Christian Lacroix’s latest fashion move is virtual

Three and a half decades ago, the house of Christian Lacroix lit up the fashion world and cemented the “le pouf” skirt as the official look of the late 80s and early 90s. The brand has mostly moved off the runways in the years since and into new territories such as furniture, gifts and home textiles. But she never forgot her fashion DNA.

Now the company is celebrating 35 years in business by coming out again, this time in the virtual space and bringing back plenty of nostalgia in digital form.

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On Tuesday, the metaverse, specifically Decentraland, was the venue for the company’s anniversary party, an event filled with 3D and digital versions of some of the design house’s most popular looks.

Through a partnership with the NFT Exclusive platform, Christian Lacroix went into the archives to conjure up the 2002 red bride, as famously worn by Madonna, and the 2008 couture wedding dress, made famous by Lady Gaga in her 2011 “Judas” music video. (its world Chromatica Ball in Düsseldorf, Germany.)

Everyone who attended the virtual party received their own custom digital t-shirt. But another premium perk awaited fellow VIP guests: a full digital suit featuring Lacroix’s signature Paseo pattern.

The nature of those VIPs matters, because these guests were invited through NFT.

Lacroix couture dresses worn by Madonna (left) and Lady Gaga (right) were on display at the brand's anniversary party in Decentraland.  - Credit: Courtesy Image

Lacroix couture dresses worn by Madonna (left) and Lady Gaga (right) were on display at the brand’s anniversary party in Decentraland. – Credit: Courtesy Image

Courtesy image

Christian Lacroix's Paseo suit, which was given to the owners of his NFT premiere collection at the Decentraland anniversary party.  - Credit: Courtesy Image

Christian Lacroix’s Paseo suit, which was given to the owners of his NFT premiere collection at the Decentraland anniversary party. – Credit: Courtesy Image

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It turns out that the Decentraland party and digital wearables are just one part of a larger metaversal strategy from the house of Lacroix. It started last month when the company signed a virtual lease with Exclusible for a new luxury apartment in the virtual world. The second phase followed immediately after the release of the first branded NFTs on OpenSea. The “Rêves de Soie” collection, which translates to “silk dreams,” was based on the brand’s handmade “Carrés” scarves. Sets of 350 models were on offer for a total inventory of 700 NFT.

The third phase was the anniversary event and wearables. But it doesn’t stop there. According to the company, these projects fit into a broader initiative to introduce Lacroix to Web 3.0, with each phase touting unique aspects.

Digital wipes, for example, were made available early on in advance. This is unusual for NFTs. Usually the early interest goes to pre-registrations or perhaps early discount alerts, but they are not transactional. Another twist lies in the underlying technology: Rêves de Soie NFTs are powered by “generative” music.

The term refers to how it was created. Using original work, a system or algorithm can generate multiple variations, resulting in multiple new unique NFTs. This is important to the creators who produce them, but to buyers, it is an aspect that adds rarity to the item. Right now the music industry is figuring out the best way to use generator songs, but it’s generally quite unusual to find them integrated into visual NFTs.

Whether consumers accepted this is an open question. But the owners of Rêves de Soie must have noticed something else: their new digital scarves come with a real-world counterpart.

“There’s a window for people holding NFT that runs from the end of July to the first weeks of August where they can redeem it to get the physical piece,” Nicolas Topiol, chief executive of Christian Lacroix, told WWD. “They take the NFT and the scarf, and that’s how we think we can bridge the two worlds.” The physical products feature the kind of rich artistic prints the brand is known for, produced by the company’s longtime partner in Como, Italy, a region famous for its silk production.

And, of course, those NFT owners were automatically invited to the Decentraland party and received Lacroix’s digital Paseo suits.

Brands are just starting to explore all the different ways NFTs can unlock experiences, both in the real and virtual worlds. But platforms like Exclusive aim to shine a light on what’s possible. Its luxury virtual penthouses, for example, were made available through NFTs.

According to Topiol, the virtual environment will act as a functional meeting place, event venue and showroom for Lacroix home goods, prints and textiles.

“Because our prints work in the home and lifestyle, we’re dressing the loft to be our own,” he added. “We’ll also be using it as part of the NFT drop services, where we’ll be holding a workshop for NFT holders in the next six to 12 months.” Even the view from the windows is on brand, with an Eiffel Tower in the distance.

One of Exclusive's luxury virtual apartments.  Christian Lacroix was among the first major brands to sign up.  - Credit: Courtesy Image

One of Exclusive’s luxury virtual apartments. Christian Lacroix was among the first major brands to sign up. – Credit: Courtesy Image

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As a long-term technology partner, Exclusible drives much of this initiative at every stage, from penthouse and NFT prepayments, to the anniversary party and more.

“Collectors are curious, but they don’t have a lot of knowledge about brands in general or luxury brands,” explained Olivier Moingeon, co-founder and chief commercial officer at Exclusible. “So it’s a new way to do brand discovery, and we start from a perspective that they understand.”

Moingeon could be the ideal partner for Lacroix. Nearly two decades of experience in luxury—at places such as Cartier, Goyard and Bastide—inform his perspective, and it was this blend of luxury and technology that resonated with Topiol.

“He understands our codes, where we come from,” said the Lacroix CEO. Talks began late last year, “around the time Dolce & Gabbana collapsed. It was quite substantial. I think, by far, in our world of fashion brands entering Web 3.0, it was probably the most impactful, financially, by far.”

Not that it was about making a quick buck. Topiol emphasized that it was not a financial decision. It was more about learning this new environment, how to express the brand within it and appeal to a new audience that may not know who or what Christian Lacroix is.

But there are still many people who remember it. In fact, the history of the brand’s past has become the subject of fashion history.

The story of Christian Lacroix, as a business, is either a tragedy or a triumph depending on the objective. The designer’s creative genius was not matched by profitability, leading to losses of approximately 150 million euros (approximately $152 million in US dollars) during the 22 years of support from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Falic Fashion Group bought the company in 2005 and under Topiol, the business shifted from fashion to licensing, home goods and gifts, with fashion links remaining in menswear and accessories.

It could be a cautionary tale for the fashion group, warning that even great talent cannot survive without business acumen. But for others, Topiol worked a miracle. He has spoken at business conferences about what it took to bring the house back from the brink and turn it into a profitable operation.

Metaverse is poised to be the next chapter in the brand’s history, allowing it to return to its fashion past while carving out its future. The timing is fitting, given what appears to be a resurgence in Lacroix’s appreciation. One can imagine some frantic Googling by Gen Z consumers after Kirsten Dunst wore a red, vintage Lacroix gown to the Oscars in March, or when Gaga paid her final ode to the designer in Germany.

Kirsten Dunst, decked out in vintage Lacroix and Jesse Plemons at the 94th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theater at the Hollywood & Highland Center on March 27, 2022, in Los Angeles.  - Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD

Kirsten Dunst, decked out in vintage Lacroix and Jesse Plemons at the 94th Academy Awards held at the Dolby Theater at the Hollywood & Highland Center on March 27, 2022 in Los Angeles. – Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD

Lexie Moreland/WWD

It may help that, over the years, both the founding designer and the brand have kept the name alive in fashion circles.

Lacroix, the man, found a home in stagewear, but continues to work with longtime partner Desigual and other projects, such as the high-profile Dries Van Noten collaboration for Spring 2019. He also appears in the media to talk about the state of fashion.

Meanwhile, the partnership-loving company racked up several collaborations of its own, usually with newer, trendier brands like Uooyaa, Anaïs Jourden, Rixo, Swiminista and Ultracor.

Whether any of these qualify as signals of a serious fashion comeback from the house of Lacroix remains to be seen. But the strongest indication came from Topiol himself a few years ago. In 2019, the CEO told WWD that he was interested in bringing Lacroix back into fashion, at least for contemporary women, sparking a slew of collaborations.

It was a different world, however, in those pre-pandemic days. At that time, few had even heard of the word “metaverse”. Now, it’s all tech brands and manufacturers can talk about.

Now, it might be time for Lacroix to bring it all together, and its new digital wearables suggest that could be an interesting way forward. One thing is certain: the theatrical, even fantastical sensibility of Lacroix, both designer and early brand, would be at home in the virtual world, where anything is possible.

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