Alexander Fury brings veritable passion, erudition, authority, and a unfiltered style to fashion journalism, contributing to the industry’s leading titles for more than a decade. Currently, he is the menswear critic at the Financial Times and the fashion features director at Another Magazine. In addition to authoring several books on fashion, he is also an avid collector with an archive that numbers upwards of 3,000 pieces. This week, during the Haute Couture collections, some of the highlights were on view in collaboration with the platform, ReSEE, where he will pen a monthly column, fittingly titled Behind The Seams. Here, his selection for Just One Piece is an elegy to both Christian Lacroix and the living legacy of Haute Couture.
“For me, haute couture means Christian Lacroix. Then, now, forever. Lacroix’s work always spanned the entire history of the craft, reflecting his training as a curator. In fact, his fashion can be seen as a curation of couture’s greatest hits, quoting reflections of its storied past and combining them like never before, to create something new. Those quotations can be actual, or fantastica; if I say a Lacroix dress can be a caricature, I mean it as the highest possible form of praise, the idea of exaggeration to create impact, of pastiche as an homage. His brilliance is in his memory of and ardent love for the past.
I am lucky enough to own a handful of haute couture pieces by Lacroix, one of which is a dress from his final show for Jean Patou, staged in January of 1987. The dress is named ‘Retenez-moi’, which you can translate as ‘hold me’, or even remember me. It is a tiered cocktail dress in vibrant polka-dots, reflecting Lacroix’s love of Spain as filtered through the eye of a man born in the Camargue, and reinterpreted by Parisian haute couture. There are three ruffles in the skirt; three is Lacroix’s lucky number, so his gowns often have details in triplicate (count his bows!) This dress is quintessential Lacroix: pouf-skirted, short, and playful, it has a nod to the full crinolines of the 1850s, to the very birth of haute couture, as well as to the strong shoulders of the 1930s, and indeed the full petticoated silhouettes of Christian Dior’s New Look. Lacroix once said, as a child, that he wanted to be Dior when he grew up. The exaggerated shape of this dress is fundamental Lacroix; it looks like one of his drawings come to life. Lacroix himself cannot sew – rather, he relied on the expertise of his atelier workers, on the art of couture, to execute his work exactly as he drew it, to use their skill to bring his dreams to reality. How couture is that?”
“Speaking of dreams, I found this piece in the puces. Can you imagine? It is the original catwalk sample, with atelier bolduc. The collection was never produced, so it is the very definition of one-of-a-kind – a hallmark of couture. Images of it are already incredible, but it’s another thing entirely to feel its weight, to marvel at its construction, how it moves. For me, this dress is a talisman of another time and place, a lasso that can snare me and drag me back to that moment of its debut in 1987 and connect me with the work of a designer who helped shape my eye and introduce me, as a child, to a love of history and craft that still informs my work today. Clothes can be magical things – especially haute couture.”