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Monday, June 23, 2008

Lacoste Analysis

Pauline Hoch goes croc hunting...

Before LACOSTE could become the world's first sports brand in the 1930s, the preppie's insignia of choice in the 80s or the kicky label it is today (thanks to designer Christophe Lemaire), performance apparel had to be invented. Which is what tennis pro René Lacoste did when he won the 1927 U.S. Open wearing an early version of the classic LACOSTE shirt: a white, short-sleeved, light-knit prototype that whisked away perspiration. Now, among its 75th anniversary celebrations this year, LACOSTE has commissioned eleven artists to create works inspired by the brand's iconic 12.12 polo and crocodile logo, each installed in a window of KaDeWe store in Berlin and available by silent auction through July 12. Here, a Q&A with René's son and LACOSTE chairman Michel Lacoste...

What are some of LACOSTE's major accomplishments in 75 years?
The LACOSTE brand came to life in 1933 with a few white polo shirts for playing tennis, evolved in a complete line of sport and sportswear apparel, and is today a global lifestyle brand with clothing, leather goods, footwear, watches, glasses, fragrances and home textiles. To our knowledge, LACOSTE was the first to affix a logo on the outside of a clothing item. This famous crocodile polo shirt really revolutionized the way tennis players dressed on the courts and took the place of the long-sleeved, starched, uncomfortable shirts used before.

What's the objective of the 1212 art collaboration?
For the last ten years, LACOSTE has contributed to charity organizations worldwide by means of local charity events and through the René Lacoste Foundation, whose purpose is to help young people benefit from the values of the sport. We ask artists, famous people, actors, musicians and singers to reinterpret the crocodile. The artworks created—photographs, everyday life objects, musical instruments, bags, dresses, etc.—are then auctioned off.

Lacoste is one of the last remaining family-owned labels. How have you resisted selling?
The economic model of the company rests on René Lacoste's idea to combine expertise. Today, the Lacoste family owns 65% of LACOSTE, which controls and coordinates licenses granted to each partner: Devanlay for clothing, Pentland for footwear, Procter & Gamble for perfumes, Samsonite for leather goods, Charmant for glasses, Movado for watches, etc. Although this model may seem ancient, it means never pretending to be what we are not. Of course that’s easier said than done.

Do you ever see the ghost of René Lacoste roaming the halls?
If by ghost you mean his values and work ethics, then yes, we see ghosts every day. René Lacoste and the crocodile are still the only and true bosses of the company. He was known for his tenacity on the tennis courts and never letting go of his prey. This is why he was nicknamed "the crocodile" by the American press. It was logical for him to “sign” the shirt he invented, so he decided to embroider his nickname on his blazer. It is hard to think of LACOSTE without this crocodile. Today, two LACOSTE products are sold every second, making it one of the most recognized brands in the world. For our customers, we think LACOSTE is an authentic brand of high-quality products that are nice to wear in the pleasant moments of our lives.

Can you give us a pleasant family moment?
There are so many, it's difficult to choose. One of them happened in connection with my sister Catherine, who was just as great a golf champion as my father was a tennis champion. She won the U.S. Ladies Open in 1967, and a few weeks later, my father was asked by a U.S. customs official if he was the father of the golf champion, whilst all our lives prior to that we had grown up being asked by the same U.S. customs officials if we were the children of René Lacoste. My father was at the same time very happy and a little peeved by that question!

—Pauline Hoch



Kassandra Becker, Anne Sofie Vistven


Igor Paasch, Peter Langer


MAROK, Tagno

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