Long before LeBron James ever lent his name to a line of Nikes, René Lacoste was winning tournaments and turning heads in his self-designed performance-enhancing tennis shirts. Besides wicking away match-time moisture, Lacoste's petit-piqué shirts redefined the sport's aesthetic, replacing heavy, long-sleeve button-front shirts with a look that has trickled down to become an evergreen essential in both men's and women's casual wardrobes. Today Lacoste continues to call on its sportif past and preppy reputation to make refined, wearable separates.
Lacoste, born in 1904, bet his captain during the 1927 Davis Cup that he could win a pivotal match for their team. The spoils? A croc-skin suitcase. Lacoste's tenacity prompted the press to give him the nickname "the Crocodile"—which in turn prompted a friend to design a little green reptile that Lacoste then had embroidered on his court blazer. That logo would become recognizable worldwide as Lacoste's trademark both on court and off.
Founded in 1933, the company has expanded from white tennis shirts to an empire of trenchcoats, sunglasses, toiletries, fragrance, shoes, furniture, and watches. In 2000, Christophe Lemaire (who had worked at YSL and Christian Lacroix) took over for Gilles Rosier as creative director. He staged the label's first runway show in 2001, then brought men's and women's looks to New York fashion week for Spring 2004. Lacoste celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2008.
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November 24, 2008 12:00AM