Lacoste: major rift or natural transition with Louise Trotter in charge of style?
Which fashion bookmaker would have offered odds on Louise Trotter as the pick for Lacoste's creative director job? At the very least, for a large number of observers, her name wasn’t top of the list, the favourites being either designers who already had a toehold in sportswear, or star names with more of a media following.
And yet, Louise Trotter, for nine years in charge of style at British fashion brand Joseph, is the first woman to step into the role of creative director at Lacoste. Above all, her experience is likely to be a good fit with the French sportswear label’s ambitions, and she has more than one element in common with her predecessors there.
Undeniably, Felipe Oliveira Baptista has given Lacoste a boost, earning the French brand a place among fashion’s big names in an ultra-competitive landscape. But while the Portuguese designer has seemed comfortable in recent seasons, it took him some time to make his mark and fashion a fresh look for the brand, making it sexier and more contemporary, blending the latest trends with references to its heritage.
Like Christophe Lemaire, of whom he was an assistant at the latter’s own label, and who he later succeeded at Lacoste, Felipe Oliveira Baptista has a quiet personality, keen on understatement. That can also apply to Louise Trotter. “Her appointment isn’t a surprise. She seems like the spawn of Christophe Lemaire and Felipe Oliveira Baptista. All three of them are low-profile [personalities], with a penchant for pared-down designs,” said Alexandre Fléveau, creative director at Parisian trend consulting agency Peclers.
Besides her personality, the British designer has many other assets, which undoubtedly attracted Thierry Guibert, the general manager of Lacoste, and his team. Notably, her professional career. She cut her fashion teeth in the US, at Calvin Klein first, then at Gap, as vice-president of product design and development for the womenswear collection, before being appointed senior vice-president and creative director of the H Hilfiger high-end line.
Back in the UK, she was initially the creative director of premium fashion retailer Jigsaw. Shortly after she joined Joseph, she moved to Paris, where the label’s design studio is based. Her career is a well-balanced combination of creative nous and an in-depth organisational knowledge of some of the major US names. Not an insignificant detail for Lacoste. The French brand topped the €2 billion revenue mark last year, and now wants to continue to expand internationally, especially in the US.
The designer who brought Joseph to the catwalks
As for Trotter’s style, her tenure at Joseph was saluted by both the retail and the media world. Indeed, she played a big part in the international expansion of the label created in 1972 by Joseph Ettedgui. With Trotter, Joseph premièred on the catwalks of London Fashion Week, where the label has had a slot on the official calendar since AW14. That first show wasn’t slated to be repeated in the following seasons, but the label’s management, seeing its success, decided to carry on.
A few seasons after Joseph’s maiden womenswear show, Trotter also launched menswear, hiring a designer to look after the men's collection: Francesco Muzi, the former creative director of Z Zegna, who had also been in charge of Jil Sander’s menswear line. It was an introduction which was popular with Joseph’s clientèle. With each new Joseph collection, Trotter wasn’t simply content with churning out a few tried and tested staples. She also introduced her own take on a pared-down, contemporary style, inspired by, among other things, tailoring and architecture. Her versatility and eye for detail, her cuts, easy elegance and the use of rare fabrics have, so it seems, been key in winning over Lacoste’s top management.
What will be Lacoste’s new approach to fashion? Judging from the internally designed SS19 collection, the recent street-inspired shows and their emphasis on tech materials, the February show featuring young rapper Moha La Squale and US hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, and the collaborations with Supreme, Lacoste is currently going for an uber-urban look and feel. After the appointment of a designer renowned for her sophisticated, highly understated style, with a very versatile colour palette, the question has to be: is Lacoste already anticipating a post-streetwear style?
These days, such a direction is by no means obvious looking at the brand’s retail concept, focused on polos and sneakers. “Thanks to the Live [young line], Lacoste has become more popular with Millennials. Its image has shed several decades. With Louise Trotter, [it] will stand to gain the most from targeting a more mature consumer segment. It will be a challenge for the designer, but she will be both able to focus on natural fabrics - piqué cotton, fleece, even wool and cashmere - and to use more high-tech materials. If Lacoste wants to appeal to the US, Japanese and also European markets, it’s in its best interest to introduce a more timeless, less generation-specific style,” said Alexandre Fléveau from Peclers, who also added: “I hope that Lacoste will dare to present its statement collection in-store. There’s a big gap between the shows and the range sold in the stores, and it’s a real pity that such creativity isn’t reflected at the retail level.”
At a time when the media is hotly debating the new Celine look by Hedi Slimane, a thousand miles away from the minimalistic style developed by Phoebe Philo, Philophiles have seemingly been deserted by directional fashion labels. Until the first collection by Louise Trotter for Lacoste perhaps?
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