Lacoste makes its presence known at the Miami Open.
By Loni Frazita
While Lacoste has a presence at many major tennis and golf events around the world, there’s a special reason why the brand has signed on to become an official partner of the Miami Open tennis tournament here this March.
“Lacoste has an emotional tie to Miami, “ says Francis Pierrel, president and CEO of Lacoste North America. “This is where everything started for Lacoste in the United States.” In fact, the company opened its first American Lacoste boutiques in Palm Beach and Bal Harbour, Florida, in 1995. Twenty years later, the retailer still retains an enviable presence in Florida with 20 percent of its U. S. business occurring in the 15 Florida-based stores.
“Miami is the perfect expression for the brand,” Pierrel adds. “It is colorful and happy and the perfect place to wear the casual, yet elegant, sportswear.”
As part of a five-year partnership, Lacoste will be the tournament’s exclusive tennis, casual apparel, and footwear outfitter. All linesmen, lineswomen, and ball kids will be wearing the iconic brand when they hit one of Crandon Park’s 10 courts.
In addition, a co-branded Miami Open apparel collection will be sold in two retail spaces on-site and in Lacoste boutiques, beginning in February. The on-site shops will be more of lifestyle stores than just sportswear shops, according to Pierrel.
“The stores will carry the entire sports line, as well as the best of the current collection,” he says. In addition, attendees of the Miami Open can purchase Lacoste handbags and fragrances from the L.12.12 piqué motif collection. The L.12.12 collection has interesting roots. Lacoste took the original code word for the petit pique polo, which was then called 1212, and named its new collection of casual handbags for women and fragrances for men.
The Miami Open is a perfect match for Lacoste, considering its founder was tennis champion René Lacoste, known as the “Crocodile.” Since then, tennis apparel has come a long way. In the 1920s, Lacoste wore what was then referred to as “tennis whites,” consisting of a white, long-sleeved, button-down shirt, long pants, and a tie.
But Lacoste was determined to create more comfortable apparel suited for play on a hot tennis court. According to Devanlay — the licensee for the Lacoste brand in the U.S. — in 1927, Lacoste had a batch of shirts made from a mesh material that absorbed perspiration and was well-suited to the action on a tennis court. The shirts had a collar, so they looked equally as tasteful and polished on the tennis court as they did under tennis blazers and sweaters.
The story of Lacoste’s crocodile logo began a few years earlier. According to Devanlay, it all began in 1925 in Boston. Rene Lacoste, in town with the French tennis team, stopped in front of a boutique where he saw an attractive suitcase made of crocodile skin. Lacoste said to Pierre Gillou, the team captain, “If I win the match, you must buy me this suitcase.” Apparently, a journalist learned of the bet. And although the French team did not win, the journalist reported the story, writing, “The young Lacoste has not won his crocodile skin suitcase, but he fought like a real crocodile.” Two years later in 1927, Lacoste’s friend and sportsman, Robert George, designed a logo of a crocodile with its mouth wide open, and Lacoste wore it conspicuously on his blazer. The idea behind the now-iconic logo was born.
The Lacoste Company remains true to its logo in more than just the fashion sense. In 2009, Lacoste became the first international brand to support the “Save Your Logo” campaign. This campaign — with help from the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature — aims to enlist major firms to help conserve the species used in their logos. For Lacoste, it was a certain species of crocodiles, alligators, and caimans (a type of lizard). In 2011, Lacoste launched its fourth “Save Your Logo” project. The focus centered on the ecological role played by crocodiles and alligators in the Florida Everglades.
Lacoste celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2008, and today the brand is just as elegant as it was in 1933. Back then, it was known for its white “petite piqué” cotton polo shirt, code-named “1212.” Today, Lacoste is more than a comfortable shirt to wear on the courts; it’s a lifestyle brand that includes a full line of clothes and accessories.
And, Lacoste has a famous past. In the 1950s and ‘60s, such dignitaries as John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower were seen wearing the shirts. In the 1970s and 1980s, the shirts became a symbol of the preppy set.
Lacoste has a great past and certain future because it is more than just a crocodile on a well-made shirt. CEO of Lacoste Holdings, Jose Luis Duran, once said, “It’s life, it’s movement, it’s joy, it’s optimism, it’s sport, and it’s fair play. It represents the lifestyle we all want to live.”