By  on August 31, 2010

PARIS — Felipe Oliveira Baptista is in line to be named creative director of sportswear brand Lacoste SA, according to market sources.

The Paris-based, Portuguese designer will succeed Christophe Lemaire, who was tapped in May by Hermès to become creative director of the luxury goods company’s women’s ready-to-wear, replacing Jean Paul Gaultier.

Both Oliveira Baptista and a Lacoste spokesman declined comment Monday. Lacoste, best known for its crocodile logo, will issue a statement today, the spokesman said.

The appointment would mark Oliveira Baptista’s first foray into men’s wear. Also, the French activewear brand was thought to favor candidates with a strong affinity for the U.S. consumer as it bids to boost sales in America, its largest market by volume.

Still, Oliveira Baptista women’s wear background and his experimental approach may suit José Luis Duran, chief executive officer of Devanlay SA, Lacoste’s global apparel licensee. Duran told WWD in June he plans to conquer the 20-to-25 age segment and appeal more to women, who represent just under 20 percent of the client base.

Claiming the grand prize at the Hyeres fashion festival in 2002, Oliveira Baptista showed his debut collection in 2003 during couture week here aided by a $35,000 grant from France’s ANDAM association. He launched his collection on the ready-to-wear runways in October 2009.

For fall 2010, the 35-year-old designer put a futuristic spin on his Arctic-inspired lineup with cream-colored duffel coats, sleek quilted leather and fur jackets. He will show his spring 2011 collection during Paris Fashion Week, which runs Sept. 28 to Oct 6.

Lemaire joined Lacoste in 2000 and worked to put a fresh spin on the brand beyond the iconic polo shirt, tripling sales during his tenure. He will present his swan-song collection for the label during New York Fashion Week next month.

Lacoste posted sales of some one billion euros, or $1.4 billion, in 2009, roughly stable versus 2008. In the United States, however, sales slid 20 percent last year after averaging growth of 20 to 25 percent from 2006 to 2008.

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