Three and a half decades ago, the house of Christian Lacroix lit up the fashion world and presented “Le Pouf” dresses as an official look in the late 80s and early 90s. The brand has evolved over the years from mainly airport and into new territory such as furniture, gifts and home textiles. But fashion never forgets its DNA.
Now the company is celebrating 35 years in business by stepping out again, this time in the virtual space, and bringing back a lot of nostalgia in digital form.
On Tuesday, the Metaverse, specifically Discentral, was the venue for the company’s annual party, an event filled with 3D and digital versions of the design house’s most iconic features.
In collaboration with the NFT platform, Christian Lacroix went into the archives to equip the 2002 Red Bride, which was worn by the famous Madonna, and in 2002 (The singer, songwriter, and actress is still a fan of designer bridal wear. Just last week, two Lacroix wedding gowns caught the cameras at the opening of her Chromatica Ball world tour in Dusseldorf, Germany.)
Everyone who attended the virtual party received their own wearable, customized digital t-shirt. But another premium perk was awaiting other VIP guests: a fully digital suit featuring Lacroix’s signature Paseo pattern.
The nature of those VIPs is important, because these guests are invited by the NFT.
Ultimately, Decentraland’s party and digital wearables are a piece of Lacroix’s larger metaversal strategy. It started last month when the company signed a virtual lease with Exclusive, a new luxury Ben House in the virtual world. Phase two followed shortly after the release of the first NFTs branded on OpenSea. The “Reves de Soy” collection, which translates to “Silk Dreams,” was based on the brand’s handmade “Cares” scarf. Collections of 350 designs are offered for a total of 700 NFTs.
Level three was the anniversary event and wearables. But it doesn’t stop there. According to the company, these projects fit a broader initiative to bring Lacroix into Web 3.0, with each phase having unique aspects.
For example, the digital scarves were made available early on a prepaid basis. It is unusual for NFTs. Typically the advance interest rate is towards pre-registrations or perhaps early fall alerts, but not trading. Another twist is found in the underlying technology: Rêves de Soie NFTs are backed by “generative” music.
The word refers to the way it was created. Using an original work, a system or algorithm can generate many variations, resulting in multiple, unique new NFTs. That’s important to the creators who make them, but to buyers, it’s an aspect that adds rarity to the item. Currently, the music industry is developing the best way to use generative songs, but it is generally rare to find them integrated into visual NFTs.
Whether consumers pick up on that is an open question. But the owners of Reves de Soy noticed something else: their new digital scarves come with real-world counterparts.
“There is a window for those holding NFTs from the end of July to the first weeks of August,” said Nicolas Topiol, CEO of Christian Lacroix. “NFTs and scarves get it, and that’s how we feel we can bridge the two worlds.” The physical products feature rich and artistic prints made by the company’s longtime partner in Como, Italy, a region known for its silk production.
And, of course, those NFT owners were invited directly to the Decentraland party and received Lacroix Digital Paseo suits.
Brands are only just beginning to explore all the different ways that NFTs can open up experiences in both the real and virtual worlds. But platforms like Exclusive aim to shine a light on what’s possible. Luxury, virtual penthouses, for example, are made available through NFTs.
According to Topiol, the virtual environment will act as a functional meeting space, event space and showroom for Lacroix’s furniture, prints and textiles.
“Since our prints work in the home and lifestyle, we will dress the penthouse as our own,” he added. In the next six to 12 months we will be running a workshop for NFT bearers as a resource for the NFT drop. Even the view from the windows is on the brand with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
As a long-time technology partner, Exclusible drives much of this initiative at every stage, from penthouse and NFT down payments, to the anniversary party and more.
“Collectors are curious, but not very knowledgeable about brands in general or luxury brands,” explains Olivier Moingen, founder and chief commercial officer at Exclusible. “So it’s a new way of looking for brands, and we’re starting from the point of view they understand.”
Moingeon could be a good partner for Lacroix. Nearly two decades of luxury experience—at places like Cartier, Goyard and Bastide—informs his perspective, and it’s this mix of luxury and technology that resonates with Topiol.
“Where we come from helps our codes,” said the Lacroix CEO. The discussions began late last year, “around the time when Dolce and Gabbana did their drops. It was very useful. I think, so far, our world of fashion brands going into Web 3.0 is probably the most influential, financially, so far.
It wasn’t about making a quick buck. Topiol stressed that it was not a financial decision. It was about learning this new environment, how to define the brand within it, and appeal to new audiences who may not know who or what Christian Lacroix is.
But there are still many people who remember. In fact, the brand’s backstory has become a matter of fashion history.
The story of Christian Lacroix, as a business, is either a tragedy or a triumph depending on the lens. The designer’s creativity hasn’t equaled profitability, which has led to losses of around 150 million euros (nearly $152 million) over 22 years when he was sponsored by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Falik Fashion Group bought the company in 2005, and under Topiol the business grew from couture to licensing, home goods and gifts, with fashion ties remaining in menswear and accessories.
It could be a warning to the fashion set, warning that even great talent cannot survive without business acumen. But for others, Topiol produced a miracle. He spoke at a business conference about what it took to turn the house around and turn it into a profitable operation.
The Metaverse is set to be the next chapter in the brand’s history, allowing it to return to old fashion while foreshadowing the future. The timing is perfect given what seems to be a resurgence in Lacroix’s appreciation. One can imagine some furious Googling by Gen Z consumers after Kirsten Dunst wore a red dress to the Oscars in March or Gaga presented her latest collection to designers in Germany.
It may help that both the founding designer and the brand have maintained a reputation in fashion circles over the years.
Lacroix, man, found a home in stage costuming, but continued to work with long-term partner Desigual and other projects, the spring 2019 high-profile collaboration with Dries van Noten.
Meanwhile, the partnership-loving company has produced a few collaborations of its own with new and trendy brands such as Uooyaa, Anaïs Jourden, Rixo, Swiminista and Ultracor.
Any of these should be signs that indoor Lacroix is back in fashion. But the strongest indicator came from Topiol himself a few years ago. In the year In 2019, the CEO indicated to WWD that he wants to bring Lacroix back into fashion, at least for women, creating a modern, collaborative creation.
But it was a different world in those days before the plague. Few had even heard of the word “metaverse” back then. Now, brands and technologies are just what they’re talking about.
Now, it may be time for LaCroix to pull it all together, and the current trend of digital fashion wearables suggests that this could be an exciting way forward. One thing is for sure: Lacroix’s theatrical, even fantastic, sensibility, designer and early brand, will be right in the virtual world where anything is possible.