By  on June 20, 2008

PARIS — With Michel and François Lacoste, two of René Lacoste's sons, reminiscing about their father's love of excellence and innovation, the French brand known for its crocodile insignia on Thursday celebrated a volley in its 75th anniversary year.

The fete, a warm-up for another party here on July 1 when Lacoste will unveil a series of its famous polo shirts customized by the likes of Nick Knight and Karl Lagerfeld that are part of a special-edition book by Visionaire, bore testament to Lacoste's insouciant, chic sporty attitude.

Guests — mostly Lacoste employees in Paris for the company's annual convention — congregated on the main court at Roland Garros, the site of many of the historic exploits of René Lacoste and the other French "musketeers" who dominated tennis in the Twenties. Sports figures, including French tennis stars Guy Forget and Henri Leconte, mingled with guests over the course of the evening's festivities.

Lacoste didn't need to prove that it was in fine fettle. Sales last year grew 7 percent to 1.6 billion euros, or $2.48 billion at current exchange, wholesale as the company opened its 1,000th shop in the world.

Michel Lacoste proudly said the United States, where Lacoste experienced troubles in the Nineties, is back on track and has catapulted to become the brand's number-one market.

Earlier this year, Lacoste hired a new chief executive, Christophe Chenut, 45, who joined the firm amid rumors the Lacoste family was bickering. Their disagreements were said to be linked to management issues after the death two years ago of Bernard Lacoste, who had engineered Lacoste's global expansion.

The company has denied the family was butting heads and Chenut said everything has been "smooth sailing" since he joined. Chenut said one of his main tasks was to revisit the management structure to prepare for the retirement later this year of several key Lacoste managers. The firm is owned by members of the Lacoste family and France's Devanlay, the manufacturer that owns the license for Lacoste products. Devanlay is a subsidiary of Swiss retailer Maus Frères, which recently won a struggle for control of Gant.

Other events to celebrate Lacoste's birthday include a book on René Lacoste's style and an exhibit at the tennis museum at Roland Garros charting the career of the brand's founder. The party to launch the Visionaire book with the customized polo shirts is planned to take place later this year on a boat that will be moored near the Eiffel Tower.

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