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SCAD Lacoste

SCAD FASH Lacoste Sheds Light on Costume Designs by Christian Lacroix for Comédie-Française 

In Lacoste, Christian Lacroix takes the stage

At The Savannah College of Art and Design’s SCAD FASH museum in Lacoste, France, the exhibition “Christian Lacroix: Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” is currently on view through November 1. Featuring 50 spectacular costumes created by the iconic French fashion designer for Comédie-Française’s 2012 production of Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, the presentation strikes a stunning balance between folklore and fantasy. The tale, one of the most widely performed Norwegian stories, follows a peasant who leaves home only to encounter one misadventure after another.

SCAD Lacoste

Portrait of Chrisian Lacroix inside “Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste Museum of Fashion and Film, courtesy of SCAD.

Vignettes of Lacroix’s expertly-crafted costumes, a selection of his sketches, and even a one-of-a-kind carpet created in collaboration with the designer is expertly exhibited across the museum’s two floors. Upstairs, dreamy paintings by artist and SCAD Associate Chair of Fine Arts Kent Knowles provide a backdrop to steel-framed glass boxes, illuminated by one large moon pendant light. Under its glow, intricate details from Peer Gynt costumes—including Scandinavian villagers, trolls, a Bedouin tribe, and even a bride—shimmer with special hand-sewn beads, complemented by layered materials, tufted fabric florals, and headpieces galore. 

SCAD Lacoste

“Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

“This summer, students and visitors to SCAD FASH Lacoste will fall in love with ‘Christian Lacroix: Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française,’ an exhibition of the wondrous costume designs of couturier Christian Lacroix,” said Paula Wallace, SCAD President and Founder. “In this exquisite show, Lacroix weaves the history of continental drama with the future of fashion in exquisite costumes that transport the viewer into Ibsen’s timeless tale. This never-before-seen exhibition demonstrates how SCAD FASH Lacoste embraces the exuberant multiplicity of contemporary design, merging the disciplines of couture and costume, fashion, and fantasy.”

SCAD Lacoste

“Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

An inside look at the exhibition

Curated by the fashion historian and curator Olivier Saillard and organized by the creative director of SCAD FASH museums Rafael Gomes, the exhibition is made in collaboration with Comédie-Française—France’s longest-running theater company, founded in Paris in 1680. The exhibition also highlights Lacroix’s longstanding relationship with the prestigious theatrical outfit, which began over 25 years ago during the production of Phèdre, followed by Cyrano, Lucrèce, and Roméo et Juliette.

“My very first dream was when I discovered in my grandmother’s attic, in 1960, a beautiful album of her great-grandmother’s,” said Lacroix in Lacoste of his start in fashion. “She had all the fashion magazines from 1860 all together, and I was fascinated. I was ten, and thought, ‘Wow, we are in 1960, and this was one century ago.” He continued, “At one point I discovered it was a total utopia, that we’re creating any period.”

SCAD Lacoste

“Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

“The work of Christian Lacroix is expansive. Of all the couturiers of his time and of the past, he is the only one to have bent a discipline, to imagine theater costumes according to his haute couture expertise,” said Saillard. “His own haute couture is not uncompromising. It accepts all hierarchies, the unfinished and excellence that can be found in flowery fields. The costumes Lacroix invented for the Comédie-Française as part of Peer Gynt speak to this haute couture freedom. Their beauty is appreciated because it is in flight.” 

SCAD Lacoste

View of SCAD Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

Christian Lacroix, a local icon

Lacroix’s fascination with theater and costuming extends far beyond his work with Comédie-Française. As a native of Arles in Provence, the designer was mesmerized by the arts at a young age, regularly sketching and creating characters to guide his imagination through childhood. This led him to study art history in Paris at institutions like the Sorbonne and École du Louvre, before assisting at various fashion houses like Guy Paulin and Jean Patou. 

SCAD Lacoste

“Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

In the 1980s, Lacroix launched his eponymous brand, his collections filled with bold colors, mixed patterns, and decadent embellishments that made him globally recognized as a master of haute couture. His eye for the dramatic would lend perfectly to later creating costumes for companies like Comédie-Française, Opéra Garnier, American Ballet Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, and more.

“The true couture designers are not so much interested in theater,” Lacroix said at SCAD FASH. “You are either a stage designer or a couture designer. I was in between, but much more theater. I was lucky to start in the ’80s, a period when everybody was in their own movie. Everyone played their own role.”

SCAD Lacoste

SCAD Lacoste Summer 2023 Exhibitions Talk with Christian Lacroix on “Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at Theatre du SCAD, courtesy of SCAD.

“It was paramount that we worked with Christian Lacroix,” said Gomes. “His combination of vision, knowledge, and passion has already built a living legacy in both fashion and costume design. His contributions to fashion know no bounds, and his theatrical work should be equally celebrated for its elegance. As our museum is an extension of the university, SCAD FASH presents all our exhibitions as a student resource. Students from SCAD’s top-ranked degree programs of fashion design, art history, illustration, production design, and costume design have the chance of a lifetime through this presentation to study Lacroix’s work and mastery of costume design.”

SCAD Lacoste

“Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

The collaboration start between Christian Lacroix and SCAD

Unassumingly, the collaboration between Lacroix and SCAD began online, with Gomes reaching out to the designer on Instagram before the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We’ve wanted to highlight Christian Lacroix’s work for such a long time,” said Gomes. “We set up a meeting for coffee while we both were in Paris. That coffee turned into a four-hour-long lunch. We were discussing a potential project and were really excited about it. Unfortunately, plans were put on hold because of the pandemic. That wait makes this exhibition even more special to see years of anticipation come to fruition.”

SCAD Lacoste

“Christian Lacroix Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” at SCAD FASH Lacoste, courtesy of SCAD.

After this first meeting, Gomes and Lacroix ventured to Comédie-Française to visit its archive, spanning vaults and files located over three floors. “It was spectacular,” Gomes said of the space. “They’re fully equipped to take on all the challenges of designing for the stage. Comedie-Française does this by having various departments handle each aspect of design. That includes traditional elements of fashion design like tailoring and a milliner. It also includes more stage-oriented departments, like one dedicated to the dying and aging of garments. All of this is done in-house with talented craftspeople.”

SCAD Lacoste,

View of SCAD Lacoste, photography courtesy of SCAD.

Inaugurating a new SCAD FASH site

“Christian Lacroix: Habille Peer Gynt pour la Comédie-Française” also inaugurates SCAD FASH museum’s newest space. Previously the Galerie Centre, owned by designer Pierre Cardin—a longtime Lacoste resident, cultural ambassador for the region, and SCAD mentor—the museum begins a new journey of exhibiting creativity for generations of students to come. 

SCAD Lacoste,

View of SCAD Lacoste, photography courtesy of SCAD.

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Minjung Kim

THE SPRING ARTIST ISSUE
2023

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