So Christian Lacroix has gone from Absolutely Fabulous to Absolutely Penniless. In the midst of a global recession, the demise of the French couturier's luxury fashion house, which filed for voluntary bankruptcy this week, comes as little surprise. More astonishing for most people, perhaps, is the fact that for the past 22 years he has managed to soldier on without once making it into the black on the balance sheets.

Lacroix's maximalist brand of luxury found its most ardent devotee in Ab Fab's fictional fashion victim Edina Monsoon.

So where, then, did it all go wrong? Lacroix's talent has never been in dispute. At 58 years old, the Arles-born designer, known in the industry as a gentle and intelligent man, still charms and amazes those who attend his fantastical Paris haute couture shows with his extravagant designs inspired by the folkloric traditions and vivid Mediterranean colours of his native Provence.

But Lacroix's business sense has never equalled his creative flair, a fatal flaw in an industry founded on a delicate balance between art and commerce. Those designers who have prospered have been those who have recognised the importance of underpinning their flights of fancy with some basic money-spinners.

It's no coincidence that today's most successful luxury brands were striking lucrative deals with perfume companies and hosiery manufacturers at the earliest opportunity: Chanel produced its iconic No 5 in 1921 and Christian Dior followed suit with Miss Dior in the 1940s.

More recently, branded make-up, shoes, sunglasses, not to mention the now infamous clutch of It-bags, have been the fashion houses' cash cows. Despite the comparatively low price points, the profit margin and volume of sales on such accessories is huge.

It's not that Lacroix hasn't tried to diversify. It's just that his attempts to distil his baroque couture aesthetic into something with mass appeal have always fallen a little wide of the mark.

Right now, the future of Lacroix and his label is hanging in the balance as a buyer is sought.