Louise Trotter

PARIS — At the creative helm of Lacoste since October, British designer Louise Trotter hit the ground running.

The former Joseph designer, whose appointment marked the first time in the history of the French house that a woman filled the position, in a few short months has overseen the development of the uniform for the French Olympic team for the 2020 games. She’s also fashioned looks for brand ambassador Novak Djokovic, and readied her first ready-to-wear collection for Lacoste, which will be presented at the Tennis Club de Paris today.

“I’ve had to work on the different aspects of the brand, from on court to the street, from Day One,” said the designer during a preview of the collection. “The collection team was waiting for me, from the moment I arrived, so there was an immediate pace.”

With crocodile zipper pulls in her toolbox (“I can’t believe they haven’t been done before”) she’s also been experimenting with the house mascot in various ways — both small and large — since arrival.

“All of the garments are built first, because I want them to be perfect, and the crocodiles are almost the last thing I put on…it’s the cherry on the cake,” she said, adding of the brand’s pioneering house founder René Lacoste: “[He] created the first logo.

“Today the logo has become almost like a cultural icon, it’s bigger than Lacoste,” she said. “For me, its use has been quite indiscriminate, and I wanted to kind of look at it in different ways.”

Here, the designer, who is now based full-time in Paris, talks to WWD about settling in at Lacoste.

WWD: After your successful career at Joseph, what attracted you to working with Lacoste?

Louise Trotter: For me, it felt like a very natural transition. The very same principles that I’ve dedicated most of my career to, creating clothes that perform in everyday life, I’m taking exactly that philosophy. I’m creating clothes that perform from an athletic point of view and an everyday point of view.

I’ve always had a pragmatic approach to design. I’ve always wanted to create clothes that people wear every day, and can really live their lives in…that are well-proportioned, well-detailed.

Lacoste bridges everything, from true sportswear all the way through to everyday clothing, where most of our business is.

WWD: So did you dive straight into the archives?

L.T.: I obviously knew the brand; everybody has some connection to Lacoste. The first thing I did was look back at who René Lacoste ­— the guy who started this brand — was. I think that’s what initially got me hooked. I was reading about him and realizing that there was this incredible story, and that beyond just the house codes, there are clear brand values. The way he played sport was actually the way he lived his life. There’s a quote from him that I can’t quote verbatim, but he said: “It’s not just about winning, it’s about winning with elegance.”

I’ve always believed that — in life it’s not about the end result, it’s about the journey. The journey is as important to me as the finish line. When I think about the values of winning sport in the correct way, through tenacity, hard work, commitment, fair play, joy, and taking those into life, that was the first hook for me. I believe that’s the right way to live your life, and with regards to the political climate right now, those values for me are even more important.

WWD: What are the Lacoste archives like?

L.T.: There is an enormous archive going back to the very beginning. It’s in Troyes, where we still have a factory. Some of the production is still France-based. Going there was incredibly inspiring for me for many different reasons. Number one, the people working in the archive so respect [Lacoste’s] legacy, they truly love him, and you really get that sense. Going through, from the beginning, how he started to play tennis, how he studied his opponents, how he worked harder than anybody else, how he created the first tennis shoe, the first metal tennis racket….

There were two things that really influenced me: There was a drawing on the wall of him designing a tennis racket, and I worked out just by looking at the date that he was in his mid-Eighties when doing that. As a designer, that was and is an incredibly humbling point for me, to think that he was still that engaged and that inventive at that stage of his life, and the company was pretty successful by then. But he was still improving, still inventing, still wanting to improve the game.

The archive is incredibly rich. There are some truly beautiful things, even his first sweatshirt is something that I wanted to take and put on. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t about taking those pieces and just redoing them. That would be letting him down, as he was constantly a man of his time, constantly looking forward.

What I wanted to create is: What does that look like for today? Who would René be today? How would he live his life? What would be important to him, and how can I translate those values into today?

WWD: How do you see the balance between fashion and sport in the brand?

L.T.: Lacoste has always been a fashion brand with a sportswear heritage. It’s always been where we’ve played. In fact, what’s unique about Lacoste is that it’s always been in this space where people can’t necessarily say it’s just that. Most heritage brands live off their heritage, looking at their craft, retro thinking. Lacoste is heritage but it’s always been forward thinking, looking at how to innovate. It’s also a French brand, and French culture is all about opposites. I find harmony in mixing the fashion element and the sportswear.

Our lives today are constantly about movement and motion, so for me I don’t see them as separate entities.

WWD: What other brand messages are you looking to convey?

L.T.: The fact that we are a brand that’s all about French elegance. When you look at René, he was an incredibly elegant man living an incredibly elegant life, and I wanted to go back to that. In the beginning, tennis was played in sartorial clothing: a great sartorial pant with a chemise. He came along and put on a blazer and then an overcoat.