Lacoste to launch Olympic Heritage collection after exclusive licence deal with IOC
On Monday, French sports label Lacoste and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, as the venue for announcing the launch of the Olympic Heritage apparel and lifestyle accessories collection, part of the three-year exclusive licence agreement signed by the two parties. Lacoste outfitted the French athletes at the 2014 Olympic Games, and with this deal it forges closer links with the Olympic world. Talking to FashionNetwork.com, Lacoste’s President Thierry Guibert explained the background to the deal, and the distribution challenges faced by Lacoste, as well as the group’s current plans for the Gant and Aigle brands.
FashionNetwork.com: What was the genesis of the project leading to this exclusive licence agreement for the Olympic Heritage collection with the IOC?
Thierry Guibert: We met after the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. The IOC management appreciated the elegance of the outfits we created for the French athletes, and they came to us with this proposal. It’s a great opportunity, also because it wasn’t initially clear whether the IOC would let us use the five rings logo and the rest of the Games’ iconography. Then negotiations began, and we started working on the collections based on a brief we received in September. It was quite a challenge, as the IOC is very demanding, especially in relation to the use of the rings and the Games’ other signature graphic elements.
FNW: Why did Lacoste enter into this agreement?
TG: Of course, it isn’t just a ‘coup’ for us. It’s an agreement which is a natural fit with our strategy. The Olympic movement shares the same values upheld by René Lacoste: humility, dedication and a willingness to strive. The Olympic Heritage collection will enable us to reach a broad target with a premium positioning: young urban and non-urban consumers, people in their forties and fifties and all those who love Lacoste and are interested in sport. Since our collaboration with Supreme, our popularity with young people is on the rise again. They are an important target segment for our brand, but not the only one. Young people are looking for authentic products, and want to be able to identify with them. The first collection is themed around the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. They were marked by epic sporting performances and other powerful moments, such as when US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists on the podium, a tribute to the Black Panthers movement and the fight to defend the rights of African Americans. The next summer collection will be launched in 2019 and will reference the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Olympic Games are part of the collective memory and can have a strong appeal, on younger people too.
FNW: Will you promote the Olympic Heritage collection with a dedicated ad campaign?
TG: We will start with the spin-off from today’s official international launch in Lausanne. Then we will advertise [the collection] with a campaign starting in mid-July, when distribution will begin in about ten countries.
FNW: You said that Lacoste is taking direct control of its international distribution. What will the next step be?
TG: At the start of the year we took control of our distribution in Spain and Latin America. It was simply a matter of common sense, as we needed to streamline our operations. Spain was the country in which we first did this. On the other hand, in countries or regions like, for example, Thailand or the Middle East, we don’t need to modify the existing agreements, as we are happy about them. It’s something that isn’t always self-evident, depending on the specificities of certain markets. Our mainstays are the quality of our products, of the range in general, of our distribution and our service levels, as well as being able to control brand promotion.
FNW: Last week, Gant [owned by Lacoste’s parent company] announced the arrival of a new CEO. Why did you make this change?
TG: Gant is a label with great potential, but we think it is still underexploited. Though it’s worth remembering that, when it was bought by Lacoste’s parent company Maus Frères SA in 2008, it was just a holding company. The group had no control on production. We therefore had to restructure Gant’s organisation and take control of key positions. We have now taken over Gant’s distribution in Germany, the label’s main market, after doing the same in Benelux and the Netherlands. The appointment of Brian Grevy comes at a time when the label needs to accelerate its expansion. We must work extensively on Gant’s brand identity and DNA, on its signature products, like shirts for example, and we must also reference its roots, the yearning for freedom and the carefree spirit of the 1960s. We must make Gant’s range and distribution network more coherent. It’s our mission for the next four to five years.
FNW: And what about Aigle, another brand owned by Maus Frères SA?
TG: We are satisfied with Aigle’s latest results. The breath of fresh air we brought to its traditional markets is having a positive effect. For a long time Aigle was associated with wellington boots and hunting, but things are changing. Consumers have caught on with the brand’s new hiking and travel positioning. Though it’s a recent move, it’s actually a return to Aigle’s origins. But updating Aigle’s brand image is something that will take time. It’s interesting to note that, in Asia, the brand is regarded as new and aspirational. It doesn’t have the same image it has on its traditional markets. Boots sales are doing well and, in terms of Aigle’s global revenue, it topped the €200 million mark in 2017.
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