Adaptations Abound in Lacroix's Wake : Parisian Inspires Other Frilly--and Lower-Priced--Designs

Times Staff Writer

With visions of Christian Lacroix's spring fashions dancing in their heads, designers everywhere are starting to unveil their own "interpretations" of the Paris couturier's frilly, florid styles. In another business, this sort of thing might qualify as scandal, but in fashion it's no surprise when one designer inspires others. In fact, some contend, being second can be better.

"My clothes have the feeling of Christian Lacroix, but they're not done the couture way," says Los Angeles designer Bonnie Strauss. "Mine are for fun. His are for a very limited clientele."

Not for Everybody

The four- or five-digit price tags attached to Lacroix clothes do exclude some admiring potential buyers. It also enhances the appeal of certain designers, Strauss among them, who can sell their mass-produced versions for less than half his price.

While Strauss admits that her spring styles show the French fashion upstart's influence, she credits other sources too. Among them, English garden-print fabrics she recently saw in London and silk roses she saw a lot of women wearing in Paris.

In any price range, leading Lacroixisms to watch for this spring are bright-colored flower-print fabrics, strapless dresses with petticoats under short, full skirts, empire waistlines, sweetheart necklines, fichu collars that drape like off-the-shoulder shawls, and suits with closely fitted torsos and bell-shaped skirts.

Fashion's main man this season has a way with accessories, too, and less pricey versions are already on the market. Strauss recasts flower-festooned hats and small, stiffly structured handbags so that they almost squeal "Southern California."

Baseball Caps

Her hats are baseball caps made of chintz floral prints, with paper roses tacked to the brim. (Lori Henle of Il Tetto in Los Angeles makes them.) And her prim little purses are kids' lunch boxes covered with fabric to match her chintz dresses.

Closer to home, Strauss says, the hand-painted circle skirts in her newest collection were inspired by "La Bamba," the movie about the '50s that was so popular last fall. Many of her spring styles will be available in February, at Nordstrom and Saks.

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