Lacoste's Iconic Alligator Makes Way For the Sumatran Tiger, Javan Rhino, And More
Considering the glut of slogan T-shirts on the market that declare allegiance to a cause but don’t actually do anything to support it, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little cynical about the idea of “activist” fashion. (I know I do.) But today in Paris, Lacoste showed that there’s a way to do it that’s both stylish and helpful.
In a cavernous space inside the Lycée Carnot (a functioning school currently empty for annual holidays), the French brand unveiled a series of polo shirts that replace the iconic Lacoste crocodile with some of the most threatened species in the world. The limited-edition run of shirts is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “SOS – Save Our Species” program, and features animals ranging from the vaquita (possibly less than 30 left) to the Anegada ground iguana, of which about 450 remain. The polos are available now in extremely small runs that mirror the current population of the animal adorning the chest, with proceeds going to help further the IUCN’s mission of worldwide wildlife conservation.
“This concept came about and was actually originally programmed for 2019. I said, ‘Guys, this is too important and too urgent [to wait].’ So I tried to push everyone to do it this year,” Lacoste creative director Felipe Oliveira Baptista said backstage after the show. “It’s my little scale, but if I can do something and the brand can do something to shine a light on some things and think of the environment, sustainability and get us all thinking… Fashion has always been a great vehicle for messages. And in digital times, it’s going to be even more. There’s some power being taken there.”
Baptista is realistic about how things function at a company the size of Lacoste, noting that the whole endeavor was one that had to be developed and approved by a large group. But he sees a chance for individual action once this sort of program is in place. “I hope, in the future, when people buy, they can do something else as well with that act, it might help things.”
The naturalistic theme continued throughout the show, which was inspired by a little-known story about René Lacoste and his wife, Simone Thion de la Chaume, from the beginning of World War II. The couple helped save a number of locals in Saint-Jean-de-Luz from mandatory work in Germany by planting scores of trees on the grounds of the Chantaco golf course because forestry workers were spared from conscription. Drawing from this moment in the founder’s personal history, Baptista included everything from luxe jacquards modeled on leaves and trees to golf imagery drawn from the Lacoste archives. (The runway was, naturally, built out to recall a golf course.)
And then there were the baggy trousers. “I looked at the heritage of golf, and for me, it was ‘What is timeless today?’ Baptista says. “So I had all the 1930s pieces from the golf course. And then again, I loved the ‘80s and ‘90s at Lacoste when it was very sporty and street.” The trousers, especially, encapsulated this attitude. Depending on whether they were done in wide-wale corduroy or washed-out denim, they could easily look at home in either environment. That versatility also speaks to another key aspect of Baptista’s vision for the fall/winter 2018 collection: the evolution of the way a modern man dresses.
“For me it’s this mixture of high and low, and even to bring down these barriers,” he says. To wit, a series of pieces with modular features like removable sleeves and coats that split in half. On the more familiar side, there were reversible jackets, technical fabrics, hidden hoods—the kind of features that a guy keep going all day without reaching for a change of clothes. That mix of versatility and the reimagining of the strictures of fashion is something that Baptista wants to keep exploring, pointing towards an ever-more-interesting future for a heritage brand like Lacoste. “Hopefully in the future, dressing up, it’s not such a sartorial presentation. Things are much more relaxed and fluid now in terms of the codes of what you wear to work or on the weekend. To me, it’s breaking down these codes and pushing things forward.”
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.