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A New Vision for Lacoste: Felipe Oliveira Baptista

The iconic sportswear brand takes on the Portuguese designer as its new creative director

Felipe Oliveira Baptista is the new creative director for Lacoste. Born in Portugal in 1975, Baptista studied design and fashion design at Kingston University in London, and went on to design for Max Mara and Cerruti before founding his own label in 2003. Four months into his new gig (replacing Christophe Lemaire, who is now at the helm of Hermès), the Paris-based fashion designer sits down with Dazed Digital to talk about his visions for the famous sportswear brand...

Dazed Digital: Besides drumming up collections for your own namesake line Felipe Oliveira Baptista, you are now also heading up Lacoste. Stressed much? Tell me about your new life.
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
(Laughs). I have meetings all day, nonstop... And sometimes I have to fight with my PA’s: “Can you please do me one day without three million appointments, you know, I HAVE to design clothes” (laughs). Honestly, I’m not sleeping much. It’s pretty crazy, but it’s the beginning, so I need the time to learn.

DD: Do you feel it’s hard to switch between Lacoste and your own brand?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
No, I’ve always been working on the side, it’s just time that is really precious. But it’s a nice exercise to go from black to white. Actually, when I was picked for Lacoste, they thought I was interesting because I have my own label and it’s something creative and different.

DD: So what are your visions for Lacoste?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
I really want to make the brand more real and urban. Lacoste is all about color and up to now it’s almost like every season we did all the colors in the world. My idea is to create stories around color, create novelty and use color in a more subtle way to make it more realistic. That approach is quite different. I’ve also been working a lot on the evolution of fabrics, much softer, much more comfortable...

DD: Are there typical stylistic references you want to maintain or get rid of?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
There are a lot of things I like about the brand: the sportswear, the easiness, the chicness and the relaxed [attitude]. I think, not that they were lost, but Lacoste was almost too much in a retrospective image of just tennis and 1930s. The codes of the brand are so strong. My idea is to give them maximum coherence and to work around them. I really want to give the brand a stronger reference as an everyday casual easy-wearing brand with an urban edge.

DD: Who is the typical Lacoste client you’re aiming for?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
That’s the thing that is great about Lacoste. The polo for example, which is the number one iconic piece, you see it everywhere on everyone, from the young to the old to the rich to the poor to the stylish to the less stylish to the fashion-conscious. I think that kind of democratic dimension of the brand is very appealing. It’s not much about status or anything. It’s just a lifestyle that can appeal to a lot of people and I’m really working on that direction as well.

DD: How will your work for Lacoste compare to your own brand’s aesthetic?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
They’re actually very different worlds. Lacoste is like a global sportswear democracy, me, my own brand, I’m a very niche product. But there are some common elements, for example I love sportswear and the idea of comfort as well, and I love to work with color and graphics... There are definitely things that I will work on in the two - even if my version of a parka for my own label is going to be totally different than for Lacoste. It’s a different language, but there are going to be some bridges.

DD: Your first show for Lacoste is scheduled for September. Is there a possibility that Lacoste will start showing in Paris too?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
It’s something I’m really starting to speak about. But for the time being it is New York.