Lacoste is getting a fashion-forward reboot
Slithering in at the tail end of women’s fashion season in Paris earlier this week was veteran sports brand Lacoste with its famous crocodile logo, founded in 1933 (coincidentally the same year as Esquire).
The brand was there to unveil a bold change of direction under a new creative director, British-born designer Louise Trotter. Trotter joins after a 10-year stint at Anglo-French label Joseph and brings to the table a raft of talents—not least a detail-driven eye for luxury—that have not to date played as significant a role in the French company's output.
The debut provided reassuring streetwise updates on Lacoste's sporting heritage, but it also provided a glimpse of something altogether more elevated. Tennis sweaters were oversized and patched together, with the iconic crocodile equally oversized and trailing threads. Elsewhere, in place of literal sportswear, were outfits featuring luxurious cashmeres in tones of camel and marl gray (used for long, flowing coats), plus traces of technical detailing like drawstrings and elasticated waistbands. It was a fusion that nods with equal reverence to sport and French style.
“When I started,” Louise Trotter told me backstage after the show, “I really began from the brand values. René Lacoste was a very elegant man, and he epitomized a very French kind of elegance, too. At the time when he was playing, he was very sartorial—in a blazer and a button-down shirt. I wanted to represent that spirit and bring that back as part of our dialog. But the biggest thing I took from him is that he was a man who had strong values. It wasn’t just about winning in life, it was about how he won. Commitment, tenacity, and fair play—it struck me that those values you need to succeed in sport are the same values you need to succeed in life, so it was important to embody that in the collection.”
In a city where Rene Lacoste won three French Open titles (1925, 1927, and 1929) in an all-too-short seven-year career, the brand is something of a national treasure, so it was also important to get a sense of the Frenchness of Lacoste. “For me, the fact that Joseph was an Anglo-French brand was a big help,” explains Trotter. “I spent 10 years living between Paris and London, so it gave me a strong insight into French culture and French style, which I think really helped me. It was something I felt I could articulate straight away.”
With fashion at a fork in the road, between street-ready sportswear and elegance, I wondered which side Lacoste should pick. “Actually, I really tried not to think about that,” says Trotter. “I wasn’t thinking about whether Lacoste should be bourgeois or street.” Bourgeois in fact is a suddenly hip word again this season, especially in Paris. “I really thought about how does a man or a woman wear Lacoste today and what does it do for them, from playing sport through to what you need to perform on the street.”