Thursday January 17, 2013
Meet Lacoste's Felipe Oliveira Baptista
By S.S. YOGA
An iconic French brand digs deep into its archives for Spring/Summer.
ENTHUSIASTIC response greeted Lacoste when it showed its Spring/Summer 2013 collection during the New York Fashion Week last September.
After the showcase – held at the Lincoln Center – the man of the hour was undoubtedly Felipe Oliveira Baptista. The brand’s creative director was responsible for the cool creations displayed on the catwalk.
To meet Baptista, a select group of media – with this reporter being the sole representative from Malaysia – was ushered backstage. There was the man himself receiving congratulations from various parties for the successful showing.
Baptista had succeeded Christophe Lemaire two years ago at Lacoste and the designer quickly infused new blood into the venerable French label. For the uninitiated, Lacoste was founded by Rene Lacoste in 1933.
Portuguese couturier Baptista first drew attention when he won at the prestigious Hyères festival, as well as Andam fashion awards which led to his own label in 2003.
Baptista, who turns 38 this year, is known for his androgynous designs and his couture work. So it seems discordant with Lacoste which is more of a sportswear-inclined brand. In previous interviews, he noted his approach was to observe and study functional clothing.
Baptista’s previous collection for Fall referenced Lacoste’s kit for the French national ski team in 1966.
Since this year marks the 80th anniversary of Lacoste, presumably there would be more relooks into some of their design archives.
“Clearly, we are (doing that) and have to reference the classics to commemorate our important year but I want to do it in a different way. One of the ways was by using and integrating different prints that highlight the brand’s association with its DNA. You might see some abstract prints at first but when you get closer than it becomes all clear,” enthused the youthful Baptista.
While we waited in line to meet Baptista, models were undressing, clothes were re-packed and one by one, the racks of clothes were moved out. The energy was still palpable and everyone seemed pleased with how the collection was received.
There was quite a number of media – from broadcast, print and online – who had to queue up to get their few minutes worth of one-on-one questioning. Unfortunately, I was one of the last and Baptista looked visibly tired.
Thankfully when I greeted him in Portuguese (my vocabulary was extremely limited) he perked up somewhat, happy to hear his native tongue.
“My main goal is to keep the brand relevant for today and tomorrow. I believe in a strong brand that is dynamic, which is smart and wearable,” proclaimed Baptista.
He noted that the challenge is “developing the women’s range to create a ‘real transversal wardrobe that mixes urban style, luxury and casual wear’.”
“It’s always been about classicism at Lacoste and my role is to project that idea into the future. It’s a very fine line because I don’t think that classic necessarily means conservative.”
In regard to the prints, Baptista fashioned the brand’s association with tennis to come up with tennis balls, racquets and courts. Of course, there’s the iconic crocodile and even a print of the polo tee. Arranged in a quasi kinetic pattern, they gave the illusion of plain all-over prints.
He used these prints in good measure for both the men’s and the women’s collection, both of which were on show.
The prints kind of worked in general, especially for the women’s designs but for the men, one of the prints came across as too tribal and grungy.
But you can see that Baptista’s own interests play a part in his design process. He pointed out that he was fascinated by photograph and film long before discovering fashion.
“I use lots of words and photographs, the basis of my inspiration. I use my own photographs to stimulate my imagination. I like the random and intuitive side of every single moment.”
Baptista’s own DNA runs to a preference for colour-blocking. He felt that graphic designs and flashy, luminous colours were the reasons Lacoste chose him in the first place.
He applies asymmetrical colour blocks to oversized T-shirts and also onto jersey dresses. With the flowing lines, comes an 80s icon, the jogging suit. Add to that mix the fanny pack which makes an appearance under printed shirts and matching pants.
Baptista also mentioned the use of PVC and embossed leather. You see that in the women’s collection with crocodile-embossed white nappa leather laminated onto jersey. And PVC was also referenced to founder René’s tradition of developing techno-sport fabrics, in this case a PVC raincoat with seams that are welded instead of stitched.
The collection offers a rich chromatic palette which, rooted in pure white, moves on to assimilate pearly greys, pale yellows and light blues. Contrasts are high, brought on by navy, red, electric blue and dark orange that are mixed with the lighter tones of the collection.
As for accessories, the highlights are the Cathy bag, inspired by Catherine Lacoste’s golf bag, which is remodelled into a more functional tote. Meanwhile, the men’s sneakers, with their iconic 80s style, place the brand somewhere between sportswear and streetwear.
Baptista, who is heterosexual, certainly livens up the world of fashion. And despite the occasional surprised looks, Baptista aims to rock the scene for quite a while.
“People looked at me weirdly in the beginning, especially when I introduced my wife. I think it is because there is such a prejudice, that boys just don’t consider fashion studies as an option,” he concluded.
The collection is available at all Lacoste stores. Prices for the runway collection is from RM499 to RM2,199 while the ready-to-wear goes from RM169 to RM1,599.