Wednesday 13 May 2015

New Interview: Christian Lacroix's Creative Director Sacha Walckhoff

 “My design for Moooi is called the Jewels Garden,”  (pictured above) says Sacha Walckhoff. “I wanted to create a rug that looks like a psychedelic garden, using all of the Lacroix symbols from the house’s years of couture." 
Christian Lacroix’s exuberant Creative Director, Sacha Walckhoff, talks to Jeanne-Marie Cilento about his life in Paris, his new work and designs for Dutch powerhouse Moooi. Portrait by Mariangela Curci

WALKING into the dark, cavernous entrance of the monumental Moooi show in Milan you are immediately struck by the golden, jewel tones of Sacha Walckhoff’s enormous carpet hanging like a painting in all of it’s rich-hued glory. The designer is a baroque minimalist at heart and has brought all of his skill to Maison Christian Lacroix since he took over as creative director in 2009.
Sacha Walckhoff talks to Marcel Wanders at the Moooi exhibition.
Arriving at the Moooi exhibition, directly from a flight from Paris, Sacha Walckhoff is unruffled and full of energy and enthusiasm. Tall and elegant, he wears a simple dark vest and shirt, the only nod to his maximalist aesthetic a dash of red across his polished, black leather brogues.“My design for Moooi is called the Jewels Garden,” he says. “I wanted to create a rug that looks like a psychedelic garden, using all of the Lacroix symbols.We took jewel designs from the house’s years of couture and we put them into the garden like flowers. In the end, it looks both cosmic and precious. I wanted to do something that was easy to use too, like a Persian rug, but at the same time modern and fresh."

Sacha Walckhoff’s new design is part of a large new collection launched by Moooi during Milan Design Week of 48 surreal designs created by visual artists, couturiers and designers, including Ross Lovegrove, Studio Job, Front, Klaus Haapaniemi, Jurgen Bey and Moooi co-founder and creative director Marcel Wanders.

The 3D effect of Broersen & Lukacs' Liquid Maple design for Moooi
The Moooi carpets use a new technology that creates super high definition prints with startling photo realistic effects. The carpets can have an infinite combination of colours and tones, creating an unusual sense of depth. The exhibition in Milan showed the Signature carpets range including Jacquard carpets designed by Wanders to give the impression that the flat woven designs of 3D images seem carved into the carpets.

Although Sacha Walckhoff designs under his own name too, he spends most of his time overseeing all of the collections at Lacroix from the mens collections to the homewares. Since 2010, he has been the designer for the men’s prêt-à-porter, eye wear and sunglasses lines, scarves, and leather goods, as well as the home décor line.

“I have kept the Christian Lacroix aesthetic, like colours and a sense of joie de vivre,” he says. “Of course, we update everything and now all the designs we are doing are done by my studio and they are totally fresh and new. It is not from the archives but is created for today’s life.”

Books inspire the designer. Photo by Elodie Depuis
These days he could be designing a jacket in the morning, a chair in the afternoon and a bed at night but he says he enjoys designing across different disciplines. “I love fashion and product design equally,” he explains. “I am always trying to have a bit of fun! And to make something that makes life easier and more enjoyable that is attractive to other people and to me too ~ I am my first client. I like every part of the design process: from first having an idea to convincing people to make that idea real and meeting the artisans who are going to create it. Often you ask them to do things they have never done and they say it is impossible. But then they find a way to do it and the artisans have a sparkle in their eyes because they did something they never thought they could do. All of those little processes I love."

Sacha Walckhoff says that as the creative director of Lacroix his process of coming up with new ideas is very fluid, not like a nine-to-five job. “My inspiration comes from all around me, seeing people in the street, from exhibitions and galleries, artists and especially antique books as you see things that you haven’t seen before because they are out of print. All of those things are important for my creativity.”

Sacha Walckhoff at home in Paris. Photo by Elodie Depuis
Passionate about art, design and decoration, Sacha’s own apartment in Paris is an atmospheric place filled with his own collection of pieces. “Designing my apartment in Paris, I just buy things and put them together,” he says. “Sometimes it doesn’t work so I try putting pieces in different places and suddenly I think it works together. It is a question of space and colours. The eye has to travel and be attracted to one point and then another and go all around the apartment.”

Although he was born in France, Sacha Walckhoff spent most of his childhood in Switzerland. After studying at the School of Barcelona Arts and Fashion Techniques, he first worked at fashion houses including Jean Rémy Daumas, Dorothée Bis and Michel Klein. By 1992, he had met Christian Lacroix and was soon to become his artistic consultant. Initially he was in charge of the prêt-à-porter lines and then he was appointed Studio Director in 1996.

Christian Lacroix Menswear Collection SS2015
Sacha Walckhoff became the couturier’s right-hand man in 2002, when he created his own company. At the same time, he was also a consultant for Kenzo and Jean-Claude Jitrois. He didn’t imagine at the start of his collaboration with Christain Lacroix, that it would last 17 years and that then he would take over as creative director. But it has been the perfect fit for him creatively.

“I’m a mix and match so I was meant to be at Lacroix: I’m a bit Russian, a bit French, a bit African and educated in Switzerland,” he says today. “So I have all of this Russian and African craziness and baroqueness and at the same time I have the strength of the Swiss people and their seriousness. So I am mix of all of those things. Often I say, I am a baroque minimalist and I think it is really a definition of my work.”

Fur Play by Sacha Walckhoff' with Pouenet & Terzakou for Galerie Gosserez
Although he believes, great design can evoke the same feelings as a piece of art, he doesn’t see design necessarily as an art form. “We are great artisans and we try to make life better but at the same time there isn’t a message behind every design we are doing," he says. "Normally when an artist is working, it is very expressionistic with strong things to say.

“I wouldn’t say this is this case for most designs. As designers we have the commercial aspect where we have to sell too. Sometimes you have to adjust designs to make them more saleable or adjust it for the price. Today, we are also managers not only designers, you cannot just be a designer you have to think of all of the different parts to make the product affordable. But design does give us pleasure and can make life better. When you have a table and chair you love and that gives you happiness ~ at that level design is like art.”

 Christian Lacroix Nouveaux Mondes Collection Spring/Summer 2015 
Talking about the future of Christian Lacroix,  Sacha Walckhoff says the fashion house will stick to menswear and accessories but develop more aspects of  the lifestyle collections including furniture: “I think that Chistian Lacroix is perfect for that."  With his fluent creativity and talent for working with other people, this French house continues to produce captivatingly vivid and ebullient design, retaining the Lacroix aesthetic but bringing a contemporary edge to new collections.

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.