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After graduating with a degree in art history from the University of Montpellier, he moved to Paris in 1973, to the Sorbonne, to prepare an MA dissertation on 17th-century costume. It was here that he met his future wife Francoise, who encouraged his design work. In 1978, he secured a position at Hermes, as Guy Paulin's assistant.
In 1980, Lacroix collaborated with the couturier to the Tokyo imperial court. The following year, he joined the house of Jean Patou, with Jean-Jacques Picard. Together, they took up the challenge of haute couture, a level of dressing which was generally felt to be in decline at the time, and introduced the extravagance and baroque lavishness which became a hallmark of the Eighties. Lacroix's work was recognised in 1986, when he first won the Golden Thimble (an accolade he was to win again two years later) and, in 1987, he was proclaimed Most Influential Foreign Designer by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
The same year, Lacroix and Picard joined forces with Bernard Arnault of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton to found the house of Christian Lacroix. Their first couture collection was presented that July and greeted with rave reviews: "Vive Lacroix! There's been nothing like it in 25 years" sang The Sunday Times, while Vogue labelled him "Paris' most talked about designer", celebrating his "irreverent spirit" and his extravagant use of detail, froufrou and "Arlesian theatricality". Not since Dior's New Look had couture generated such a blaze of publicity.
Lacroix's ready-to-wear line followed fast in 1988. His accessories line was developed in 1989 and his first perfume, C'est la Vie!, launched in 1990. Later ranges included a casual collection called Bazaar in 1994, household textiles in 1995, Jeans de Christian Lacroix in 1996 and a Table Arts collection, in collaboration with Christofle, in 1997.
Lacroix now has stores in New York, London, Geneva and Japan and continues to work in theatre design as well as fashion.