Lacoste Teamed Up With Jean-Paul Goude For Its 2016 Holiday Collector Edition

LACOSTE gave Jean-Paul Goude carte blanche to not only design the logo on limited-edition polo shirts, bomber jackets, and bags, but also its packagings and ad campaigns for Christmas.

BY EDITORS | Nov 14, 2016 | Fashion

For its annual “Holiday Collector” edition, LACOSTE takes us on an unusual journey, an idea that came about after Felipe Oliveira Baptista, the house’s creative director, met Jean-Paul Goude.

As a “graphic artist”—that’s what he likes to term himself—Goude left his indelible mark on the 80s and 90s through his work with his muse Grace Jones and the various TV spots he did for brands such as Chanel, Perrier and the Galeries Lafayette.

This time, Goude reinvented the iconic LACOSTE crocodile to reflect and showcase the imaginary Africa of his childhood, his love of dance and an infatuation with the Bauhaus. The result: two dressed-up and sophisticated saurians embroidered on items of the capsule collection comprised on men’s, women’s and children’s polo shirts, as well as a tote bag, a clutch and a limited edition bomber jacket.

How did the LACOSTE by Jean-Paul Goude project come about?
Felipe Oliveira Baptista:
I admire Jean-Paul’s work and I knew he esteemed LACOSTE and was ready to do something with us, in his main field of activity, which is communication. But we had this “LACOSTE collector” project, which gives carte blanche to designers and artists, so I seized the opportunity. This project looked rather well suited to his strong universe.

Jean-Paul Goude: Felipe came to visit one day and there was a moment of grace. We were happy to meet. It happened very simply, almost as if he had told me: “We are playing tennis this afternoon. Wanna join us?”

A carte blanche to an artist does not normally lead to such a spectacle.
With time, the project grew bigger and bigger, until we decided to do a mini-performance. For this project, Felipe would be Diaghilev, LACOSTE would be the Ballets Russes and I would be Tamara Karsavina, no less.

FOB:The great thing with Jean-Paul is that he immediately took a very personal route. He was already bonding with the crocodile. This collaboration ends with a campaign, which is exactly where Jean-Paul wanted to start.

JPG: Everything happened spontaneously.

Did you give Jean-Paul Goude precise instructions?
It was not a commission. It was an invitation, a real carte blanche. It was Jean-Paul who was to express his vision, to make decisions, and give his interpretation of the crocodile. I didn’t say: “I want it to look typically Jean-Paul in this or that way”. It was all pretty organic. My role was to choose someone I admire, whose work I find interesting, and whom I could help express his vision. I was personally involved, almost to support this expression. There was no brief. These cartes blanches are little windows of freedom.

Was it easy to reinterpret the LACOSTE logo?
I didn’t know what to do...crocodiles are sort of funny... What if we dressed up as crocodiles? That is better suited to my aesthetic. We would craft them in paper, very simply. It would have to look effortless. That is real elegance! I had no idea how difficult making simple things could be. To make the process agreeable, I added in some personal themes, as I often do in my work.

For you, the crocodile is the “Bad Boy” of the jungle, away from the discreet sportswear image of the brand.
When I was a child, the LACOSTE crocodile was already very famous. He was not alone: There was also the Michelin Man, the Laughing Cow, and I was going to say the Kodakettes, but they came much later!
In the first sketches I showed Felipe during our first meetings, I always added in writing “The crocodile is man’s best friend”. But in the collective unconscious, the crocodile is generally seen like this [ He shows a sketch. Out of the crocodile’s closed mouth comes a pair of legs that the animal is trying to swallow alive ]. I was never to refer to this kind of imagery, although the brand itself has already done in the past. There are photographs showing René Lacoste at home in his living room, holding a dangerous stuffed crocodile with a leash.

FOB: The brand must allow itself to take liberties with its logo and what it stands for. Taking the crocodile to Africa, which means to a different geographical area, sets the brand in motion.

JPG: The fact that the logo is discreetly worn by LACOSTE fans, does not mean we shouldn’t tell a story that has nothing to do with discretion. “Crocodile” was the nickname given by an American journalist to René Lacoste, in the 30s, as a reference to his tenacity on the courts. He would never let go of its prey.

What will the crocodile ballet be about?
A wedding dance between two extremely sophisticated saurians. A ballet of automata, a bit like the one I showed during my exhibition at the 21_21 museum in Tokyo in 2014. I have always loved dance. Whenever an opportunity arises, the choreographer in me awakens and tries to mount a ballet. The Bicentennial parade was nothing else but that. I have done the same thing forever. I dance and I draw pictures. That is all I can do.

What about the costumes?
So... for ladies, we have this wedding dress in folded origami paper, optical fibre and corrugated fibreboard, and for gentlemen, there is the same thing, plus a penile sheath, also in folded paper. The cotton embroideries on the polo shirts illustrate the costumed characters.

So everything always starts with drawings?
Yes, because I am primarily a graphic artist like they say, a “photographic designer”, just to remind that photography is also graphic design.

Is it also about animation?
Yes. Once the drawing is done, all animations are possible, provided of course you master them. TV spots, social networks, etc...

What do the mask and pointed hat worn by your characters stand for?
These are recurring elements in my work. The Bauhaus is one of my favourite references, especially Oscar Schlemmer and his “triadic ballet”. My own ballet has more to do with an oversized music box whose costumed characters glide while turning on themselves, like at a fashion show.

What about the music?
It is purely rhythmic. A kind of incantation. It is about reviving the ghosts of the Palais de la Porte Dorée and making them come back for a night. That is the underlying idea behind the project.

The Vincennes Zoo holds a great place in your imagination.
Yes, and for the same reasons that I am fascinated with the Palais de la Porte Dorée. With its gigantic concrete rock, the Vincennes Zoo was so close to where we lived with my parents that when it was hot during summer, we could smell the scent of stable litter from miles away. At night, like in a fairytale Africa, under shining stars, you could hear wild beasts roar.

Was occupying the Palais de Porte Dorée a dream for you?
It contents has changed many times: today Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, Musée de la France d’Outre- Mer, Musée des colonies and still his Aquarium tropical with crocodiles; for me, it will always be the Palais de la Porte Dorée. I have dreamed about it since my childhood. This place is the inspiration of my life.