Style & Grooming

Lacoste Returns to Its Spiritual Home, Roland-Garros

At Paris Fashion Week, Louise Trotter presented her sophomore collection for the French brand, which looked back to its tennis roots

René Lacoste is perhaps France’s greatest sporting export – if simply for the sportswear label, and its crocodile-emblazoned polo shirt, he spawned. Lacoste learnt to play tennis in England, aged 15, but it was on Paris’ clay courts – at the legendary Roland-Garros stadium, now home to the French Open – that he achieved his greatest victories. It was also here, during the 1928 Davis Cup that the tenacious player earned his nickname, ‘the crocodile’, having been promised a crocodile-skin suitcase if he won his match. The rest, as they say, is history.

Yesterday, Lacoste the label returned to the hallowed sporting grounds, presenting the sophomore co-ed collection from creative director Louise Trotter (previously of Joseph). Taking place on the outer corridors of Roland-Garros’ new Simonne Mathieu court, among the leafy Serres d’Auteuil gardens and flanked by greenhouses, attendees arrived to a tennis match – or, at least, a tennis practice as Julien Benneteau, captain of the French Federation Cup team, and Tiago Pirès, a young player hit balls on the court below. With the declaration “the players are ready, position”, the show began.

For the Spring/Summer 2020 collection, Trotter continued the restorative exercise of reintepreting Lacoste’s house codes – which backstage she described as “aristocratic, yet quite street” – for a new generation. “I wanted to try and address the nostalgia people feel toward Lacoste, with a contemporary lens,” she elaborated. Specifically, she attempted to rehabilitate golf- and tennis-wear: a photograph of a young John F. Kennedy in a Lacoste polo got Trotter thinking about what the notes called the “bygone codes of sports elegance”.

It gave the collection a nostalgic air. There were silky, pyjama-style trousers, dotted with crocodiles and worn with loafers, preppy pastel-coloured tailoring, stand-collar tracksuits and knitted vests, with deep V-necklines, like those of cricketers or golfers. Trotter’s always-astute play on proportion veered it away from retro – here, predominately outsized, like brilliant, blocky iterations of the brand’s signature polo evoked “clothes that you are growing out of and others you are growing in to”. So too did modern fabrications, whether super-lightweight leather, paper-thin cotton or a series of bonded rubber overcoats, their edges razor-sharp.

Completing the collection was a collaboration with two fellow British women designers: Helen Kirkum and Rosh Mahtani of jewellery label Alighieri. Kirkum, a recent RCA graduate known for innovative, often-upcyled trainers, created this season’s hybrid sneaker using old, unused prototypes from the previous season, while Mahtani cast the symbolic Lacoste crocodile as bracelets and pendants, “transforming the house symbol as a totemic keepsake”.