How do you reinvent the codes of a heritage house for a new generation of luxury consumers?
It’s a difficult task Louise Trotter faced when she was appointed creative director of Lacoste in October, 2018.
But for the British designer, and Joseph alumna of nearly a decade, reinvention was about looking at Lacoste’s opportunities. “I came in having done my homework ,” Trotter tells Highsnobiety on the day of her debut runway collection for the French sportswear brand founded by tennis player René Lacoste 86 years ago. “There’s really an opportunity to have fun.”
Today Lacoste is predominately worn by mature middle-class men and the casual nostalgic teenager who sport the brand’s colored, crocodile-logoed polo shirts and streamlined leather footwear.
More recently, fashion, too, has become a larger part of the Lacoste story, mainly driven by Trotter’s predecessor Felipe Oliveira Baptista who brought the brand’s vision to life on the runways between 2010 and 2018, as well as through collaborations with fashion labels Agi & Sam, A Bathing Ape and Supreme. The latter sold out within 16 minutes when it dropped back in 2017.
Combined they successfully introduced Lacoste to a younger audience, however the runway collections were never fully commercialised and distributed around the world and the drops were limited as well, so the efforts never reached scale.
It resulted in fashion never becoming a big part of the business and the collections serving more as a branding exersise than robust revenue drivers. I.e. leather goods only make up 6 percent of the $2.3 billion that Lacoste did in sales last year. Meanwhile its contemporary line Lacoste L!VE accounts for a mere 5 to 7 percent of the business.
So when Trotter’s appointment was announced by Lacoste CEO Thierry Guibert last year, the fashion crowd has something to get excited about. After all, Trotter has been credited for creating commercial and wearable, yet fashion forward pieces that are always in line with the current fashion zeitgeist. The brand also plans on releasing the runway collection to a select, yet bigger number of doors than done previously.
“What I started with from day one was [questioning] what Lacoste represents today and what Lacoste can mean in a man or woman’s life today, beyond playing sport. Even though we’re a heritage brand, I didn’t want a retrospective. René was [also] always looking forward,” explains Trotter, who showed her first collection for the house at the Tennis Club de Paris.
The modernity was clear in the clothing she presented for Fall/Winter 2019. All the classics were there, but made relevant for that audience that will give Lacoste the kick it needs to become a buzzy name far beyond its core collection. It meant that double-breasted ‘René’ coats, two-buttoned blazer and trenches came in tactile fabrics like flannel, matte nylon, loopback bouclé and classic cotton piqué, emphasizing the importance of comfort. All of which were made modern with detachable hoods, thermo-bonded seams and archive herringbone twill lining.
Trotter also experimented with the house’s signature polo shirt, which was deconstructed with stripe knit collars - resembling the brand founder’s personal way of dressing - as well as layered as a mock-neck twinset or blown up in graphic jersey shapes. “It’s about who we are as a sports brand and thinking about how we can translate that into luxury,” says Trotter referring to gym bags made in neoprene and Napa leather and a track pants created in collaboration with a military tailor from Japanese polyester.
Traditional cable-knit tennis sweaters were oversized while the crocodile logo was interpreted in multitude of guises from subtle tonal embroidery on the necks of turtlenecks to all-over prints and exploded patchworks. A leather-bonded clutch in the shape of a croc added some humor to the show and was in line with Trotter’s aim to grow that category within the business. “The crocodile is bigger than our brand now, It’s like a pop icon,” she laughs.
The collection was full of wearable pieces, yet it didn’t bore. In contrast, if Trotter continues the path she’s on, Lacoste has a good chance of living up to its overwhelming size on the fashion front too.