Of course you know Lacoste. Perhaps you own a crocodile polo — the L.12.12 in cotton piqué to be precise — and know something of its tennis heritage (and golf, too). You’ve seen the punchy collab- orations with Tyler the Creator, Keith Haring, Disney, Supreme, and others. But perhaps you didn’t know that the 87- year-old French apparel brand, head- quartered in Paris, turns over two billion euros annually, employs over 10,000 people of 40 nationalities based in over 120 countries, and produces not just apparel, but luxury ready-to-wear, accessories, homeware, sunglasses, under- wear, watches, collaborations, and performance apparel (for all the serious Lacoste athletes). It’s a serious operation.
Overseeing all of this, calmly and adroitly, is Louise Trotter. Since joining Lacoste in 2018 as the brand’s first female creative director, Trotter has carved a pathway as a designer with a knack for balancing fashion’s frisson and desira- bility with functionality. Her lengthy tenure at Joseph, and previously Gap, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger, laid the foun- dations. Born in Sunderland (halfwayup England’s blustery East coast), Trotter has a pragmatic approach and clear vision that has set the Lacoste brand on course.
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TMS: You’re Lacoste’s first female creative director, does that feel important to you?
LT: Yes, it does, and it’s become more important as I’ve come to realize the responsibility that comes with my role. I was raised to believe that women could be equal to men, but this is sadly not the reality for many women. The history of Lacoste centers around two very strong females: Simone Thion de La Chaume, René’s wife, and Suzanne Lenglen, his tennis partner. Both were strong, pioneering women who broke boundaries and rules. I hope that, with my values and through my work, I can continue to do justice to their legacy.
TMS: How has our current situation globally shaped the conversation you want to have as a designer?
LT: It’s interesting, because there are great societal challenges as well as shifting perspectives on how people want to live in this changing world. Specifically as a designer, I feel that people want clothes that inspire and express values that they feel are important to them; they must also perform and function in a way that gives confidence to the wearer who places health and wellness as a life priority, and clothes must be made to last, so that you buy less of them but keep them for longer.
LT: I have three children, all under 10. There was a bit of a running joke because, between the three children, I was breastfeeding for about eight years! It got to the point where I would just be sitting in meetings with the pump going berrrr, berrrr, berrrr and nobody would take any notice of me. That pump would be the soundtrack of my life! First of all, I’ve been in a very fortunate position where I’ve worked for companies who have been very supportive of my role not only as their creative director but as a mother. There are many women who are not in such a fortunate position and not able to do the things I was able to do. Also, I have the most incredible husband, who has also allowed me to continue with my career while pretty much raising our kids himself. Then, at the same time, you just get on with it and deal with it. There are times when I have to juggle and I try to do both, and other times when work has to take priority, and I don’t get guilty about that, and then times when I have to draw a line and say now is the time for my children. You make it work, there is no secret. At times, it’s not perfect but you do your best.
TMS: The Fall 2020 collection was shown in Paris in March, just as COVID-19 was taking hold in Europe. Since then, how has the virus affected the business and what decisions have been—building a diverse community with those that share Lacoste’s values of fair play, innovation, and elegance lies at the heart of everything we do, whilst influence may probably come from behaving with integrity and inspiring others to join your community.
TMS: Do you feel optimistic for the future?
LT: I feel optimistic when I speak to the younger generation, such as the young photographers that I work with, as they are so much more aware than I ever was at their age. It brings hope. The next generation are going to be ones to flip this, and this moment feels like the catalyst we need to kick us into something very, very different.
TMS: You are a working mother at the top of her game. How do you manage to balance all your responsibilities? made to protect the future of the brand?
LT: In the short term, we had to close almost every store globally and many of our factories stopped production.The rules of the game changed overnight and we recognized that we needed to change how we played and how we worked together as a team, despite the physical distancing. Business in the short term has been challenging, and to counter that, we are being cautious with our actions and making sure every output is meaningful. Longer-term, we remain confident in our strategic vision and, in a way, I believe COVID-19 has made us stronger and more united in our beliefs and purpose.
TMS: What do you think the future of the fashion show is?
LT: I think for now it’s not a priority. I am not saying fashion shows are dead—as I do believe nothing can replace that sense of connection and we need to dream—but until we can come together safely, I think we need to press the pause button.
TMS: Is sustainability an important part of your design process? Can you share some examples of how the brand functions, or changes you have implemented, that support this?
LT: We have no option but to embrace a more sustainable approach to how we live and work, so we are looking at the ways we produce and behave.We will not be the brand that makes false promises, so we are taking discrete and assured steps in the right direction. (Lacoste has signed the UN Global Compact.) We produce in large volumes, so finding a sustainable source at the right quality level takes time and careful consideration. With that said, our factory in France, an important part of our production, now uses sustainable yarns and manufacturing. In Spring ’21 we will launch a full sustainable capsule of new essentials, including a new sustainable polo. We also believe that our collections should be built to last, and with this in mind, we are working to increase the lifespan of our icons through technical innovation and studied design so that people can cherish them for longer.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY RETO SCHMID
STYLING BY EDEM DOSSOU
HAIR: JACOB KAJRUP
MAKEUP: AURORE GIBRIER
MODELS: MORIABY SAMASSI AND MARIAME OUATTARA
PRODUCTION: KIM NIGAY
PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT: PETER KAYSER
LOCATION: TENNIS ENERGY
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