There's something in the water at Lacoste and it's not just its famous Crocodile. The French sportswear label has quietly become a must-watch as it spent the past few years shedding any notion of staidness in favor of fashion-forward style experiments. Louise Trotter, who became Lacoste's first woman creative director back in 2018, is responsible for the all-encompassing makeover, though she's loathe to claim singular credit.
Just peruse the #crococreatives hashtag for a succinct breakdown of the Trotter effect, No longer known for its polo shirts alone, Trotter's Lacoste has tinkered with titanic layering pieces, dropped collaborations for the heads, and even — gasp — revamped that inimitable logo more than once. The result is a juggernaut that caters to die-hards while luring in a street-savvy new clientele keen on channeling Tyler's post-prep style.
Highsnobiety spoke with Trotter to break down her vision for Lacoste and what the brand really means, in her own words.
Let’s run through your experience at Joseph and how that led up to your time at Lacoste.
I grew up at a time when Joseph was really well-known —mid-'90s onwards — when Joseph really represented something very particular about British fashion. I joined Joseph, I guess, 2009 maybe, not long after moving back from New York. I was with Joseph for almost 10 years. That's sort of quite unusual in our industry.
I have to say that those 10 years passed very quickly. [Working there,] I kind of matured as a designer but also from a creative point of view. And I knew Joseph [Ettedgui, the founder] — not so well, but I knew him. Joining Joseph for me was really, in a way, going back to my roots. It was going back to something that I really identified with on a personal level.
What was the process of shifting from Joseph to Lacoste?
I was looking for a really fresh challenge, something different. Some people, their careers are a sort of continuation and they move to things that are quite similar. Mine has not been like that. I've gone for different challenges for different reasons.
Lacoste was really interesting to me. It’s a much bigger brand, heavily based in menswear. [Which was good,] as I think my aesthetic is very masculine, no matter which gender I'm designing for.
What attracted me to Lacoste, which is quite similar to Joseph, is that it's creating clothes that people wear every day. Also, the sporting references — I'm personally quite heavily into sport and grew up playing tennis and watching football.
I'm very into sportswear for [daily wear] because I really like the performance and the ease that sportswear brings to everyday dressing. It was a natural fit for me. As it often goes with these things, the past sort of led me here.
"There's always this natural blend between [Rene Lacoste's] French elegance and the practicality of sportswear"
Now, actually getting into the clothing: is there a throughline connecting each of your collections for Lacoste or do you start from scratch each time?
There is a common line. Each season, I start the season [asking], “How do I feel? Do I want to take this conversation further or have a new conversation [with our legacy]?” In some of the very early collections, we were very much historical, but the most recent few — particularly the last one — have been more playful. I think that's a mirror of the times we've been living in and us wanting to do something that's more playful, more colorful, more joyful, less serious.
So, yes, there's a common thread from season to season, but it's also, “What did I like? What didn't I like? What do I want to take forward? What do I want to continue to explore? What do I want to let go of? How do I feel?”
Do you consider Lacoste to be a French brand?
I think culturally, we will always be a French brand. And there are so many aspects of the brand that reflect and mirror our Frenchness but, of course, we are a global brand and we are enjoyed by many different people. Even though we are quintessentially a French brand, our Frenchness and the values of being French also allow us to appeal to so many different people.
How would you define French values in terms of Lacoste?
To be French is to be contradictory. Being French means a total respect for the past with an eye for the future. It's very brave — the French have no fear about putting a pyramid in the middle of the Louvre or completely breaking down its food codes. That's, to me, very French. A sense of equality is also very important: freedom, free speech, liberation.
How do you approach archival Lacoste designs — would you rather reinterpret or forge new paths?
I do both. Like, in our last collection, I relaunched the classic Euro cap, the five-panel cap, in our piqué cotton. I enjoy looking to the past but then saying, "Okay, what does that mean for the future?"
Our founder Rene Lacoste was... he was an innovator. He was constantly looking forward. Whilst I have an incredible archive, my job is not just to repeat the past. I feel that I'm not really serving or doing justice to Rene's beliefs and values if I just go backwards. I'm inspired by the past, but I also want to create a language that pushes the brand forward.
"I have total respect for the classic Crocodile but then I also stretch the boundaries."
Who is the contemporary Lacoste customer?
There is no one person and I think that's the beauty of the brand.
My work at Joseph was quite singular. I had a very specific man and woman in mind when I designed for Joseph. What I love about Lacoste is that there is no one character that I have in mind. I think of many different characters enjoying the brand in different ways.
Within my work for Lacoste, there [may be] something chic and elegant but then there's also something a lot more sport-inspired or maybe more street. Bringing all of those elements together is [core to] the brand. We are a brand for the president and the taxi driver.
Speaking of being core to the brand, let’s talk the Croc. You’ve really taken some liberties with the logo in recent collections, does Lacoste set boundaries for you?
Well, I certainly stretch my liberties as far as I can, that's for sure. [laughs] For me, the Crocodile in a way is bigger than the brand itself. It's iconic. But I enjoy being playful with it because, let's face it, our emblem is a laughing crocodile! He's having fun. I want to bring out a very joyful and authentic and honest character to mirror the joy that it brings to people's lives.
I have total respect for the classic Crocodile — I still use it — but then I also stretch the boundaries. I enjoy having fun with it and I think the Crocodile allows me to, because I think he's having a lot of fun himself.
Now, obviously, the polo is up there, but what are some of the core pieces that define your vision for Lacoste?
Clearly, the polo is at the heart of the brand, it's our icon. In fact, piqué as a fabrication is something that I always try to express. In the last show, for example, some of the looks were made from head-to-toe piqué.
I really love the classics... The tennis sweater, the polo, the cap, the tracksuit... our iconic pieces are always there in every collection. And each season I treat them in a different way.
"We are a brand for the president and the taxi driver."
Speaking of sportswear’s multifacetedness, I’ve noticed that a lot of your collections often incorporate clothing that can be worn in multiple ways or transformed somehow. What’s the attraction there?
There are certain ideas that I like for practical reasons, where you can wear things in multiple ways depending on how you choose to wear them. I like things that can be detached or added or... It probably comes down to that sense of practicality that I like. But then, anybody who follows my work will also know that I play a lot.
And so, I often find with my work that I enjoy playing with things that are very practical but are also quite embellished. I naturally work with contrasts and conflicting stories or moments or moods.
What is it about Lacoste that allows it to incorporate all these multitudes — suits and tailoring alongside tracksuits and sweatpants?
Just look at our founder, Rene. Everything is there. Rene was a very elegant man, who naturally blended sportswear with everyday clothing. He existed in a time where sport and tennis mixed sartorial [cues]. He would wear tailored pants with his polo shirts.
For me, there's always this natural blend between his French elegance and the practicality, the movement of sportswear. That's really what defines Lacoste and separates us from many others, is the fact that we [occupy] this wide space between sportswear, lifestyle, and fashion.
We all come to the brand for different reasons and for me, that's [Lacoste’s appeal]. I don't think about the brand being minimalist or street or... For me, its beauty is the fact that it can be all of these things.