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Lacoste

The Green Crocodile

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Lacoste
Recognized by its green crocodile logo, Lacoste is a high-end apparel company founded in 1933 that sells high-end clothing, footwear, perfume, leather goods, watches, eyewear, and most famously tennis shirts.

History

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 color 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. 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 during the late 1970s and became the signature 1980s "preppy" wardrobe item. The company also began to introduce other products into their line including shorts, perfume, optical and sunglasses, tennis shoes, deck shoes, walking shoes, watches, and various leather goods.

Lacoste Enters America

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 license 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 apparel, 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 star Andy Roddick, French rising young prospect Richard Gasquet, and Swiss Olympic gold medalist Stanislas Wawrinka. Lacoste has also 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 many years, Michel Lacoste. Bernard died in Paris on March 21, 2006.

In Comes David Crystal

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 (David Crystal Co.) was saddled with debt from other business ventures. When attempts to separate Izod and Lacoste to create revenue did not 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, reigning in their branding arrangements. Currently Lacoste has once again returned to the elite status it held before a brand management crisis circa 1990.

Lacoste had a long standing dispute over the logo and clothing lines with Crocodile Garments. Crocodile Garments uses a crocodile logo that faces left while Lacoste uses one that faces right. The two fought for the logo rights in China, which was won by Crocodile Garments in 2003. Crocodile Garments in return agreed to change its logo to have a more vertical tail and more scales

Lacoste operates a large number of Lacoste boutiques worldwide; located as concessions in leading department stores and also as independent venue stores. In the United Kingdom, Lacoste is available from many 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 other independent retailers. In Canada, Lacoste is sold at Harry Rosen, its own boutiques, and other independent retailers. In Australia, it is sold at David Jones, and Myer.

As of June 2007, Lacoste's online presence allows Americans to purchase clothing and have items shipped directly to their doors. The online store offers sizes and options not found in brick and mortar stores, along with a large sale section. Lacoste sneakers have grown in popularity and competes with Polo shoes.

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