Trying to predict which brands will rise and fall in popularity is a fun business. It’s hard to say what exactly it is that causes the shift, but you can sense it, smell it almost. It happened with Ralph Lauren (although many would argue that they never left), Tommy Hilfiger’s vintage stuff, Champion and Kappa to just name a few. The newest such addition to come roaring back I’d say is Lacoste.
I didn’t know much about them, other than the fact that they had brightly coloured polo shirts and were rooted in tennis, so I decided to do a bit of reading. If you’re very familiar with Lacoste then the next part may be less interesting to you. If, however, you do not know that much about the brand, read on.
It bears the name of its founder, Jean René Lacoste, who was the youngest of the ‘Four Musketeers’. This nickname, inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ iconic tale, was given to the four, young, French tennis players who dominated internationally in the 1920’s. The foursome consisted of Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste and won the Davis Cup as a team six times. On a personal level Mr. Lacoste won seven Grand Slam singles titles and was ranked the world #1 in 1926 and 1927. He officially withdrew from the world of tennis in 1929 because of respiratory problems and acted as the non-playing captain for the French team at the Davis Cup in 1932 and 1933.
Incidentally 1933 was a very interesting year for Rene Lacoste because it marked the birthyear of the company that bears his name. The core business of Lacoste was the tennis shirt, or polo shirt as we know it today, that he designed and pioneered. Up until this point tennis was largely played in long sleeves. Preferring comfort and innovation to tradition, René used his international renown to market this revolutionary garment by wearing it on the court. He then paired up with André Gillier to actually put it into production. The pair was quite formidable, given René’s success as an athlete and André’s position as the owner and president of France’s biggest knitwear manufacturing company at the time. In order to penetrate the US market the company paired up with US manufacturer Izod in 1952 and sold their products to the US consumer under the name Izod Lacoste until 1993. What’s interesting to note here for vintage clothing fans, is that finding ‘Izod Lacoste’ tags in some of the items should be a fairly sure way of knowing that your garment is pre-1993. If it’s real, that is.
One of the more notable names to have led Lacoste’s design efforts is French designer Christophe Lemaire. He took over as artistic director for the brand in 2002 and remained there until 2010 when he moved on to take over after Jean-Paul Gaultier as artistic director for Hermes. A large portion of Lacoste’s rise in popularity in the early 2000’s is attributed to Mr Lemaire’s work to create a more ‘modern, upscale look.’ This was then further cemented through his successor and mentee, Felipe Oliveira Baptista who was in charge of the artistic direction between 2010 and 2018, more than doubling revenues in that time.
Lacoste as a brand is almost 90 years old and as clothing trends in general seem to have shifted towards the 1990’s and early 2000s, the brand is as relevant as ever. The brand is now under the artistic leadership of Louise Trotter, appointed in October 2018 as the brand’s first ever female artistic director, and looking at her Spring 2021 ready-to-wear collection I’d say Lacoste from the late 90’s and early 00’s is back big time.
All images below are from the Spring 2021 ready-to-wear campaign.