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René Lacoste founded La Chemise Lacoste in 1933 with André Gillier, the owner and president of the largest French knitwear manufacturing firm at the time. They began to produce the revolutionary tennis shirt Lacoste had designed and worn on the tennis courts with the crocodile logo embroidered on the chest. Although the company claims this as the first example of a brand name appearing on the outside of an article of clothing, the “Jantzen girl” logo appeared on the outside of Jantzen Knitting Mills’ swimsuits as early as 1921. In addition to tennis shirts, Lacoste produced shirts for golf and sailing.
In 1951, the company began to expand as it branched from “tennis white” and introduced color shirts. In 1952, the shirts were exported to the United States and advertised as “the status symbol of the competent sportsman,” influencing the clothing choices of the upper-class. Lacoste was sold at Brooks Brothers until the late 1960s.
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It is still one of the most popular brands in the United States, sporting the “preppy wardrobe”. In 1963, Bernard Lacoste took over the management of the company from his father René. Significant company growth was seen under Bernard’s management. When he became president, around 300,000 Lacoste products were sold annually. The Lacoste brand reached its height of popularity in the US during the late 1970s and became the signature 1980s “preppy” wardrobe item, even getting mentioned in Lisa Birnbach’s Official Preppy Handbook of 1980. The company also began to introduce other products into their line including shorts, perfume, optical and sunglasses, tennis shoes, deck shoes, walking shoes, watches, and various leather goods.
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In the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, Izod and Lacoste were often used interchangeably because starting in the 1950s, Izod produced clothing known as Izod Lacoste under license for sale in the U.S. This partnership ended in 1993 when Lacoste regained exclusive U.S. rights to distribute shirts under its own brand. In 1977, Le Tigre Clothing was founded in an attempt to directly compete with Lacoste in the US market, selling a similar array of clothing, but featuring a tiger in place of the signature Lacoste crocodile.
More recently, Lacoste’s popularity has surged due to French designer Christophe Lemaire’s work to create a more modern, upscale look. In 2005, almost 50 million Lacoste products sold in over 110 countries. Its visibility has increased due to the contracts between Lacoste and several young tennis players, including American tennis stars Andy Roddick and John Isner, French veteran Richard Gasquet, and Swiss Olympic gold medalist Stanislas Wawrinka. Lacoste has also begun to increase its presence in the golf world, where noted two time Masters Tournament champion José María Olazábal and Scottish golfer Colin Montgomeriehave been seen sporting Lacoste shirts in tournaments.
Bernard Lacoste became seriously ill in early 2005, which led him to transfer the presidency of Lacoste to his younger brother and closest collaborator for many years, Michel Lacoste. Bernard died in Paris on March 21, 2006.
Lacoste licenses its trademark to various companies. Until recently, Devanlay owned the exclusive worldwide clothing license, though today Lacoste Polo Shirts are also manufactured under licence in Thailand by ICC and also in China. Pentland Group has the exclusive worldwide license to produce Lacoste footwear, Procter & Gamble owns the exclusive worldwide license to produce fragrance, and CEMALAC holds the license to produce Lacoste bags and small leather goods.
In June 2007, Lacoste introduced their very first e-commerce site for the U.S. market.
In September 2010, Christophe Lemaire stepped down and Felipe Oliveira Baptista succeeded him as the creative manager of Lacoste. Hayden Christensen is the face of the Challenge fragrance for men.
René Lacoste Foundation is a community program developed to help children be able to play sports in school.
Lacoste style codes is what defines the entire Lacoste style, ensuring a consistent connection between each of the brand’s collections. These nine codes are the integral part of the brand’s history, so much connected with tennis, and perfectly in tune with our times.
The lightweight, durable, loose-knit cotton piqué was invented by René Lacoste himslef and is immediately recognised as the company’s signature fabric. More than just a material, it has also been interpreted as a texture and pattern.