Lacoste (French pronunciation: [laˈkɔst]) is a French clothing company. It was founded in 1933 by tennis player René Lacoste and André Gillier that sells high-end clothing, footwear, perfume, leather goods, watches, eyewear, and most famously polo shirts. In recent years, Lacoste has introduced a home line of sheeting and towels. The company can be recognised by its green crocodile logo. René Lacoste, the company's founder, was nicknamed "the Crocodile" by fans because of his tenacity on the tennis court. In November 2012 Lacoste was bought by Swiss family-held group Maus Frères.
René Lacoste founded La Chemise Lacoste in 1933 with André Gillier, the owner and president of the largest French knitwear manufacturing firm at the time. They began to produce the revolutionary tennis shirt Lacoste had designed and worn on the tennis courts with the crocodile logo embroidered on the chest. Although the company claims this as the first example of a brand name appearing on the outside of an article of clothing, the "Jantzen girl" logo appeared on the outside of Jantzen Knitting Mills' swimsuits as early as 1921. In addition to tennis shirts, Lacoste produced shirts for golf and sailing. In 1951, the company began to expand as it branched from "tennis white" and introduced colour shirts. In 1952, the shirts were exported to the United States and advertised as "the status symbol of the competent sportsman," influencing the clothing choices of the upper-class. Lacoste was sold at Brooks Brothers until the late 1960s. It is still one of the most popular brands in the United States, sporting the "preppy wardrobe". In 1963, Bernard Lacoste took over the management of the company from his father René. Significant company growth was seen under Bernard's management. When he became president, around 300,000 Lacoste products were sold annually. The Lacoste brand reached its height of popularity in the US throughout the late 1970s and became the signature 1980s "preppy" wardrobe item, even getting mentioned in Lisa Birnbach's Official Preppy Handbook of 1980. The company additionally began to introduce additional products into their line including shorts, perfume, optical and sunglasses, tennis shoes, deck shoes, walking shoes, watches, and various leather goods.
In the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, Izod and Lacoste were often used interchangeably because starting in the 1950s, Izod produced clothing known as Izod Lacoste under licence for sale in the U.S. This partnership ended in 1993 when Lacoste regained exclusive U.S. rights to distribute shirts under its own brand. In 1977, Le Tigre Clothing was founded in an attempt to directly compete with Lacoste in the US market, selling a similar array of clothing, but featuring a tiger in place of the signature Lacoste crocodile.
More recently, Lacoste's popularity has surged due to French designer Christophe Lemaire’s work to create a more modern, upscale look. In 2005, almost 50 million Lacoste products sold in over 110 countries. Its visibility has increased due to the contracts between Lacoste and several young tennis players, including American tennis stars Andy Roddick and John Isner, French veteran Richard Gasquet, and Swiss Olympic gold medalist Stanislas Wawrinka. Lacoste has additionally begun to increase its presence in the golf world, where noted two time Masters Tournament champion José María Olazábal and Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie have been seen sporting Lacoste shirts in tournaments.
Bernard Lacoste became seriously ill in early 2005, which led him to transfer the presidency of Lacoste to his younger brother and closest collaborator for a large number of years, Michel Lacoste. Bernard died in Paris on March 21, 2006.
Lacoste licences its trademark to various companies. Until recently, Devanlay owned the exclusive worldwide clothing license, though today Lacoste Polo Shirts are additionally manufactured under licence in Thailand by ICC and additionally in China. Pentland Group has the exclusive worldwide licence to produce Lacoste footwear, Procter & Gamble owns the exclusive worldwide licence to produce fragrance, and CEMALAC holds the licence to produce Lacoste bags and small leather goods.
In June 2007, Lacoste introduced their quite first e-commerce site for the U.S. market.
In 2009, Hayden Christensen became the face of the Challenge fragrance for men.
In September 2010, Christophe Lemaire stepped down and Felipe Oliveira Baptista succeeded him as the creative manager of Lacoste.
René Lacoste Foundation is a community programme developed to help children be able to play sports in school.
In March 2016, the company opened a new flagship store on Fashion Street, Budapest.
In the early '50s, Bernard Lacoste teamed up with David Crystal, who at the time owned Izod, to produce Izod Lacoste clothing. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was extremely popular with teenagers who called the shirts simply Izod. While the union was both profitable and popular, Izod Lacoste's parent company (Crystal Brands, Inc.) was saddled with debt from additional business ventures. When attempts to separate Izod and Lacoste to create revenue didn't alleviate the debt, Crystal sold his half of Lacoste back to the French and Izod was sold to Van Heusen.
However, starting in 2000, with the hiring of a new fashion designer Christophe Lemaire, Lacoste began to take over control of its brand name and logo, reining in their branding arrangements. Currently Lacoste has once again returned to the elite status it held before a brand management crisis circa 1990.
Lacoste was involved in a long-standing dispute over its logo with Hong Kong-based sportswear company Crocodile Garments. At the time, Lacoste used a crocodile logo that faced right (registered in France in 1933) while Crocodile used one that faced left (registered in various Asian countries in the 1940s and 1950s). Lacoste tried to block an application from Crocodile to register its logo in China throughout the 1990s, the dispute ending in a settlement. As part of the agreement, Crocodile agreed to change its logo, which now sports scalier skin, bigger eyes and a tail that rises vertically.
Retailers of the brand
Lacoste operates a large number of Lacoste boutiques worldwide; located as concessions in leading department stores and additionally as independent venue stores. In the United Kingdom, Lacoste is available from a large number of leading high-end shops including KJ Beckett and John Lewis Partnership. Likewise in the United States, the Lacoste brand can be found in stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Belk, Halls, and additional independent retailers. In Canada, Lacoste is sold at Harry Rosen, Hudson's Bay (retailer), its own boutiques, and additional independent retailers. In Australia, it is sold at David Jones, and Myer.
Legal dispute with Crocodile
Lacoste had a long-standing dispute over the logo and clothing lines with Crocodile. Crocodile uses a crocodile logo that faces left while Lacoste uses one that faces right. The two fought for the logo rights in China, but eventually reached a compromise with Crocodile agreeing to change its logo to have a more vertical tail and more scales for its logo.
In July 2011, Lacoste, along with additional major fashion and sportswear brands including Nike, Adidas and Abercrombie & Fitch, was the subject of Dirty Laundry, a report by the environmental group Greenpeace. According to the findings of the report, Lacoste was accused of working with suppliers in China which contribute to the pollution of the Yangtze and Pearl Rivers. Samples taken from one facility belonging to the Youngor Group located on the Yangtze River Delta and another belonging to the Well Dyeing Factory Ltd. located on a tributary of the Pearl River Delta revealed the presence of hazardous and persistent hormone disruptor chemicals, including alkylphenols, perfluorinated compounds and perfluorooctane sulfonate.
Censorship of Palestinian art
In December 2011 Lacoste was accused of censoring the work of Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour. Sansour had initially been included on a shortlist of eight nominees for the prestigious Lacoste Élysée prize – a competition which had been organised by the Musée de l'Élysée in Lausanne, Switzerland, with Lacoste's sponsorship. Sansour's entry into the competition was entitled "Nation Estate", which involved a series of "dystopic sci-fi images based on Palestine's admission to UNESCO". In this work Sansour imagines the state contained within a single skyscraper, with each floor representing a replica of "lost cities" including Jerusalem, Ramallah and Sansour's own hometown of Bethlehem.
A month before the selection jury was to meet to choose the winner, however, the Musée de l'Élysée informed Sansour that Lacoste had changed its mind about including her work in the competition and asked the Museum to remove her as a nominee citing her work to be "too pro-Palestinian". Sansour soon went public with her storey and within 48 hours the Musée de l'Élysée came out in her support announcing, in a press release, that it had decided to suspend its relationship with Lacoste as a sponsor of this prize due to its insistence on excluding Sansour from the competition. The museum emphasised that its decision to end the competition was in line with the organization's 25 years of commitment to artistic freedom.
Lacoste's attempt to censor Sansour's work led to widespread international negative media reports on the company's actions and renewed discussions on the role of private sector companies in art sponsorships.