Flagging up the Olympic Games does not seem so original for fashion. Been there, done that. And the story is especially true of Lacoste, whose sporty spirit and emblematic crocodile has frequently been part of the French Olympic team, as it will for the Parade of Nations in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August 2016.
But Lacoste’s creative director Felipe Oliveira Baptista sprung a surprise: his spring/summer 2016 collection was not only focused on sportswear — even after the two off-duty American airmen and US student, who saved a French train from a terrorist attack, showed up at the Elysée Palace to collect their Legion d’Honneurs wearing the kind of cotton polo shirts that René Lacoste invented in 1926.
“It was about flags and military uniforms, very strict and clear — and then mixing them all together,” the designer said backstage, explaining the effect and its purpose: to trace the sporty body with tension stretch bands, as used by gymnasts in the 1980s; and to produce ergonomic garments whose functional value leads over fashion.
The highlights of the Lacoste show were the graphic flag patterns, turned into a kind of artistic camouflage to dramatic effect.
Did it all work aesthetically? Yes for the men, when geometric lines in primary colours were set against white shorts and snowy sneakers. Less so for the women, where Baptista’s enthusiasm for bra tops made for a mash-up of geometric lines and body curves. The female effects, with sharp cutaways, were not as convincing as the sportswear, compared to the male equivalent where there was more tailoring. Where Lacoste scored was in intriguing fabrics, as in the silvered trouser outfits that looked practical rather than Space Age.
Not quite a Gold Medal winner, but a fine Silver is a neat metaphor for this powerful collection, which finished with America’s Stars and Stripes among the other national flags.