The Lacoste brand is most famous for its polo shirts and sports wear developed by the tennis champion and founder of the company, René Lacoste.
It has been around since 1933 and these days carries just as much cudos on the streets as it does on tennis courts, golf courses and polo fields.
Design Director Christophe Pillet is responsible for ensuring the essence of the Lacoste brand is consistent across each and ever item the company releases. mivision spoke to him about the essential role he plays in keeping the brand alive… and about the development of Lacoste Eyewear.
Lacoste is renowned for its ‘snappy’ crocodile logo that came about as the result of a bet made between René Lacoste and the captain of the French Davis Cup Team back in 1923… The captain promised to buy him a suitcase made from alligator skin if he won a very important match for the team.
When you design eyewear, you are framing someone’s face, so you always have to keep that in mind… you have to concern yourself not with expressing a style but instead an attitude” Lacoste 113S 105 Lacoste Magnetics
From that point René Lacoste was referred to by competitors as the ‘Crocodile’. An opportunist and true innovator, he took a hold of that term and launched a brand of revolutionary men’s tennis sportswear.
He went on to design men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, fragrances, fashion jewellery, leather goods, watches, belts, home textiles, mobile phones and of course, eyewear.
Last year 47 million items were sold under the Lacoste brand, representing a total wholesale turnover of €1.3 billion (approx. AUD $1.75 billion) across 112 countries, through a network of 1,112 Lacoste boutiques, department stores, sports shops, specialised retailers and more than 2,000 clothing corners.
It’s an enormous success story for René Lacoste and his family, and one that has come about through strict adherence to the simple but strong design elements which have become inherent to the brand – sport styling, stripes and piping, the petite pique derived from the original polo shirts, two tone colour combinations – or colour blocking – and of course, the metal croc.
The fascinating question is, how have these elements, so simple, striking and elegant, maintained their appeal over the past 80 years… and how have these been extended so seamlessly into eyewear?
As the Design Director of the Lacoste brand, its Christophe Pillet’s responsibility to oversee all the product categories and ensure a consistent and coherent visual message is achieved throughout the collections.
Q: When and why was eyewear introduced to the Lacoste range?
Lacoste introduced eyewear in 1980 with the 101 style, which we felt, was a natural fit off the courts for ‘crocodile’ lovers and tennis players. Starting with the Spring/ Summer 2011 season, the brand teamed up with industry leader Marchon as its eyewear partner.
Q: How many people work on the eyewear design team at Lacoste?
We have two designers who are dedicated to eyewear design.They work closely with Felipe Oliveira Baptista, our creative director for clothing and leathergoods, as well as me, Christophe Pillet, design director of the brand.
Q: Where do you seek your inspiration for new shapes, colours and materials for use in the Lacoste eyewear collection?
All inspiration for Lacoste eyewear incorporates the history of the brand along with new twists and trends distinctive to the industry. The identity of the brand is maintained all throughout the collection making it truly unique.
Q: How do you combine these new trends with the design principles from the clothing etc through to the eyewear range?
For eyewear, we really do not follow trends and instead create characters. When you design eyewear, you are framing someone’s face, so you always have to keep that in mind… you have to concern yourself not with expressing a style but instead an attitude.
Q: What is coming through for Lacoste in the new season – in terms of shapes, colours and style?
This new season we will be adding new vibrant colour combinations to the collection especially in the new colour range styles. In addition we will be complementing
the existing collection with fresh looks and shapes to accommodate the preferences of every Lacoste fan ranging from aviator shapes to pique styles.
Q: Do you differentiate the styles for different countries?
We respond to the needs of each market in order to satisfy local preferences and requirements. For example in Asia we have specifically shaped frames to cater to local needs.
Q: Can you tell me about the sports frames – how do the magnetic clips work?
The magnet frames have extendable temples that can be pulled out and fastened around the head with magnetic clips. This is a great, versatile frame for the active sportsman. It is not gimmicky at all and is very functional.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about designing eyewear?
The challenge of having only a few milimeters of surface area to design with makes eyewear very enjoyable. On top of that you are not really designing a product but a ‘face’, so that always has to inform your design process.