By  on September 1, 2010

NEW YORK — With her French upbringing, Catherine Malandrino is right at home collaborating with Lacoste.

In the midst of planning next month’s runway show for her signature collection and ironing out her Fashion’s Night Out festivities, the designer has been busy putting the finishing touches on the Lacoste + Malandrino capsule collection.

“As a French woman, I was very honored when they first approached me. Lacoste was so much a part of my childhood, too. It is still the epitome of class and joie de vivre that is linked to Lacoste,” she said.

If that weren’t enough to sell her on the prospect, she had a more tangible connection. For years, her husband Bernard’s unofficial uniform has been a Lacoste polo — he even wears black ones with a tuxedo for red-carpet affairs.

“It’s very funny. I have been living with Lacoste for a long time,” she said. “I thought it would be a great challenge to try to turn it into a more feminine brand.”

The first step was to create a logo to make the label more inviting to women. Malandrino and Lacoste decided on two kissing crocodiles, one green and one yellow, for the Lacoste + Malandrino line. Far more womanly than the brand’s typical sportif look, Malandrino’s take includes styles such as a draped day dress with three-quarter-length sleeves, a hooded cocoon cardigan and a pleated bustier dress. Having signed up for four seasons, Malandrino does not see this endeavor as a passing fancy, though she was quick to note she was not interested nor in the running to become Lacoste’s artistic director. Felipe Oliveira Baptista was named to that post Tuesday.

“Right now I am more interested in building my own collection, but at the same time I know how we can make Lacoste more feminine,” said Malandrino. “We can bring that vocabulary of emotion, desire and seduction to the brand. I am very excited, too, to get into this world of active clothing. As a woman, as a mother and as an active woman, I can bring fashion and fun to everyday life. This is a very special project for Lacoste. It is the first time the company has collaborated with a designer.”

The capsule collection will debut in her 10 freestanding stores and Lacoste’s 67 boutiques in April. The collaboration also gives Malandrino the experience of selling in a different retail price range — $125 to $495. Croc-inspired shoes and bags are also part of the mix.

Asked about first-year projected sales, Steve Birkhold, president and chief executive officer of Lacoste USA, said, “We’re having fun with Catherine. As is the case with many companies that collaborate, it’s not about doing a huge amount of volume. This is the merger of an amazing French designer with an amazing French brand.”

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