Lacoste has been a staple of the fashion industry since 1933, when founder and French tennis player Rene Lacoste introduced a new style and technology to the tennis industry. Utilizing “petit pique” cotton and boldly baring the brand’s crocodile logo — the first of any clothing line to do so — the brand challenged the standard of clothing worn by tennis players. The Lacoste brand grew in notoriety and soon became a household name and desired worldwide. And this new brand was here to stay, leaving an impression on celebrities and athletes decades later. “The first thing I ever bought for myself was a green Lacoste shirt,” said tennis great Mary-Louise Parker.
So, how did Rene Lacoste, the best tennis player in the world (from 1926-1927), wind up becoming a fashion mogul? He did it with vision, ingenuity, simplistic branding, and strategic partnerships. Lacoste products have reached women, men, and children with athletic, leisure, and luxury apparel, accessories, and more. The brand’s rise to success can also be attributed to its heir of notoriety while still remaining accessible to the masses.
The brand has been a staple in the fashion world for almost 90 years, but do you know the major milestones that helped launch the brand to what it is today? Read on to learn more about six key turning points in the brand’s history.
The Crocodile Logo
The popular crocodile logo can be instantly recognized by anyone who knows the slightest bit about iconic fashion brands. But did you know there is more to the logo than a cute, recognizable emblem? The logo was born from a nickname given to Rene Lacoste by an American journalist who overheard a bet from his coach that he would win the Davis Cup in Boston. The prize? A crocodile leather suitcase Lacoste had admired in a store window. Lacoste did not end up winning the match, but the nickname “The Crocodile” remained. And Lacoste encouraged the new name, commissioning his friend and stylist Robert George to embroider a crocodile on his white jacket, which was worn on the courts. The nickname, Lacoste said, “highlighted my tenacity on the tennis courts, never giving up my prey!”
By the 1950s, the Lacoste brand had become a worldwide export. At this point, the brand was ready to expand and made the leap into children’s apparel. The launch helped catapult the brand into a new realm of retail, and the company saw another surge in popularity and growth.
Coming to America
Despite all of the success they had seen, the French brand struggled to gain the traction it needed to reach its full potential in America. In 1953, the owner of the Izod brand, David Crystal, purchased 50% of the rights to Lacoste. This acquisition allowed the brand to reach new marketing heights in America, being branded as Izod-Lacoste for American retail. The addition of Lacoste to the Izod brand enhanced Izod’s prestige while introducing the Lacoste name to the American market. The brand grew in popularity, and the pique polo/tennis shirt became a hot commodity — reaching massive sales for the shirt alone throughout the ’80s. With its growing success, the company decided to keep the combined name for decades to come.
Knock-offs Killed the Retail Star
The preppy trend propelled the brand into astronomical success. Those not fond of the gaudy designs and bright colors of the ’80s fashion realm skewed toward the opposite end of the fashion spectrum, opting instead for a more subdued preppy look. However, by the late ’80s, the preppy trend the brand had been sailing on started to fade. This decline in interest and over-saturation within the market created new struggles for the brand. But the ultimate decline came from an abundance of knock-offs and replicas of the brand at lower price points. By the early ’90s, Izod-Lacoste decided to separate the two brands. Izod would cater to the midlevel audience, while Lacoste would work to regain its elite status among consumers. In 1993, Crystal sold his 50% share of the company to its original French marketing arm, Sportloisirs S.A.
Throughout the growth of Lacoste, including during the partnership with Izod, Lacoste launched several accessories into the market — starting with its first eau de toilette, elegant accessories, eyewear, luxury handbags, and stylish footwear. All the while partnering with top designers around the world to make the various lines come to life with stunning success. The separation from Izod did not stunt the expansion and introduction of new product lines. In fact, just one year after the official termination of the partnership, Lacoste launched an innovative line of watches at the Basel Watch Fair.
Keeping the Legacy Alive
Since Rene Lacoste’s passing in 1996, the Lacoste brand has introduced many talented and notable names to the brand as designers and ambassadors. Names such as Novak Djokovic (one of the most revered players in the history of tennis), Louise Trotter (notable British designer), and Daniil Medvedev (budding tennis prodigy) have enthusiastically aligned with the brand, keeping its long-established roots within the tennis world unmovable. While the brand has a deep and rich history, it remains timeless with its ever-evolving and adapting nature. And the addition of new product lines and designs will keep Lacoste, and the legacy Rene Lacoste built, an impenetrable staple in the world of retail and fashion.
Add Lacoste to Your Fashion Lineup
The genesis of this global brand blossomed from the desire for a better option in tennis apparel and grew into an industry-changing movement with game-changing and inspiring moves throughout its entire history. Rene Lacoste may not have predicted the massive success that the company would see, but he definitely knew he was always meant to bring new innovation into the world. In fact, he is famously quoted as saying, “Inventor should be on my business cards. I’ve been inventing all my life.”
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