The famed crocodile logo, the one that legendary French tennis player Rene Lacoste embraced as his nickname, comes most recognized on the tennis court adorned on the world’s No. 1 ATP player, Novak Djokovic.
Sure, the Lacoste brand crocodile also sits across the clothing of other professional tennis players — of varying ranking levels, nationalities and genders — but in the tennis world Djokovic gives Lacoste its most prominent position. But tennis isn’t the only place where Lacoste has come to shine, moving into the everyday lifestyle space and high-end fashion, all the time never losing its connection to tennis.
Lacoste has waltzed far beyond tennis — without ever losing sight of the sport — to create differing lines of apparel while staying connected to both fashion and performance worlds. “Lacoste has been around for 86 years and prides itself on staying at the forefront of trends with a strong and inspired creative team that’s always renewing its inspiration,” says Joëlle Grünberg, president and CEO Lacoste North and Central America.
Now with the brand’s first-ever female creative director, Louise Trotter, who just presented her first collection for Lacoste in Paris in early March, the brand continues to show itself beyond the court. “Lacoste is a legitimate performance brand and tennis is a huge part of our DNA, but aside from that we also have ‘L!VE’ and fashion chow collections, in addition to special collaborations through the year,” Grünberg says. “Elegance is a key pillar of the brand and fashion is at the center of what we do. We want to bring elegance on and off the court and really encourage our customers to remix the different collections and make them their own.”
Lacoste’s most prominent collaboration started with New York streetwear brand Supreme in 2017, following it up in spring 2018 with an entire line of apparel that included jackets, track pants, polos, sweatshirts, hats and bags. In late 2018, Lacoste teamed with Chinatown Market for an exclusive at Hypefest and also created an entire line celebrating Disney, all while participating in fashion weeks in New York and Paris.
But whether an on-court performance piece, a collaboration with Supreme or a Paris fashion show, just how much of the design is inspired by the sport that started the company? “I’d like to think all of it, hopefully,” Grünberg says enthusiastically.
With tennis the fourth most popular sport in the world, its continued reach in the United States and the momentum gained from vintage brands again associating themselves with the sport, Grünberg says the current resurgence helps position tennis as a trend-setter in sport fashion.
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And while Lacoste’s fashion side outpaces performance sales, the sport’s growth has given a new rise to performance tennis lines within Lacoste. “I think a lot this has to do with the rise of athleisure and how people dress nowadays,” Grünberg says. “You see people mixing dressy options with casual options and vice versa. We recently launched new sneaker style for men and women and they look just as good worn with jeans as they do with a suit or a dress. The look is very cool and noticeably Lacoste with our small crocodile logo on the side of the sneaker.”
At the same time, Grünberg knows the success of Djokovic has helped the rise of performance gear. The co-branded line with the top player in the world has boosted tennis sales over the year and given Lacoste a feel-good story to align with, given Djokovic’s comeback on the tour.
Along with a variety of other ATP and WTA athletes wearing Lacoste, the brand has also partnered with tennis events, such as the upcoming Miami Open, to sponsor the event and outfit officials and support staff in their gear.
“The Miami Open is a major U.S. tennis tournament that gives visibility and elevates the Lacoste brand in Florida, one of our key markets and number-one for us in terms of business,” Grünberg says. “We have a strong commercial presence with an exclusive co-branded collection that is only available through select stores, but also leverage the event to host our major key accounts and many influencers and celebrities. It’s one of our biggest events for quarter one and the two-week takeover gives us great visibility supported by a strong retail and wholesale business.”
Lacoste will embrace its relationship with the Miami Open not only on site, but at three Miami-area Lacoste boutiques and online.
Even with a focus on the robust North American market, tennis — like Lacoste — signifies a strong global presence. Grünberg feels the history and tradition of a brand that started in France in 1933 and has been worldwide ever since helps position Lacoste to succeed in a variety of markets.
With this historic position in the market, Lacoste now works to get tennis fans to view the brand as a legitimate and authoritative brand in tennis, wearing it both on and off the court, while showing consumers who don’t necessarily play the sport that they can still find the brand easily accessible, choosing between the multiple fashion and performance lines.
“Lacoste is reinterpreting tennis in a new and more modern way,” Grünberg says, “of mixing and playing with styles crossing boundaries between fashion and sports.”