• Damon Johnstun

Christian Lacroix's Sacha Walckhoff creates carpets for Moooi

Updated Apr 12, 2017; Posted Apr 7, 20174

Gallery: Christian Lacroix Creative Director Sacha Walckhoff creates carpets for Moooi


By Damon Johnstun

Special to The Oregonian

As Design Week Portland prepares to launch 300 events, installations and open houses spotlighting design across all disciplines April 21-29, the world's most prestigious furnishing and design show, Salone del Mobile, takes place April 4-9 in Milan, Italy. Portland design writer Damon Johnstun recaps some of the people he interviewed at the 2016 Milan fair. Watch for his coverage of furniture and lighting designs unveiled at this year's fair.

Christian Lacroix Creative Director Sacha Walckhoff creates revolution-inspired carpets for Moooi

I had the chance to speak with Sacha Walckhoff, the creative director of the French fashion house Christian Lacroix, during Milan Design Week 2016. We were in the trendy, gentrified industrial area of Zona Tortona, inside the Dutch company Moooi's exhibition space.

Within a decade, Moooi has gone from being an upstart brand to one of the big players in the design world. Moooi expanded the company offering by launching a new carpet division last year. The success of the carpets led the brand to increase the number of designs for the Milan presentation.

Walckhoff is friendly and approachable at first meeting. He has a talent for quick rapport combined with a kind demeanor. He had just arrived from Paris that morning and was full of energy. I commented on his bag and he confided it was a Burberry numbered satchel made from recycled Scottish blankets.

He became involved with Moooi through Marcel Wanders, one of the founding partners of the company and an internationally known designer. Wanders had seen Walckhoff's Paris apartment featured in a magazine. Walckhoff owned a few of Wander's pieces of furniture.

In the magazine, Walckhoff explained he liked Wanders' work. Wanders read the article and sent Walckhoff a note thanking him for his kind words and saying that he liked Walckhoff's apartment. As a gift, Wanders sent Walckhoff two signed copies of books of Wanders' work.

"At first I thought it was a joke because no French designer would ever do that. So, I called Moooi PR in Amsterdam and asked if it was truly from Wanders," Walckhoff said.

They confirmed that indeed, they were sent by Wanders. Walckhoff later invited Wanders to Paris for the Lacroix men's fashion show. They became friends.

On Christmas day 2014, Wanders called Walckhoff and asked him to design for a new carpet venture. They communicated concepts via WhatsApp. The new collection includes broadloom carpets. Walckhoff created one for the 2015 season and it sold well. For 2016, Walckhoff completed eight designs. "Marcel is a good friend but he is a businessman. If it hadn't been successful, he would not have asked for more," said Walckhoff.

I had heard Walckhoff thought of himself as a minimalist. I could find no proof of that in the designs for Moooi so I asked him if the statement was true. He explained that he was educated in Switzerland and started as a minimalist.

"I am still attracted to simple shapes and strong beautiful ideas, but working so many years for Christian Lacroix it is hard to stay a minimalist," he said. "I learned a lot for Christian. He was much more interested in the decoration than the shape itself. I am more interested in the shape."

He continued: "I think that both things together are one of the reasons we are still there. I think we are having success in lifestyle because I think I am quite good at mixing what I have learned from the brand and my personal style. Although there are beautiful minimalist things, sometimes they can be a bit boring. We are able to mix things from the imagination with things that are built and take that to another level."

Lacroix started in fashion but has expanded to include homeware. Five years ago, Lacroix began working with the British company Tricia Guild, creating fabric and wallpapers.

I asked Walckhoff if he wanted to continue designing in furnishings. He laughed and said, "Yes, in June we will be launching a line with Roche Bobois. It is a big, big step for us. I designed 18 pieces. We did it in two months."

The new collection includes sofas, cabinets, tables, chairs and glass display cases. Walckhoff has his sights set on the hospitality and contract markets.

He has been with the Lacroix so long that when asked how he stays true to the house while still evolving, he answered, "it has become almost instinctive. After Christian left [his namesake company], I went into the archives and tried to get inspiration but it did not work. What was done in the 1980s and 1990s didn't work and it wasn't interesting to us.

"So, I decided to forget the archives. What is Lacroix? Lacroix is joie de vivre. It is bold, contrasting and unexpected. Let's do things that correspond to those words," Walckhoff said.

He described creating a new butterfly fabric that became a huge hit. "They said, it is so wise to go back into the archives and revive that, but I said, 'check in the archives, there is no butterfly.' It is so good to do something new that everyone thinks is from the archives," Walckhoff said.

One of the new designs for the Moooi carpet, Malmaison, was inspired by the French Revolution. "I have to be a bit more serious," Walckhoof said. "It was a couple days after the attack in Paris. It was the first time we had such an event in France. We did not know how to react. Everyone was very sad. I went to the march with 4,000 people. I have lived in Paris for 30 years and there have only been two times when I experienced this type of communion.

"The first [time] was when we won the football cup. Paris was in a crazy mood that night. It was amazing. It was like you were friends with everyone. We were all together. It didn't matter what you thought about politics. Everyone was together. I am not a very patriotic guy because I have lived so many different places but that night [after the attack] I could really feel it. I felt French in that moment and I was happy to be.

"It was difficult to work with colors at that time. We thought, 'what was the worst moment in France's history?' We thought about the French Revolution. It was a total nightmare. Out of that they created a new fashion that was crazy. They made fun of the revolution. At that time, it was fashionable to have a red string around your neck to pay tribute to the people who had their heads cut off by the guillotine. I could feel we were all together and we're French and we have a love of life.

"Josephine [Bonaparte] had a beautiful garden full of amazing roses, 300 types," he continued. "There were many medals given to ordinary people and they looked like stripes. Stripes were very popular right after the revolution. They were symbolic of the new honors."

Walckhoff took all these ideas and developed them into a graphic, a mix of flower and stripes with signature Lacroix boldness.

Walckhoff described survivors of the French Revolution needing to release their stress. "We needed to do the same and now we have had the second attack. We need to continue with what we are good at. I think we transformed it into something bold and modern," he said.

The designer described feeling nervous to present his Ideas to Wanders due to his great respect for Wanders. Thankfully, the decisions are made fast. "With Marcel, it is so simple. You just send something and in two seconds you know," Walckhoff said.

Walckhoff described getting a call one night. Wanders was concerned about the commercial viability of the Malmaison design. Wanders said, "We love it, we love it but it is crazy, it's crazy. I want you to make money; we need something commercial, too."

Walckhoff recalled: "It was so sweet. I said, 'I think I have something for you, I will send it tomorrow.' I sent it, and he loved it."

-- Damon Johnstun

@DamonJohnstun

© 2017 DAMON JOHNSTUN

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