NEW YORK — The crocodile lives again.

Ari Hoffman, president of Devanlay U.S. Inc., plans to bring the upscale image of the Lacoste brand back to the U.S. market through exclusive distribution to major department and specialty stores.

“Before long you’ll be seeing people wearing that crocodile over their hearts in the Hamptons, Palm Desert and Palm Beach, just as they did in the Sixties,” asserted Hoffman.

Hoffman was referring to the firm’s well-known logo, which has been a signature of the Lacoste brand for 60 years and is most often associated with the best-selling cotton pique polo shirt for men and women. The products currently being offered by Devanlay are for men, but the signature polo shirt has a unisex appeal, Hoffman said. The shirt, retailing for $65, comes in 40 colors. Other items include sweaters, shorts and jog suits.

Stores selling the Lacoste polo include Saks and Neiman Marcus.

He said women’s sportswear under the label would be distributed in the U.S later but didn’t give any specifics.

Crystal Brands formerly held the license for Lacoste in North America, but in paring back its operations, financially troubled Crystal in 1992 sold its rights back to Devanlay SA of France, which now holds the rights worldwide. Crystal stopped its distribution of Lacoste brand products in June 1993.

Devanlay U.S., a subsidiary of Devanlay SA, has been the U.S. distributor since then, and merchandise started arriving in U.S. stores in February.

Crystal, according to Hoffman, oversaturated the U.S. market with Lacoste, diminishing its upscale image “while the rest of the world continued to see it as a quality product.”

Under Crystal, the shirt retailed from the low $30s to $45. The Devanlay product, however, was upgraded with such details as mother-of-pearl buttons and woven twill tape reinforcing the neck and shoulders.

While he wouldn’t disclose the budget, Hoffman said the company’s print ad campaign would include full-page ads and spreads in Vanity Fair, Town & Country, W, Forbes, Golf Digest and the New York Times Magazine.

— K.M.“2.X>

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