“Going back in time is the common thread of my life”

By Denis Cosnard

Posted today at 01:19

At 70, Christian Lacroix finally returns to one of the joys of his childhood: directing. After designing costumes and sets, he is for the first time the complete project manager of a show, a new version of Parisian life from Offenbach. As active as ever, he also works on costumes for Romeo and Juliet at the Opéra-comique, Cinderella for the Stockholm Opera, and Werther for a production in Lausanne.

I wouldn’t have gotten there if …

If I had loved real life. I was a happy child, brought up in Arles in a loving family. But I did not have a brother or sister of my age, I was sickly shy, I spoke little, and I was already living in the imagination. I watched everything and transformed it in my head. I remodeled the apartment of the people I was invited to, I dressed them up… I reinvented the world because I hated it, and I still hate it, at least everyday. I had also invented a game in which I wrote down on small pieces of paper a profession, an age, a date. After having drawn, for example, I found myself with a 64-year-old lady, widow of a Budapest notary, on September 14, 1742. It was up to me to look in old books, at the flea market, what this lady could look like, to draw it.

Did drawing already play a key role?

Yes, and there were also small shows. My maternal grandfather used to go up to the attic and come down in costume to interpret the wedding of Rainier and Grace of Monaco, the rupture of the Fréjus dam, etc. In my turn, I transformed my grandmother into Marie-Antoinette, her head on the block. My first staging! I sometimes disguised myself for her, I presented African dances to her. Until the day I heard the somewhat ironic laughter of my mother, who was watching us. Very upset, I definitely quit. These shows ended, I hardly managed to exchange, except by drawing. Around 15, for example, a friend took me to some very baroque people, who lived as in the 19th century.e century, with candelabras, old costumes, negligee in red moire… There were mediums, bullfighters, people who had known Cocteau and Picasso. My ticket to this strange world was to draw everything. I left my notebooks at the exit.

And to feed your imagination, you immerse yourself in the past …

Very early on, around 12 or 13 years old, I accumulated documentation on decoration and fashion, both today and yesterday. I had a desire, almost pathological, to go back in time. This is the common thread of my life: going back in time. I kept annoying my grandparents, for example, by asking them to tell me what it was like before. I asked for old photos, I used my pocket money to buy old albums of strangers, prints, magazines, anything that allowed me to have a testimony of the past. I was hoarding, I was hoarding, and I never stopped. Later, when I became a student, I worked for the widow of a Catalan typographer named Louis Jou. I met women there who had been models in Montparnasse in the 1920s or 1930s. There was also Jacqueline Picasso, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, the photographer Gjon Mili, or even the founders of the Prades festival with Pablo Casals. Dinosaurs! I had the feeling of going back in time, of seizing the last shards of a world in the throes of disappearing.

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