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Lacoste to Push Fashion Over Athleticwear

Say goodbye to the tennis brand you once knew.

Although Lacoste has been showing a ready-to-wear collection for men and women at New York Fashion Week for years, it's still largely known as a purveyor of athleticwear and polo shirts for the tennis and golf set. But that's about to change, at least within the French brand's retail locations.

CEO José Luis Duran tells WWD that the company plans to make a big push towards being perceived as a fashion company, with athleticwear taking a back seat to ready-to-wear. “You will see no sports line and no Lacoste Live in most of our stand-alone stores, unless it’s a big location, such as our Champs-Élysées unit," Duran tells WWD. "Brand positioning is really my number-one priority, and the idea is to make Lacoste more premium.”

The brand is revamping its stores around this new image, and plans to open 60 more stores in 2015 in China, Russia, France and the U.S., while also closing about 40.

Lacoste first joined the fashion conversation in 2001, when it appointed Christophe Lemaire as creative director. During his 10 years there, Lemaire breathed new life into the brand, and in 2010 (after Lemaire decamped for Hermes), Felipe Oliveira Baptista continued to build on what Lemaire started. His collections for the brand are at once chic, stylish and sexy, with enough sporting references to keep the clothes feeling very Lacoste.

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The news leaves us with a couple of questions: For one, Lacoste has a big wholesale business -- will its new assortment be represented at other retailers as well? Second, we wonder what else Lacoste will do to market this new image makeover. More fashion-y ad campaigns? Celebrity dressing? It may not be enough to simply highlight the product in stores -- Lacoste will have to make people want it. (A rep for Lacoste did not immediately respond to our requests for further information.)

This is definitely one brand we'll be keeping our eye on in 2015.