Wednesday 5 October 2016

Christian Lacroix's New Furniture Collection by Sacha Walckhoff

Christian Lacroix creative director Sacha Walckhoff with one of the armchairs he designed for the collection with Roche Bobois 
A witty and graceful furniture collection with a surprising dash of robust vigour has been designed by Christian Lacroix's Creative Director Sacha Walckhoff and produced by Roche Bobois. Jeanne-Marie Cilento speaks to the effervescent designer about the inspirations and challenges that faced him creating a completely new oeuvre for the French fashion house

Hourglass chairs inspired by couture mannequins 
BRIMMING with creative energy and vision, Sacha Walckhoff still found it a great challenge to design an entire furniture collection of 20 different pieces, from curvaceous chairs to slim, elegant cabinets featuring architectural scenes, in two very short months. Although it is the first time Maison Christian Lacroix has created a furniture range, building on the house's lifestyle and homewares collection, Roche Bobois has already had collaborations with other high-end fashion labels, including Missoni, Sonia Rykiel and Jean Paul Gaultier.

"It could have been enjoyable but, in fact, it was quite frightening as I had to decide what kind of line to create, relevant for the global market for both brands."

Sacha Walckhoff says the pressure on him was enormous to create such a substantial new collection in a short time, representing two famous French brands. "I had total freedom, a 'carte blanche' given by Jean Dominique Lèze, the Nouveaux Classiques collection's director at Roche Bobois,'' says Walckhoff. "So it could have been enjoyable but, in fact, it was quite frightening as I had to decide what kind of line to create that would be relevant for Lacroix, for Roche Bobois and for the global market for both brands together. It was far too serious to enjoy anything, but I did at the end ...I must be a bit of a masochist!"

Gleaming brass, round side tables
The series of pieces, cleverly translates the exuberant Christian Lacroix aesthetic into a collection that ranges from accessories to upholstered and wooden furniture. Christian Lacroix as a fashion house was known for its extravagance, but today the brand focuses on more accessible luxury, producing a licensed menswear line and decorative upholstery fabrics, wallpaper, cushions, stationery and tableware. "This is not the first furniture line by a Couture house," Sacha Walckhoff says. "Ralph Lauren and Gianni Versace did it first, very wisely, more than 30 years ago and are still masters of the fashion becoming home décor nowadays,'' explains Walckhoff. "I had this in a corner of my mind as I wanted the home decor collections by Lacroix to be as relevant as the ones of those two masters of fashion and lifestyle.

"The Christian Lacroix House has a history of love for bold patterns and joyful colours. With the Lacroix CEO Nicolas Topiol, we were convinced that we should be able to create a home department at Lacroix based on this patrimony and when we did our first collection with Designers Guild in 2011, five years ago, it worked very well."

Lacquered, striped cubes for storage 
The new collection of furniture combines and remixes design eras to make something entirely new. Lacquered wood cubes are screen printed with striped patterns, their minimalism making them at home now or in the 1930s, shimmering brass details enliven wooden chairs and tables. Cabinets are embellished with artistic prints, including a landscape inspired by Arles in southern France (the birthplace of couturier Christian Lacroix) while a large screen is decorated with a variety of colourful plants and flowers but with modern skyscrapers.

"The most challenging part of designing this first furniture collection was finding the right balance between shapes, material and colours."

"The most challenging part of designing this first furniture collection, after those first five years only designing fabrics, rugs and wallpaper, was to find the right balance between shapes, material and colours," Walckhoff says."I went from designing two to three dimensional ideas and this is a huge and tremendous change! Beside this, you do not change your furniture as much as your wallpaper so I also had to have this in mind when designing the new furniture collection."

Following the couturier Christian Lacroix's exit from the company in 2009, Sacha Walckhoff took over the house designing the menswear and lifestyle collections which were introduced in 2011. Maison Christian Lacroix was originally founded as an haute couture house in 1987 by Christian Lacroix and Jean-Jacques Picart. After Lacroix left the fashion house, the women’s wear and couture collections were put on hold, but the maison was revived under the creative direction of Walckhoff who has lead the design and rebuilding of the brand. Today, the creative director says it seemed like the natural next step to create a furniture collection with Roche Bobois.

 Sacha Walckhoff's new designs
"We knew each other quite well as they have used our Lacroix fabrics on their own creations since the launch of our Lacroix Fabric collection with Designers Guild," Sacha Walckhoff says. "So to design furniture for them was the next step and it is an amazing company with almost 300 boutiques all around the world. The quality is exceptional, they are great, recognised professionals and we are both famous French brands, it is a perfect fit for all of us." Christian Lacroix's collection of fabrics, wallpapers and cushions are now all designed by Walckhoff. The current 2016 lifestyle collection, known as the Art de Vivre Collection, drew inspiration from the Incroyables et Merveilleuses of the French Revolution. Boldly coloured fabrics and wallpapers combine floral and modern digital prints for Lacroix's signature eclectic design.

"I was ready to go into furniture as I have designed pieces for the Gallery Gosserez in Paris and the brands Pouenat and Verreum. I was prepared, mentally and also technically."

Sacha Walckhoff says the collaboration with Roche Bobois also happened at the right time as Lacroix has become established as a homewares brand in the last five years and he has also personally developed his own design work. "It was the right timing for Lacroix, as now the brand is part of the world of decoration end design. I was also ready to go into furniture as I have designed, in the past two years, different pieces under my own name for the gallery Gosserez in Paris and the brands Pouenat and Verreum. So I was prepared, mentally and also technically."

The furniture collection  features lacquered wood cubes, a double-sided standing screen with brass details featuring a 19th century scene on one side and a garden setting on the other; and dining room chairs with shapely backs. Other home accessories in the range include lighting, mirrors, consoles and rugs, plus a long dining room table.

Sacha Walckhoff inspired by travel & exhibitions 
Today, Walckhoff says he does not look back to the Lacroix archives as he did in the beginning when creating the homewares and says fashion does not inspire his creative work directly. "In reality, it is much more about words, travels, exhibitions, ideas, style and a lovely personal life than fashion in reality," he says. "Fashion does not mean much anymore. There are still interesting collections of course but the fashion world has become too greedy, too much money is now involved in those big commercial houses and it does kill what fashion should be really about: vision, dream and fantasy.

"Fashion is not influential anymore for creative people like me. People on Reality TV are fashion gods now ~ that says everything about what fashion has become."

"So many collections are asked of the designers each year that it has no meaning anymore, everybody is copying everybody in a neurotic rhythm .Who needs 15 collections by the same brand in the same year?! Fashion is not influential anymore for creative people like me. Reality TV people are fashion gods now ~ that says everything about what fashion has become! But as I said already, designers like Simon Jacquemus, Raf Simons or Demna Gvasalia are trying to save what fashion really is about and I send them my love!"

Walckhoff worked with the couturier Christian Lacroix for 17 years before taking over as Creative Director, responsible for taking the brand in a new direction. Now more than six years later, he has successfully expanded Lacroix beyond a fashion house into interior design. He has also formed Christian Lacroix licensed collaborations with international brands such as the brilliant fabric and wallpaper collection with Designers Guild, carpets with Dutch brand Moooi and now the range of furniture with Roche Bobois.

 Rosewood tables and chairs are finished with brass details
Part of the new furniture collection's vivacity and liveliness is created by Walckhoff's romantic vision. "The 'love stories' between fashion and decor in the 20th Century inspired the collection: the couturier Jacques Doucet and Eileen Grey, Jeanne Lanvin and Armand Albert Rateau, the Groult couple (she was a fashion Couturier, he was a furniture designer ), Yves Saint Laurent and François Xavier Lalanne and ,of course, Christian Lacroix himself and Garouste et Bonetti,'' he says. "Between those two different worlds there always have been admiration and beauty exchanged. This is very inspirational to me. I needed also to add a little bit of humor on top of all this love! So I decided to select specific details of each decade of the 20th Century French Art Decoratif style and mix them together in the same furniture collection.

"Individual pieces look like you know them but you don't because the shape is from the Sixties but the materials are from the Thirties...It is a huge collage of a over a century of creations!"

"The result is exactly what I wanted, individual pieces that look like you know them but you don't because the shape is from the Sixties but the materials (rosewood and gold-plated brass) are from the Thirties. Then you have stripes from the Seventies or an organic shape that could be from the Fifties or even the Eighties...I had a lot of fun doing this, it is a huge collage over a century of creations!"

In the collection, dining room chairs feature backs shaped like hourglasses, an homage to the mannequins in the original Lacroix haute couture atelier in Paris: "A little bit of glamour to sit on!" Walckhoff says. Whereas these chairs are slim, the new armchairs and footstools are more free-form, robust and rotund. The designer says the idea was to mix the styles of Jean Royère, Vladimir Kagan and Garouste and Bonetti together. "I wanted an organic, assymetrical shape with a great comfort and those armchairs are now a best seller at Roche Bobois!"

Screen with flowers, palm tress, follies and skyscrapers 
A double-sided standing screen features a nineteenth century scene from Christian Lacroix’s hometown of Arles, France on one side and a garden print on the other. Amid the foliage are images of palm trees taken from throughout time, ranging from illustrations to a modern photograph. Within the collection, there are also lamps, tables, mirrors, consoles and rugs. Designed for Roche Bobois’ Nouveaux Classiques collection, the pieces are designed to integrate with existing furniture, allowing for mixing and matching.

The signature exuberance and eclecticism and sheer joie de vivre of Christian Lacroix did influence the design of the collection, says Walckhoff: "Yes, of course, it was the final touch! For example, the screen is double faced because sometimes you see life in colours and sometimes in black and white! So the enchanted garden design Bagatelle is on one side, a collage of plants from different styles mixing 19th Century engravings with contemporary photography of palm trees.

"We did it in the studio and it is an image that makes you happy. On the other side of the screen, we printed this 19th Century black and white engraving representing the monuments in Arles (not only the home town of Monsieur Lacroix but where Vincent Van Gogh became famous). It is elegant, historical, a bit more serious.Two moods for the price of one!"

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