NEW YORK — Consumers just can’t get enough of the polo shirt.
Following the return of Lacoste, Penguin and Izod to the forefront of fashion comes Le Tigre. The brand, originally launched in 1977 by Campus Sportswear as an American alternative to France’s Lacoste label, has returned after more than a decade’s absence — with plans to become even bigger than it was in its heyday. By 1984, Le Tigre was a $200 million brand at retail that pegged its business on the basic polo shirt. After switching owners several times, the brand disappeared in 1992.
Last year, the rights to the Le Tigre brand were bought by Ryan O’Sullivan, a former Wall Street executive, and Vincent Nesi Sr., owner of Nesi Apparel Group, which also has the licenses for the Rocawear junior line and the Eminem Shady collection.
As a teaser for the relaunch in specialty stores, Le Tigre sent 500 limited-edition shirts to stylists, celebrities, publicists and members of the media late last year, and the first collection of Le Tigre was launched at retail this spring, in stores such as Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.
Currently available in 500 doors, O’Sullivan said he expects Le Tigre to be in 700 doors by the end of the year. According to O’Sullivan, the brand has performed so well that he has more than doubled his first-year projections to $40 million at retail.
“The concept of this brand is identical to what it was,” he explained. “It’s based around the basic polo with updated colors, quality and construction.”
Besides the basic polo shirt, which is available in a wide range of colors, from soft pink to bright blue, for both women and men, the line includes striped rugby shirts, zip-up hoodies, henley shirts, cashmere sweaters and pleated corduroy miniskirts. The collection is tops-driven, just as it always was.
“I will never do a denim line,” O’Sullivan said. “That is not what this brand is all about. This is a line of tops that are made to go well with all of the great jeans out there.”
The Le Tigre collection also includes a small line of accessories, such as wristbands and hats. The line wholesales from $21 for a basic polo shirt to $60 for a cashmere sweater.
O’Sullivan said he plans an aggressive advertising campaign, starting with street posters in June and event sponsorships for sporting events and music concerts. He also plans to advertise in national magazines this fall.
“The ads will carry on through the seasons — we will not stop for a season,” he said. “It’s a way for us to continually reach our customers.”