NEW YORK — Venerable fashion houses often look to new designers to shake things up and garner some buzz for a faded name. Just this season, Brooks Brothers snared Zac Posen to design its women's line, Banana Republic tapped edgy designer Timo Weiland to create a capsule collection and DKNY picked the hot Public School duo of Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne to breathe new life into the brand.
But no one has done a better job of creating excitement at a once-stodgy label than Lacoste's Felipe Oliveira Baptista.
Since taking over as creative director in 2010 after Christophe Lemaire decamped for Hermès, Baptista has reinvented Lacoste as a hip lifestyle label while remaining true to its sportswear roots. The spring 2016 collection, unveiled at New York Fashion Week amid a runway canopy of white nylon straps and silver buckles, has a sporty theme with a crisp urban style.
Baptista has clearly got the Olympic spirit since Lacoste is outfitting the French delegation at next summer's games in Rio de Janeiro a few months after this collection hits stores. He sent out male and female models in sporty track pants and jackets in a jumble of national banners, with elements of the South African, French, U.S., Japanese and Russian flags. Oversized ponchos, coats and bomber jackets in abstract prints and camouflage patterns also emulate the idea of flag-draped athletes.
For a more urban attitude, Baptista features a flowing green satin gown that looks like it wandered over from the Ralph Lauren Collection, sexy body-hugging dresses with cutouts at the waist and a form-fitting jump suit with a plunging deep V-neckline that has to be one of the sexiest looks on the fashion week runway. Other eyecatchers include suits made from silver metallic or bright red fabric, safari dresses of parachute nylon and a windbreaker that can be worn as a cape with shoulder straps.
The collection is sprinkled with a few polo shirts in colorful broken flag patterns and the legendary crocodile insignia appears here and there. But Baptista proves that Lacoste no longer has to rely on the old standards for success.