer Jose Gandia, head of Lacroix's Studio Homme, on the collection, Sacha Walckhoff wanted to design classic clothes with a young and modern twist. There are very well cut suits in beautiful fabrics with linings made out of silk as well as prints and embroideries. All of the sweaters are from cotton so they are very breathable with others in Jacquard with embroidery. "The house is known for its mix and match, combining different things like prints, flowers, bright colours such as fuschia that in the end really work," says Mr Gandia. "This season we found the colours of Paris suburbs interesting, you feel like you could almost be in LA. It was very nice to shoot there."
|Industrial Paris SS16. Photo: CG Watkins|
For the collection's photo shoot, nature and the city were big inspirations. Mr Walckoff worked with photographer CG Watkins to shoot the pictures in the suburbs of Paris. “Nature is always stronger than man-made cities ~ here in the Parisian suburbs even though the plants grow in small spaces and on balconies ~ there is still a spirit of wildness. So we wanted to have the pictures taken in places which were quite built up but at the same time nature still managed to grow there." The photographer, who grew up in Australia, was very attracted to the idea of going to the outer suburbs in Paris to shoot. "It was really interesting and it was so busy ~ I didn't think the suburbs were so busy," Sacha Walckhoff says. "We went to a squat and saw this whole universe of people who are free and living with a certain wildness. They are constructing a new way of life. In some ways, it is a spirit that for me is quite close to what Lacroix is all about.The collection is based on both human nature and the wilderness which is coming out in the cities ~ despite the concrete."
Mr Walckhoff say the menswear collection expresses his vision of Lacroix. "Collaborating with CG Watkins who is British but raised in Australia we talked a lot about the dessert. You can feel it in all of his images. It is always good to have a link with the young photographers and the young magazines because it is the kind of customer we want to share the collection with. We have a lot of customers who are faithful to the brand. But it is also important to be connected to the young generation ~ it is a great way to do it working with young photographers."
|Christian Lacroix's Nouveaux Mondes collection|
As artistic director, Sacha Walckhoff makes a presentation to his team twice a year and then the other designers have an input for specific collections. "Sometimes they propose things that make the designs richer," he says. "I like to have a creative dialogue with my colleagues when I am working ~ I feed them but they also need to feed me. I need interaction, this is my way of working. If I don't like something I just say it. But I love it when an idea comes from the studio and makes the concept deeper and more interesting. I welcome new ideas while keeping the vision of Christian Lacroix."