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NEW YORK — A year after Christophe Lemaire exited as artistic director of Lacoste, the French sportswear maker is ready to introduce a fresh take on its men’s and women’s collections. Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who was tapped as Lemaire’s successor last year, will present his first runway collection for the brand on Saturday at the Lincoln Center tents.
“I wanted to do something chic and elegant,” said Oliveira Baptista during a preview of his designs at Sun Studios, where Lacoste set up camp in the week prior to the show. “Easy and simple does not mean boring.”
To that end, Oliveira Baptista has taken Lacoste’s signature polo shirt and transformed it into shirtdresses, some in solid neutrals with dramatic side slits and others with sophisticated color accents, like Yves Klein blue or jewel green, on plackets and seams. Rugby shirts received the feminine treatment as well, with the men’s staple reconstructed into short, sportif dresses with color-blocked patterns and dropped armholes.
Other designs avoided reference to Lacoste’s sportswear heritage, such as an eye-catching dress in silk georgette and wool voile enlivened with an Art Deco print inspired by an “L” motif.
In accessories, Oliveira Baptista created a tote style that was inspired by a golf bag once owned by Catherine Lacoste, a champion golfer and daughter of the brand’s founder, Rene Lacoste.
Men’s, which accounts for 75 percent of the brand’s sales, is fairly new territory for Oliveira Baptista, who has been designing his own signature women’s collection since 2003 in Paris. “I was very glad to do it as I’ve wanted to launch men’s for my own line — and there are many men’s wear elements in my women’s designs,” said Oliveira Baptista, who dabbled in men’s design when he assisted Lemaire from 1998 to 2000 at Lemaire’s own label.
For Lacoste, Oliveira Baptista has conceived a lively men’s collection that references the brand’s well-known signatures while mixing tailoring and sportswear. Blazers are fashioned from a sturdy cotton piqué in homage to the bread-and-butter L1212 polo. Outerwear is a key category, with standouts like a white cotton peacoat given a touch of luxury with leather trim on the sleeves and under collar.
“I wanted to add pieces that allow you to wear Lacoste every day — not just for sports or the weekend,” explained Oliveira Baptista.